5 by 5

Any Buffy The Vampire fans out there?

Faith used to always say "5 by 5". And in the words of Willow... "5 what by 5 what?"

5 by 5 is one of the productivity hacks I like to use when trying to maximise my to-do list ticking. It's an idea I had about a year ago, and though I don't ALWAYS manage to achieve my daily 5 by 5, it's something I aim for almost every day.

So what is it? Well if we look at our to-do lists... PAUSE EVERYTHING! Can we talk about to-do lists for just a moment first?


To-do lists. Crucial. Not-negotiable. Use them. Live by them. Rely on them. Update them.

I use NOTES on my iPhone, iPad and Macbook because I like it. It's the easiest to use, and I can share certain to-do lists with team members. I've tried other apps like Evernote and Trello (and a bunch of others) over the years, but I find I am more reliable at successfully adding something to the list if it's in notes.

Every thought you have about something that needs to be done should be put into your preferred application's to-do list. I was listening to a podcast recently. I'm not sure which one it was. I wish I could remember. (I should have written it in my notes). But it was talking about how most of the STRESS that busy people suffer from is a result of fearing that we'll forget something we need to remember. And when they said that, it was suddenly so obvious to me. Of course! I can relate to this. And when I have it written down, I feel more calm knowing I can get to it later.

So to-do lists. They are amazing! Especially when used properly, and kept up-to-date. And better still, if they've also got deadlines, timelines and actionable steps. (Oh I could talk for hours about this, but it'll have to wait for another article.)

Now seems like a good time to mention that busy dance studio owners should be auditing their to-do lists CONSTANTLY to analyse WHAT they're spending [wasting] their time doing, and what they can delegate to their team. Anything that has to be done more than once should be systemised and turned into a [documented] repeatable process. Even if you don't have anyone to delegate it to yet, make the process for the sake of your own efficiency and consistency.

OK... to-do lists covered. Now back to whatever the hell I'm talking about with this 5 by 5 thing. Trust me, I'm getting there.


5 by 5. So on our to-do lists there's usually a bunch of different types of tasks, ranging in difficulty (and time-commitment) from tiny to gigantous. And it's a known fact (I'm sure I read it somewhere), that most humans tend to focus on the small tasks on their to-do lists first... but that often means that the big scary tasks just never get done. Constantly being procrastinated to the following day... then week... then month. Can anyone else relate? Because I totally can.

So to combat this, and to get the most out of every day, I do 5 by 5.

5 huge things

5 big things

5 medium things

5 small things

5 tiny things

Minimum 25 things per day. And no... I don't always get through all 25, but I try. And when I do get my 25 things done I feel like an absolute legend. I go to sleep feeling accomplished and at peace that I tackled my to-do list, and I feel like I've made progress.

How huge something has to be to be considered huge... that's up to you. It's all a scale. And everyone sets their own scale. For me a tiny thing is posting a reminder on my studio Facebook group, or calling one of my staff to check in. A small thing might be clearing my email inbox and replying to a bunch of enquiries, or putting in a costume order online. A medium thing might be writing a reference for a student, or creating a poster for an upcoming workshop. You get the idea. If you do just small things, then you'll never get to the huge things... which tend to be the most important usually. And if you only just to huge things, then you won't feel like you're making as much progress through your list. So try 5 by 5.

BUT WAIT!!!! One more thing. I forgot to mention PROJECTS. A project is bigger than a huge thing. It's something that takes lots of time, and can't be done in just one day. Maybe it's next year's timetable. Or the process of choosing every single costume for the concert. Or maybe it's implementing a big new system. Projects don't work in the 5 by 5 game... but TASKS within a project do. So break down your project into bite sized or meal sized portions and attack them one at a time with 5 by 5. And what a perfect way to get through those nightmarishly giant projects that cast a shadow of daunt and over our usually sunny disposition.

It's all about progress. Seeing it and feeling it. Which builds momentum. Then habit. Then true productivity. 5 by 5. Try it. 25 things a day. Some of you do waaaaaay more than that all ready. Others would be trying to work out how on earth they're going to break the space time continuum to squeeze that much into their already over-filled day. And if so try 5 by 1. Or 8 by 47. Whatever works for you. But try to set yourself a goal, and then make it happen. Because the main thing about my silly little 5 by 5 is that it feels amazing when it's done. And in a job that NEVER EVER lets you feel like you've finally "caught up" and have nothing to do for 5 minutes, it's nice to at least get that sense of achievement and that boost of dopamine.

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