Five is All You Can Handle

When we are overwhelmed, it helps to simplify and concentrate on the most important.

Over the years, I have come up with the idea that Five Projects are all most people can effectively work on at one time. Yes, I know there are some outliers out there, but most  people can be extremely  successful with the total number of five active projects.

One way to look and remember this, is by simply looking at one of your hands. Image each finger is a project.  So maybe you are now looking down and thinking “I need 2 hands and maybe some feet”. If this is the case write all the projects down on a piece of paper. Then cull the list down to the top 5. These are the ones you can put on your “fingers’.

If it helps, I have uploaded a hand that you can download here –   handful of projects bw, or on my website.

For those overambitious or hard working individuals out there, you can have a home hand and a work hand.

Always remember, however,  that five is the number to use. So when you are overwhelmed, get out the hand, and start naming your fingers with the top projects.  Select one to work or focus on, and just begin.



Filed under Client Management Strategies, Knowledge, Productivity, Techniques, Terms

2 responses to “Five is All You Can Handle

  1. Terry, this is great. It’s amazing to me how easily our brains are overwhelmed, but the truth is that five is pretty much the limit. Things do go a lot faster if I just make up my mind to handle the smallest number possible and finish them one at a time. Last December the IRS audited our return, and needed the appointment the same week the bank scheduled the closing for our loan. It was the same week I planned to send Christmas cards. We survived, but barely!

  2. Fred

    My experience also backs up what Terry says. If we get too overwhelmed, we might just close our hands into a fist, figuratively speaking, and “crash” by effectively having no fingers for any projects; in other words, we become totally ineffective. By reducing the projects to just a few and not over five, we feel more in control and definitely more organized. Plus the fingers with a few active projects can work more synergistically or cooperatively with one another. I have a tendency to create huge lists of things to do that make me feel listless. I think juggling too many projects creates disorganization because it’s not fun when you can’t proactively engage yourself since you’re drinking from a fire hydrant rather than a hose. Then everything “crashes” into a big heap of clutter because you have fists instead of fingers to organize, plan and differentiate between the projects.

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