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Productivity: For the Industrial Age, or still applicable for the Digital Age?

What would Henry Ford quip?

Uncle Henry was entirely focused on improving the productivity of the assembly line technique that he was largely credited with implementing at the Ford Motor Company back in 1903. Productivity is most certainly still a key pillar for technology start-ups to achieve success. Alex Mandossian, known as the “Productivity Guy” is in the business of assisting companies to achieve greater levels of productivity in recent times.

Mandossian asserts that there is a productivity principle called the “Rule of 5″ that Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, espoused over ten years ago. He has indicated many times since that the daily practice of the “Rule of 5” during his Chicken Soup for the Soul book launch days, was significantly responsible for the meteoric rise and success of the book series. He co-authored the book series with Mark Victor Hansen, which is on a path to be the first series, other than the Bible, to sell over a billion copies!

Regardless of whether Jack and Mark implement the “Rule of 5” each week, it is a simple, elegant productivity process to get more projects completed faster, more effectively and with less human effort. It’s also the same productivity secret that steel magnate, Charles Schwab utilised, first at Carnegie Steel, and then to build and grow Bethlehem Steel to make it the second largest steel maker in the United States, and one of the most important heavy manufacturers in the world.

Here is how it works in seven simple steps. Yes, the “Rule of 5” has seven steps:

Productivity can be described in just five words: “Maximum results in minimum time.” And to maximise your results first requires a review of the “big picture”– i.e. your PROJECTS. That is why we start with…

Step 1: Choose a PROJECT to complete.

In the start-up world, a PROJECT is made up of more than one TASK. And similarly, a TASK is made up of more than one ACTION. Therefore, the progression looks like this: 

-> ACTIONS –>> TASKS —>>> PROJECTS

After you have identified your PROJECT(s) you’re ready for…

Step 2: Identify five TASKS you do each day.

Each TASK you complete gets you closer to completing the PROJECT with which it is associated.

Step 3: Do no more than five TASKS each day.

It takes more than one TASK to complete a PROJECT. Sometimes it can take dozens of TASKS to complete one PROJECT and here is where you can go wrong if you are an “over-achiever” or “Type A” personality.

Understand that by doing more than FIVE TASKS per day is like trying to run a 42km marathon at 100m sprint speed – you may complete the TASK (100m Sprint) but you’ll have no energy left to complete the PROJECT (42km marathon). That is why the “Rule of 5” is stated as “5” and not “6” or “7” or “4” and so on. Stick to five TASKS for the steady and consistent growth that ignites momentum sooner.

Step 4: Prioritise your 5-TASK list each day.

Your most important TASK is #1; your second most important is #2 and so on. This seems obvious, but many people do less important TASKS sooner just because they are easier to do. So do not open your email inbox first thing in the morning!

Easy or difficult is not what determines your long-term success; rather, it is your ability to prioritise and make good decisions that will determine your destiny. This is also the step that most people do not follow, or to put it more bluntly, just refuse to follow. Yet STEP 4 is the single most important step in the entire process, because your ability to prioritise determines your ability to make effective and efficient micro-decisions day after day.

And most importantly, it is your decision-making ability that determines your future.

Step 5: Rollover incomplete TASKS to the next day.

If one or two or three of the “Rule of 5” TASKS don’t get completed by the end of your day, assign them for yourself the next day and prioritise them in a sequence of relevant importance compared to the new TASKS you do not rollover.

Beware however, rollover TASKS do not increase the number of TASKS you do each day in the “Rule of 5” system; and they are not prioritised first, just because they are rollover TASKS. You still have FIVE TASKS a day and rollover tasks get priority based on the other new TASKS you are aiming to complete.

Step 6: Have a weekly “Rule of 5″ meeting.

Each week, have a meeting that reviews and debriefs the activities of the previous week and assigns the “big picture” TASKS you plan to do that week. Any PROJECT that is assigned “Rule of 5” TASKS for the week can run parallel with any other PROJECTS you want to complete, so you may have to assign yourself different TASKS to complete for different PROJECTS. 

That is why it is critical to have a weekly “Rule of 5” meeting so you can identify and prioritise not only your TASKS for the week, but also your PROJECTS.

Step 7: Do NOT skip any of the previous steps!

This step is ridiculously simple if you follow the format and sequence of the previous six steps. That is because the six steps outlined do not stand alone; rather, they’re sequential and build on one another

While the method appears to be elemental, the application of the simple process is important where your daily grind interrupts the best-laid plans of mice and men (and women!). Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul) states it very simply, "What might you accomplish if you were to do a little bit – five things – every day for the next 40 years towards the accomplishment of your goals. If you wrote five pages a day that would be 73,000 pages of text – the equivalent of 243 books of 300 pages each. If you saved $5 a day, that could be $73,000, enough for four around the world trips! If you invested $5 a day, with compound interest at only 6%, at the end of 40 years you will have amassed around $305,000." Jack Canfield maintains that it is the sustained effort of doing five specific things each and every day to move your goal toward completion, that will make the difference. It is Canfield’s way of telling you to apply your butt to the chair and actually DO something to get you from where you are, to where you want to be.

Now this “Rule of 5” can seem intimidating to many, and a relief to others. Committing to five things every day is simply your way of bringing your goal to your reality. Whether its phone calls, research, or a blog post, you are keeping your goal at the forefront and honouring it every day.