Startup Cabin Blog

The power of 3 for entrepreneurs

Posted by Xue Mei Rhodin on 10 September 2014

The power of 3 for entrepreneurs.
30 minutes, 3 tasks, 3 months and 3 dimensions.
A method to the madness of dealing with running a startup.

30 minutes, 3 tasks, 3 months and 3 dimensions.
A method to the madness of dealing with running a startup.

I want to introduce your to some tools.

Tools to structure your time and efficiency as a startup entrepreneur or executive.
Actually, whatever role you have, try these out, and see the difference.

Just stop stressing out.
Stop getting anxious about not completing your tasks.
Stop worrying about if your doing the right things.
Just stop freaking out (with a little help from these tools).

I always liked the aestetics of three. Ever since I started studying japanese and chinese language, society, art, businessculture and more at the age of 16. (Yes, I studied both japanese and chinese, such a nerd.)

You see, in japanese Ikebana (flower art arrangements), the compositions consists of three main stems. And when arranging pretty much anything it should come in three, or in uneven numbers in japanese philosophy. It catches the eye. You look for the balance between the three. Instead of having two equal sides that mirror eachother and soon become boring, the combination of three keeps your eyes looking for connections. It keeps you exploring the aestetics for longer.

This is just common sense really. Which should be more common.

Whenever stressed out seasoned entrepreneurs come to me for strategy advice and growth planning, I asked them about their weekly planning. How does their week, month, year look like? Often, there is no framework to follow.

And when I meet young entrepreneurs, fresh out of programming or design school, I start by drawing things on my boards to show them how to cut their long road ahead into little bit-sized pieces.

You seriously have to find a method to divide up your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly planning.
Otherwise you'll overwhelm your brain and not feed it information in a way your brain wants it.

Do your brain a favor and try out my Power Of 3 method.

30 Minutes cycles: creating positive stress to build minimum viable products.

StartupCabin - Pomodoro Technique

I learned this pomodoro-like technique from a ADHD-specialist. Because our lives look like the inside of the brain of a person with ADHD today. Full with distraction of popups, sound, images, streams of twitter, facebook etc. So applying ADHD focus methods is a great idea. They're made to help you pretty much deal with the life of an internet nerd. Yatta!

In short:

  • Set a task. Define on paper or in your head what you need to do to make it just good enough to work. (deliver a minimum viable product)
  • Put on a timer. (it's in your smartphone, just bring out the clock app and use it)
  • Set it to 30 Minutes. (some prefer 20 minutes, others 25 minutes)
  • Now Go!
  • Try to finish the most important parts first and finish it in 30 minutes.
  • Then take a 2 minute break and drink some coffee or pet your office dog.
  • Then start a new task and put the timer on again.

By shortening your deadlines you force your brain to focus on getting the task done and what the most important elements are. Your brain loves to sprint like this. And you'll train yourself to think smarter and work more on the important things, instead of getting stuck.

If you like a more triggering tool to use than your phone, try out Focus Booster. I use it every day. I've written this post with Focus Boost batches of 20 minutes with 2 minute breaks.

Here's a book on the subject also:
Pomodoro Technique Illustrated (Pragmatic Life)

3 Tasks To Do List: How to focus and stop freaking out over your endless to-do list.

StartupCabin - 3 tasks - Get Things Done

I learned the Get Things Done method when I was a freshman at Stockholm University. I'm a list creator. I love writing lists. Especially after really making a strategy of it. Now I can teach even non-list-lovers how to actually start using it for the greater good of their mental stability.

Whenever my co-workers are stressed out, I tell them:

In short:

  • Write down a list of everything that is rumbling around in your head causing havoc.
    Get your stressed out thoughts down on paper and "relieve" your brain of having to remember it.
  • Scratch everything you can not personally do something about this week.
  • Scratch everything that doesn't make your company money or deliver service to your clients/customers.
  • Mark the 3 most important things to do right now.
  • Do only those 3 today. Everything else you save for tomorrow.

Everything except the 3 most important things for your company is irrelevant work. A waste of your time.
It's tough to learn this. But you'll feel so much better by just starting to incorporate this into your routine. Always ask yourself: "Is this the most important thing for my company to do right now?"

See the Get Things Done book here if you haven't seen the method before:
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity


The 3 Month Circle: the cycle of an entrepreneur's year.

StartupCabin - The 3 month entrepreneurs cycle

The cycle of goalsetting and planning that I use for my clients are divided into four sections of three month batches.

There is a reason the year is divided into quarters of 3 months in the corporate world. Or that sports teams train for the next game, not for next year's season. Or that the LEAN process forces you to continually iterate. We need feedback-loops that are close enough in time so we can wrap our minds around it and stay motivated. A year is too long!

If you make a new years resolution to get fit until next year, you won't start until the deadline is close. 3 months from deadline you'll still have time to get some results. One month before is to little time and 2 months is not enough to get a good routine.


In short:

  • Start setting your goals in 3 month batches. Preferably only 3 goals per quarter.
  • Set 1-year or 3-year or 5-year goals, but divide them into 3 month smaller goals to get to your grand finale. It forces you to actually put up action goals, not only dream goals, without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Plan your schedule in 3 month batchers. Who do you want to meet the next 3 months? Which new clients do you want? How many users will you gain in 3 months? Start working towards 3 month goals with your team.

The 3 dimensions of communication: how to get through the tough conversations.


I learned communications theory at the university like the classic model above, Sender, Medium, Reciever. But I learned an even more clever version of it through one of my mentors, Bob.
There are many other parts of communication where the power of 3 works wonders.

Bob told the story about a couple getting divorced. Instead of focusing on the issues that needed to be solved to finalize the divorce, they focused on each other's personalities. What was wrong with the other person. They focused on their own anger and irritation with the other. Until someone helped them focus on the third dimension of their communication: the problem to be solved, not the people. They got back to looking at how to divorce instead of why they divorced. And suddenly was able to save their family a lot of pain by making it a quicker and less hateful process.

Whenever one works in a team and you need to solve personal or professional issues going on in the group, focus on the third dimension of your communication. Not the sender. Not the reciever, the problem that needs to be solved. It's so easy to solve interpersonal communication issues when you actually take the roles of teammates solving a joint issue. Nobody wants to argue or give destructive feedback. Solve problems with a team attitude. And if it doesn't work, put a third one in the game, a Medium. Which can be another teammate, a process leader or coach for example. Just realize that focusing on and thinking that sitting on the opposide sides of the table won't work.

Know of more "powers of 3" methods you want to share? Comment below!

Topics: Marketing Strategy

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