back to blog

How to Avoid Entrepreneur Burnout with the 3.3 Rule

Read Time 7 mins | Written by: Kenneth Hough


In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, the risk of burnout is an ever-present reality. Entrepreneurs often find themselves juggling multiple roles, constantly pushing limits to grow their businesses. This relentless drive, while admirable, can lead to a dangerous state of chronic stress and burnout. Burnout among entrepreneurs is more than just a personal issue; it can have profound implications on their businesses, employees, and the broader economy. Recognizing this critical issue, John Briggs, an accountant and business advisor, introduced an innovative approach known as the "3.3 Rule" to help entrepreneurs manage their energy and focus more effectively.

The 3.3 Rule, detailed in Briggs' work and on his website Incite Tax and further explored in his book available here, is designed to optimize the natural cycles of focus and distraction that our brains experience. This rule suggests dividing the workday into segments, dedicating up to three hours of focused work, followed by a recovery period that is roughly 30% of the work time. This approach not only acknowledges but also leverages the human brain's inherent patterns of concentration and rest, aiming to enhance productivity while preventing the common pitfall of entrepreneurial burnout.

As we delve deeper into the intricacies of the 3.3 Rule, we will explore how this methodology can be a game-changer for entrepreneurs. It promises a balanced approach to work, ensuring that periods of intense focus are complemented by essential recovery time, thus fostering a sustainable work rhythm. In the following sections, we will examine the specifics of the 3.3 Rule, its benefits for entrepreneurs, and practical ways to implement it, including a custom-built timer tool designed to help entrepreneurs effortlessly integrate this rule into their daily routines.

Understanding the 3.3 Rule

At the heart of the 3.3 Rule is a simple yet profound principle: aligning work patterns with the natural rhythms of the human brain. This rule, pioneered by John Briggs, suggests dividing the workday into focused work sessions of up to three hours, followed by a recovery period that is about 30% of the work duration. This structure is rooted in the understanding that our brains operate best in cycles of concentrated effort and rest. By working in harmony with these cycles, the 3.3 Rule seeks to maximize productivity and focus while minimizing fatigue and burnout.

The first "3" in the 3.3 Rule represents the maximum number of hours for a focused work session. During this time, the goal is to engage in uninterrupted, dedicated work. This approach is based on the concept that prolonged periods of focus yield the highest quality of work. However, such intensity cannot be sustained indefinitely, which is where the second part of the rule comes into play. The ".3" or 30% of the work time is designated for recovery. For instance, after a three-hour work session, a recovery period of about 54 minutes (30% of 180 minutes) is suggested. This downtime is crucial for the brain to rest, process information, and rejuvenate.

Understanding and implementing the 3.3 Rule involves recognizing the importance of structured work and rest periods. It's not just about working hard but also about resting smart. This balance is especially crucial for entrepreneurs, who often face the temptation to work continuously without adequate breaks. The 3.3 Rule provides a framework to avoid this trap, ensuring that both the mind and body get the necessary time to recover and perform optimally. In the following sections, we will delve into the specific benefits of this rule for entrepreneurs and how to incorporate it effectively into their daily routines.

Benefits for Entrepreneurs

The 3.3 Rule presents a multitude of benefits for entrepreneurs, a group often vulnerable to the pitfalls of overworking and under-recovering. At the forefront of these benefits is increased productivity. The focused work sessions encouraged by the 3.3 Rule allow entrepreneurs to dive deep into their tasks with undivided attention, leading to higher quality outcomes in less time. This method contrasts sharply with the frequent multitasking and constant interruptions common in entrepreneurial environments, which often lead to decreased efficiency and subpar results.

Another significant benefit is enhanced focus. The 3.3 Rule's structured approach helps entrepreneurs combat the common issue of scattered attention. By dedicating specific time blocks solely to work, free from distractions, entrepreneurs can achieve a level of concentration that fosters creativity and problem-solving. The subsequent recovery periods are equally vital, providing time for the brain to rest, process information, and rejuvenate. This cycle of concentrated work and rest not only boosts focus during work hours but also helps maintain mental sharpness over the long term.

