Use 3 Stories to Drive Your Day



“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

You can use stories and The Rule of 3 to simplify your day and make meaning.

Three is just the cap so you can boil your day down into three simple stories (e.g. win a raving fan, have a four star dinner with a friend, and write a game-changing post.)

Pick 3 Stories for Your Day — to Pave Your Way, and Rule Your Day

Picking three stories helps you focus and avoid getting overwhelmed.  It also makes it easy to remember your focus throughout the day.

Basically, have three stories for the day, whether it’s telling yourself stories or telling other people, such as your manager.

Even if you have a laundry list of things to do, bubble it up to three compelling outcomes.

You’re the writer of your life, and this puts you in the driver’s seat.  “Win a raving fan” is more compelling than “call my customer.”  It sets the stage, it’s engaging, and your simple stories can turn the mundane into the miraculous.

We’re Wired for Stories

Believe it or not, we’re wired for stories.

Stories are a way to shape your day and connect the dots.  (Even babies do scenario-based planning to figure out their next moves for the day.)

Each new day is a fresh start, with fresh stories.

Shaping your stories shapes your day and shapes your results.

Putting it all together, ask yourself, “What do you want to accomplish today … given your available time, your available energy, your minimum MUSTs or needs and your wants?” … cap this at three results … and turn these into three stories that inspire you.

A little practice makes perfect, and you get to practice each day, and this may very well be the single most effective habit to make the most of what you’ve got, one day at a time.

Photo by Vince Alongi.


  1. Great one – sticky one.
    It clicked with me when one of the customers asked me to perform review. He asked that the final report should be no more than 5 pages. He was looking for focused actionable stuff.
    After few years in the field I see consultants produce lengthy reports to customers. In most cases such reports end up in the trash bin as it is hard to act upon it.
    Your advice seem to work not only in life but for work too 😉

  2. “Dramatize your ideas” idea from Dale Carnegie’s work in action, is my intial reaction. I suppose after getting a bunch of basic ideas, we just start combining them and seeing what works, right? So this is taking at least a handful of different things and putting them together, at least to my mind. Managing priorities, setting focus, and motivating oneself to git-r-done.

    I wonder if the flip of this, reflecting at the end of a day on what were 3 things accomplished, works too? A friend has suggested that I write out 3 things I’m grateful for each day for a month that seems to be based on a similar idea.

  3. Hi JD .. thanks – a good way to process the day. I think this could be applied to blogging and social media too?? build the number three chapters or parts into linking across the various sites.

    Thank you –
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  4. This is a great idea…I like it

    Strengthen the Whole – my 3 mile walk, healing, thinking about writing, what something means, making changes and letting go, replying on my blog…my morning.

    I am going to continue on with this concept and see how it changes my frame…I was thinking today was a limbo in my week/weak?

  5. I’ve been “productive” for years. Yet at the end, day-after-day, my most important items often remained undone.

    Then I learned about the Rule of 3. I’ve been implementing it for some time. I made my 3 my minimum MUSTs for the day, & once I realized that they were worthy of “laser-like focus” I’ve started nailing them! The Rule of 3 is making (along with companion best practices) a profound difference in my effectiveness–& I’ve only just begun!

    What I’ve not yet done is transmogrify my 3 MUSTs to stories. It’ll be exciting to see the extent to which this elevates my ability to get things done–& my passion…

  6. Creating 3 stories everyday seems like a difficult habit to get into. But one which must give great returns. It sets such an empowering context to whatever we do.

    Picking a story you will no more believe in is a great addition to this method.

  7. @ Alik

    Thank you.

    I think stories light up the data and make the info meaningful. It’s powerful stuff.

    @ JB King

    I like that.

    I think the habit of reflecting on 3 stories at the end of the day, helps you tune the stories you dream up at the start of your day. It’s a great loop.

    @ Hilary

    Absolutely. The Rule of 3 is sticky.

    @ Fred

    I find that when I try to “beat” The Rule of 3, I water down the rest. Three really is the magic number. Of course, if I finish a story, I can always bite off another, but I try limit my working set to three.

