Three

“Three” has been my favorite number since early childhood. I sometimes wonder why I chose 3; doesn’t it represent a bronze medal, or some inconsequential count? Triangles have 3 sides. Silverware comes in 3’s (fork, knife, spoon). Optimal teams are 3-5, but they are usually more like 4-5 (the military revolves around 4’s [i.e. squads are broken up into 4-man fire teams, 4 squads make up a platoon, etc). As you can tell, I’m struggling a bit to think of good justification for my infatuation with 3. I certainly didn’t pick 3 because it was the closest number to Pi (though that would have been awesome), so why 3?

I’ve found myself often categorizing life into 3 segments or engaged in 3 things at a time. This does not mean that I engage in 3 tasks simultaneously; I don’t believe in multitasking (and research shows that multitasking is quite inefficient), but it is possible to work toward 3 things, have 3 goals or sort the world in 3’s. This might have to do with our memory capacity. On average our working memory can hold about 5 bits of information at a time, but it ranges from 3-7. Perhaps 3 is easy on the mind.

An application of the 3’s mindset emerged in school where I tripled majored. I also managed life in 3 main activities – academics, service, and work. After graduating from undergrad, I continued the trend by continuing my education. Now I am between school and have replaced the academic component with reading. I also completed my military service and replaced it with non-profit volunteerism, while maintaining steady employment. Again, 3 components to my life.

Of course my life involves many more activities and priorities than these; I am simply illustrating that thinking in 3’s allows one to improve productivity by avoiding the sense of overwhelming that sometimes accompanies monumental tasks. Aside from activities, one can group anything into 3’s. Some have the luxury of an evenly distributed day consisting of a third sleep, another work, and the remainder, life. In such a case, one could look at the waking day in 3’s by dividing it into work, self, and hobby/goal. Here are other groupings:

Decisions can be grouped as: pro, con, neutral
Basic Venn diagrams intrinsically are: group 1, group 2, intersection
Balanced international, domestic, and local travel experiences
Friends, family, colleagues
Finance, Spirituality, Community

Instead of writing an endless list of non mutually exclusive, non exhaustive, groupings of 3, I’m curious how would you group your life, duties, ambitions, etc into 3’s. Or better yet, what other heuristics do you use to organize your life, ambitions, mundane daily tasks, learning methods, etc.

-fp

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~ by fp on June 28, 2014.

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