Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Rule of Five

I am a procrastinator.  I have great admiration for people who plan ahead and get things done early.  I would like to get my work done like that.  In my head I always think that this time I will start early and finish ahead of schedule.  But, that is just not my way.  I think that on some level I must enjoy the "danger" of not meeting a timeline.  Since retirement there's not a lot of danger in the work that I manage to avoid....unless the Health Department starts monitoring the dust bunny levels under our beds.

I have developed strategies to trick myself into getting things done.  (Yeah, I know how dumb that makes me sound , that it is even possible to trick myself!) The trick I use most frequently is the Rule of Five.  I tell myself that I only have to do five things and then I can go back to being non-productive.  Sometimes these are very simple tasks that only take seconds to accomplish and sometimes they take several minutes.  For example, emptying the dishwasher is one task, as is folding the laundry.  I suppose I could count each item folded and quickly get to five, but even I am not that lazy!  For me the hard part is getting started.  Using the Rule of Five I frequently find myself doing more than five tasks.  When that happens, the Multiple of Five Rule kicks in.  The tasks must be completed in groups that are multiples of five.  It is against the rule to stop at 8, you have to continue to 10 or 15, or 20.  (Yeah, I know, now I sound like I have a case of OCD.)

I use the Rule of Five frequently when decluttering or cleaning out my closet.  It forces me to toss out things that I will probably never wear, but might come in handy someday.  My closet is jammed with those "might come in handy" clothes.  They are always my go to items when I need two more items to make five. 

Not long after I retired I was on a mission to declutter the house and I used the Rule of Five.  For a month I tossed five items a day into the Goodwill bag.  For the first week it was relatively easy.  I had days were I applied Multiple of Five and actually got rid of 10 or 15 paperback books a day.  By week three I was having to make some difficult decisions. The final week I was reduced to searching in junk drawers and cursing my studidity at wasting those paperbacks with the Multiple Rule.  It's been over a year since I retired and I've had a chance to redistribute clutter throughout the house.  If only I was motivated to get started...


  1. I love the Rule of Five! My problem is just the opposite - I'd have trouble limiting myself to Five. I want to Get It All Done. I envy you your ability to take it easy.

  2. hi, I really like this , it makes sense..and I'm the same way...I need motivation to get stuff done sometimes...even if it is tricking myself into doing it.
    now though after reading this, I feel like I should throw a bunch of clothes out...

  3. I'm going to apply the Rule of Five to my kids' rooms!

    I can even see me now, having ROF moments with them all throughout the day.

    I think it might actually work!

  4. Linda, Give yourself some time. I wasn't always the lazy slug that I have grown into in retirement!

    Wings, good luck with the clutter busting.

    Kate, it is a good technique to use with kids. When my kids were little we used to race against the clock to be the first to get five things picked up.

  5. Thanks for the great post. I knew we were kindred spirits. I can SO relate to what you are saying. I think I'll try the Rule of Five. Since I actually got up early today and entertained a group of ladies, I easily got my five things done for today. I'l start tomorrow...

  6. This is funny... As I entered this Comment area, I saw there were already FIVE comments. Is having SIX going to mess things up for you??? I understand the procrastination thing, especially with house-stuff. My trick is to approach it in 30-minute intervals. I set the timer and just "move about the cabin," doing whatever needs to be done. If I'm on a roll a half-hour later, I reset the timer.


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