    @ Patricia

    I think letting go with skill + creating three compelling stories a day really works wonders.

    @ Jimmy May

    That’s the secret of the stories — connecting your results to your passion and fanning your flames. Our stories are powerful filters for our experiences.

    @ Avani

    Starting simple helps. When I first started, mine were as simple as:
    – “enjoable breakfast”
    – “fun lunch with an old friend”
    – “quiet, relaxing dinner”

    Once those became habits, then I looked to other parts of my day, whether a project at work, or something in life:
    – “write the chapter that inspires minds and changes lives”
    – “conquer the long and winding road with my iron horse”
    – “clear my backlog like a black belt”

    Great point on choosing a story you will no longer believe.

  8. I like this post and idea. It’s fun too isn’t it? Instead of approaching life as a daily grind to be endured you look for the fun and make a narrative out of that. Here are my three tales of the day:

    Today I’ve spent a whole morning driving hither and thither delivering people but going nowhere much myself. I did meet an interesting woman by chance though who I’ve “conversed” with on Twitter (she recognised me!) and now hope to meet for coffee sometime. Plus I went for a barbecue on the stunning Noosa River and all our human chatter got drowned out by the endless squawking of a 1000 rainbow lorikeets telling us it was time to go home to bed.

    Thanks JD:) And good night!

  9. @JD, your advice to @Avani is especially encouraging!

    Impatient though I am, I must remain mindful that even Padawans, when they allow The Force to flow through them, become Jedi.

  10. I know I make a list a mile long and procrastinate the day away. I’m realizing that I need to make my perspective more simple.

    I like the idea of creating 3 stories to focus on. This seems more reasonable.

    Today my three stories are:
    – Take time to relax between work
    – Write an amazing email to a big-time blogger
    – Help one person work happier within a social network

    Great post, JD! Thanks.

  11. J.D. – You hit it right on with the point that we are the writers of our own stories…of our own lives. So indeed why not tell the story that pleases us.

    We can always choose to get overwhelmed or choose see things in a whole new light – our light!

  12. @ Annabel

    Making narratives out of the daily grind is skilled living in action.

    @ Jimmy

    You’ll be snatching pebbles out of hands in no time.

    @ Karl

    Thank you. You’re already off to a great start.

    @ Evita

    You put it so well and so simply — “why not tell the story that pleases us.”

  13. I can’t really say anything more than what’s already been said, aside from the fact that I think this post is fantastic. The stories we tell ourselves are absolutely essential to our satisfaction with life. Thanks for sharing such a great tool to seeing everyday life as extraordinary.

  14. Well done.
    The world is composed of stories not atoms and we need to get smaller in our stories to get more significant in our lives.
    I will think of my 3 stories for today.

  15. @ Charilyn

    Thank you. I’m glad you found it useful.

    @ David

    Thank you.

    > “we need to get smaller in our stories to get more significant in our lives.”
    Now THAT is a quotable quote!

  16. I really like how this sounds, and it’s so much more interesting than a simple to-do list.
    What an inspiring, and well-written post (was that part of your story in creating it?!!).

    Love & joy to you!

  17. Thank you so much for this early morning “Aha” moment. As a long term and enthusiastic Toastmaster, I find it natural to cluster my goals into sets of 3 but I’ve never applied that idea to setting themes for my day. I really like the suggestion to make it more colorful, more about the true intent of what you do rather than just the actions you take. I’m definitely going to use this construct in the next week and see how it changes things for me.

  18. @ Megan

    Thank you! … and yes, it was one of my stories for the day 😉

    @ Wendy

    Your eloquence shines through and I like your simple phrasing – “setting themes for my day.”

  19. @ Jannie

    Thank you!

    One of your super skills is winning over raving fans and you’ve found a great channel for your skill.

  20. J.D., This is great! This is what I needed as we start a new week. I’m working on revising my manuscript and this is what I’m essentially doing and so it helps me to keep it simple and think like this rather than overthink it all. Thanks so much! ~Jenn

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