Moreover, the 3.3 Rule greatly contributes to an improved work-life balance. By setting clear boundaries between work and rest, entrepreneurs can avoid the all-too-common scenario of work bleeding into personal time. These well-defined periods of rest ensure that time away from work is truly restorative, allowing entrepreneurs to return to their work refreshed and with a renewed perspective. This balance is essential not just for the health and well-being of the entrepreneur but also for the sustained health of their business. In the next section, we will explore how entrepreneurs can implement the 3.3 Rule into their daily routines, including the integration of a custom-built timer to aid in this process.

Implementing the 3.3 Rule in Your Routine

Integrating the 3.3 Rule into an entrepreneur's daily routine is a practical step towards achieving a balanced work-life approach. The first step is to plan the day around focused work blocks. Entrepreneurs should start by identifying the time of day when they are most productive – whether it's early morning, late at night, or any time in between. During these selected time slots, they should engage in intensive work sessions of up to three hours, minimizing distractions as much as possible. This could mean turning off phone notifications, closing irrelevant browser tabs, or informing team members of the focus period to reduce interruptions.

The second crucial element of the 3.3 Rule is the recovery period, which should be about 30% of the work session's duration. This time is not just for physical relaxation but also for mental rest. Activities during this period can vary depending on personal preferences – it could be a short walk, meditation, a hobby, or simply doing nothing. The key is to engage in activities that are genuinely restorative and different from the work tasks.

3.3 Rule Timer


To aid in this process, I've developed a custom-built timer (included above), specifically designed to follow the 3.3 Rule. The timer allows entrepreneurs to select their focused work time (30 min, 1 hr, 1.5 hrs, 2 hrs, or 3 hrs) and automatically calculates the corresponding recovery period. It features audible alarms to signal the end of the work and recovery periods, helping users to adhere strictly to the time allocated for both. By using this tool, entrepreneurs can effortlessly implement the 3.3 Rule, ensuring they maintain a healthy balance between focused work and necessary recovery.

You can find the distraction free timer here


As we reach the end of our exploration of John Briggs' 3.3 Rule, it's clear that this approach offers a compelling solution to the challenge of entrepreneur burnout. By aligning work habits with the natural rhythms of focus and recovery, the 3.3 Rule not only enhances productivity and focus but also fosters a healthier work-life balance. This balance is crucial for long-term success and well-being, both personally and professionally. The key takeaways are the importance of structured work periods, proportional rest, and the acknowledgement that quality, not quantity, of work ultimately leads to better business outcomes.

I encourage all entrepreneurs to experiment with the 3.3 Rule in their daily routines. The simplicity of its application, coupled with the profound impact it can have on your professional and personal life, makes it a strategy worth trying. Remember, the custom-built timer tool [link to the timer] is designed to help you seamlessly integrate the 3.3 Rule into your schedule, making it easier to manage your focused work sessions and recovery periods.

In conclusion, the 3.3 Rule stands as a testament to the power of working smarter, not harder. It's a reminder that taking care of ourselves is not a luxury but a necessity for sustained entrepreneurial success. I urge you to give it a try and witness the transformative effects it can have on your work and overall well-being. Let's embrace this approach and pave the way for a more balanced and fulfilling entrepreneurial journey.


A Framework Built to Accelerate App Development for Startups

Kenneth Hough


I founded KeyQ in March of 2020 with the vision of helping businesses achieve the next level of success through delivering innovative and meaningful cloud solutions. Since its inception, I have worked with several businesses, non-profit organizations, and universities to design and build cloud applications that have helped streamline their business processes and reduce costs.

Prior to KeyQ, I was a medical researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine. UAB is also where I worked on my doctoral thesis under the mentorship of Dr. Jessy Deshane and Dr. Victor Thannickal. During my doctoral work at UAB I was exposed to the “omics” and big data, which has influenced my career choice to develop data-driven analytics platforms in the cloud.

I also have to give a big shoutout to my undergraduate education at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where I majored in biochemistry. WPI’s motto is “Lehr und Kunst,” which roughly translates to “Theory and Practice” or “Learning and Skilled Art.” WPI truly cherishes and upholds this pedagogy, which can be seen by the teaching styles and class sizes. The learning experience I had at WPI is unique and has shaped me to be who I am, being able to learn, practice and apply.

Personal Interests

I love to learn innovative technologies and try new things. I have a broad area of interests that include serverless architectures, machine learning, artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, medical informatics, and financial technology. I am also working towards my CFA level 1 exam for 2021. Other interests and hobbies include traveling, rock climbing, rappelling, caving, camping and gardening!