Rule of Threes

Three blind mice. Three little pigs. The three bears. Three strikes. The holy trinity. Threes have a strange ring to it. We seek them out in writing and speeches. Wikipedia defines the rule of three as: “writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.”

I have recently come to the realization that my life only has room for three major categories on a daily basis. Or at least that’s all my brain can handle. Two are unmovable items on my daily to-do list: the boys and work. The third thing is more flexible – redoing the boys’ bedrooms, planning for a recent trip to the beach, tackling the soon-to-be three year old’s birthday. 

Unfortunately, my life of threes has not seemed funny, satisfying or more effective. It feels limiting. It feels frustrating. It feels exhausting. (Notice the three. Felt good, right?). 

I want to constantly do more. Achieve more. Accomplish more. I can barely keep track of when which kid needs to wear what shirt to school for a field trip or spirit day and yet I expect I should be able to do more. There are few days when I don’t think about this space. And yet here this space sits neglected. Lonely. Empty. August 5th staring from the top of the page as a reminder of how far from number three it has become on the priority list of my life. 

So how can I be so exhausted at the end of each day and yet feel like I’m still not doing enough? My dear husband would tell you that my personal standards are too high. He’s probably right, to an extent. I see accomplished women that I admire seemingly doing it all. I have to remind myself that I don’t see the sausage being made. I don’t see the hours spent not sleeping or the help they may have or their own moments of frustration. Comparing myself to others doesn’t get me, or anyone else, anywhere. My bigger problem is comparing myself to the self I’d like to be in a perfect world of a 48 hour day, the need for only 4 hours of sleep a night and supersonic speed to slay through a to do list. 

The strange thing is that the other day, while stuck in carpool, I realized this personal rule of threes. This idea that I can handle kids, work and only one other major priority on a daily basis. And at that moment, it was freeing. Why try to pile on? Take each day and decide what that third thing will be and get it done. When it’s finished, whether that’s in two hours or two days or two weeks, figure out the next thing. I have to let the rest go, mentally, until I have the time to tackle them with the attention they deserve. 

That’s why, today, after getting the kids to bed, knocking out a few work tasks and settling into the couch with a box of two-bite brownies (damn you, Publix), I opened up my sadly neglected address on blogspot and filled up some space before my eyelids closed themselves. The birthday party planning, the desk reorganization, the laundry, can all wait for another day this week. 

Now that I recognize my personal rule of threes, I’m going to embrace it. Why fight to add a fourth thing that just won’t get done anyway? I need to start setting myself up for success instead of failure. 

It’s time to accept, assess and achieve. There’s that rhythm of three again. 

Now if I could only stop at three brownies.  


2 thoughts on “Rule of Threes

  1. I'm big on setting ONE goal for myself each day. If I complete it, everything else is bonus time and extra credit! Must say something about me that I aim low, right?

  2. Kristine – that's not aiming low, it's essentially the same thing. I have two things I can't ignore and only time for one additional goal/task. I'm feeling like an overachiever today because I blogged and vacuumed on the same day. Wahoo! 🙂

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