Take five minutes: On your mark… Get Set… Tackle the Next Six Things!

By Susan December 2, 2016 19:57

Take five minutes: On your mark… Get Set… Tackle the Next Six Things!


How to be more productive: Take five minutes


In this series I want to encourage you to take just five minutes out of your busy day to set yourself up for bigger, better success.

People wonder how to be more productive and how they can make their dreams come true: very often, it’s a matter of working out a way of making a small dent in a big ambition, putting the right systems in place, and making sure that it’s easy for these systems to work.

I will share my own systems, so that you can test them and see whether they work for you.

If you want to share a five-minute system with my readers or give me feedback on how this is working for you, tweet me @SusanHayes_



Remember, it only takes five minutes, right now, to change the course of history – your history at least!


Focus on the Next Six Things


The following 5-minute strategy gives you laser-like focus and turns you into an unstoppable productivity machine. It works very well in conjunction with the “Important and Urgent” matrix: once you have established priorities with the matrix, the “Next Six Things” will narrow down your focus and give you an achievable (or “Attainable and Realistic”) goal.

This technique is especially useful when you are flitting from one task to the next, not achieving much, because to-dos keep popping into your head and you’re not sure which one to prioritise.


To list the Next Six Things:


1. Take a look at your to-do list, or create a to-do list.

If you’re wondering how to be more productive, your first reaction might be to create a to-do list. Personally, I prefer to use a tool like Trello. Jot down all the things you have to do. It might be the things you need to do today, or the things you need to do for a certain project or just all of the tasks playing on your mind.


2. Choose six items that can be achieved in a certain timeframe.

For example you can use the “Next Six Things” to establish your to-do list for the day, or to engage in a two-hour productivity blitz. Give yourself a time limit. You will find that you often choose the most urgent things on your to-do list, because achieving those will give you an immediate sense of relief, achievement and control.


3. Remove unnecessary distractions (if possible or relevant, leave your phone in a drawer and switch off email notifications).

Tackle each item, one after the other, and take short breaks in between until you’ve worked down your list. Go go go! The power of this technique is that you don’t do anything else at all, until those six things are done. Outside of absolute emergencies, you apply laser-like focus to one thing after another.

It’s so tempting to just check your phone along the way, send out a tweet, look up a web site, etc. But if you do this properly, then you need to exert the self-discipline to avoid these distractions. In fact, I’ve found this exercise to illuminate clearly the answer to “where did the time go today?” 

Every time you feel that little tug to look up from your work to just take a quick look at something else, be aware that this is exactly how a potentially great day ends up being disappointingly unproductive. You’ll be amazed to see just what can be done when you remove everything else.


4. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back and celebrate in style.

This step is absolutely essential and shouldn’t be overlooked!


5. While you are still riding the high of your productivity blitz,

you might list the Next Six Things you’ll tackle, in the next hour or the next day.


That’s it!


“Mmhh… But there are a lot more than six things

on my to-do list!”


That’s exactly why you need the “Next Six Things”! The “Next Six Things” temporarily narrows down your horizon to a limited number of things. This has the immediate effect of increasing your concentration by focusing your attention.

Suddenly your never-ending to-do list is reduced to six things you can achieve in the next hour or two or before the end of the day: everything becomes a lot more manageable when you break it down into chunks.

This gives you an exhilarating feeling of “I can totally nail this!” If you’ve heard me mention elephants and taking one bite at a time, you know what I mean…


Why should you do this exercise?


1. To create unstoppable momentum and focus your energy when it’s go time.

2. To whittle down your to-do list in a methodical way, especially when you want to chip away at a big, ambitious project for which you don’t know all the steps yet. Simply start by working on the steps you know, and the way will become clear as you make progress.

3. To stave off overwhelm and stress by narrowing your visionimagine an Olympic athlete at the start line when they hear the words “On your mark…Get set…”: they squint, ready to pounce, and the adrenaline floods their system.


Are you on the list?

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By Susan December 2, 2016 19:57