07 March 2024

The power of five and pairing tasks - by Anita

Whilst reading through the Philofaxy archive for some inspiration, it occurred to me that I've written a fair amount about my layout or different models that I've owned, but not that much about how I'm actually getting things done. So, I thought that I'd share with you a couple of methods that have really been helping me recently.

Adhoc lists of only five tasks
A wonderful teacher shared this method with me, and I find that it really helps me prioritise or focus if I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Here's an example of one of my lists from some time ago:
  1. Type up AGM minutes.
  2. Put washing away.
  3. Finish off my Philofaxy post.
  4. Call my Dad.
  5. Clean out the hamster. 

I tend to use these shorter lists to get myself moving, so the idea is that each individual task takes about 15 minutes at most. Therefore, for a larger task like typing AGM minutes, I will only do this for 15 minutes, unless it won't take me much longer than this to finish the job. This means that I might have the same recurring task showing on different lists of five, and I find that a helpful way to break it down into more manageable chunks of time. 

With experience, I've found that a good list of five will include a variety of types of tasks like the one above, so that I'm moving my body whilst putting washing away before I need to sit down and type some more.

Pairing tasks
When I was a carer for my late Mum, I was using my Filofax extensively to keep track of appointments, symptoms and medication. Whilst I felt that I was on top of the most important stuff, it could be easy though to forget some of the more trivial recurring things, so I started pairing certain tasks to help myself. Some examples:

  • Help Mum take medication and put on steroid cream.
  • Cut my nails and Mum's on the same day. 
  • Check the car tyre pressure when I take out the recycling. 
  • For work: I've paired up a couple of clients, so that I will always do their regular work on the same day of the week. 

In my Filofax, I always have some spare paper in my inbox (first section that I come to), so I'll just grab a sheet to make a list of five or to write a list of tasks that I'm choosing to pair at the moment.


  1. Like the tips - thanks Anita

  2. I love both of these ideas. Thanks, Anita!

  3. I’ll be trying these tips - thank you!

  4. Thanks for this, Anita. Although I don't use the 'Power of 5', I *have* learned to limit myself to a finite number of tasks in any given daily list. This avoids the discouragement which often comes from the '36 item to do list' Many of us (myself included) would have if we didn't limit ourselves, and which patently could not e completed. Our brains already know it can't be done, so the discouragement is baked into the system before starting.