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The Five Box System and Its Effectiveness

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As part of the More Than a Few Words podcast, Indianapolis small business leader Lorraine Ball sat down with our own Robby Slaughter to talk about productivity. A key topic from the conversation was the “Five Box System.”

The podcast is available at at Roundpeg’s site. Here was Robby’s summary of the Five Box System:

The Five Box System says that you have a pile of stuff, papers, junk, whatever… that has been overwhelming you, generating frustration and dissatisfaction. Just take that pile of stuff and divide it into five even pieces and divide it into five sealed boxes, one for each day of the week.

And then every day of the week, schedule fifteen minutes to fight that box.

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© Flickr user Victor1558

This is a really important productivity tip that many would be wise to try out. After all, think about how often a giant stack of documents in your “In” box can seem like a daunting and insurmountable task. You know that stack is more than you can handle in one sitting, so you push it off and push it off until it becomes larger and larger and more overwhelming.

Henry Ford summed this exact idea up pretty well:

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.

This is an idea that elite distance runners often embrace. When starting to fade in a race, it isn’t uncommon for someone to think about maintaining that speed just until the next light post, and then when they reach that light post, to try to maintain the same speed until the next tree. Or on the track, the thought process may be “Just another 10 meters” over and over again for as long as possible. When thinking that way, it isn’t uncommon to be able to prolong the amount of time until you’re able to fall off the pace. However, if instead of thinking “I just have to stick with this competitor for another 10 meters” the same athlete thought “I have to stick with this competitor for another two miles” the task becomes a much more overwhelming one.

While your work may not involve anything nearly as tough as running four-minute miles over the course of a 10k race, it still can be very important to break things into smaller tasks. Doing a little bit every day is going to be much easier than trying to do things in one giant batch, especially when the task is an unpleasant one. It’s much easier to schedule 15 minutes a day than it is to schedule an hour and 15 minutes on a Friday.

Another tip to make this process an effective one is to set a strict time limit for yourself and stick to it. Back to the example of organizing papers, if that’s your task, set an alarm for 15 minutes from now and don’t check your phone, email, or speak to anyone until the alarm goes off. In exchange for that, stop the unpleasant task as soon as the alarm goes off. Whatever you didn’t get to can be tackled tomorrow. If you’ve been putting it off anyway, having a strict time limit will help you to get it done without skipping days (or weeks) of your task. And by having that limited amount of time, it’s going to be much easier to really buckle down and work without distractions, as opposed to thinking, “I’ll get this done sometime this afternoon.”

For more information on how you can up your organization skills, contact our business process implementation consultants today! We love to help organizations like yours become more productive and more organized!

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