Five is the Magic Number (on Your To-Do List)

There is nothing like crossing items off our to-do lists to give us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  But, what if your to-do list is more like a wish list – an unrealistic list of tasks and jobs that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed instead of productive and accomplished?  Your to-do list should be a tool that moves you forward, not quick sand that slowly pulls you under.

There are lots of ways to organize your tasks – color coding, by project/area, work vs home, etc. However, if you have a lot on your plate or you have trouble staying focused, it helps to have a smaller number of specific tasks that you really will be able to finish.

Five tasks = the magic number.

Here’s what you do:

  • Make your to-do list at the end of the day. This will help you clear your head before bed and allow you to hit the ground running in the morning.
  • Make a list of the TOP FIVE specific items you want to accomplish the next day, and number each in the order of importance. These are your high priority items such as a task that is part of a bigger project or a task that needs to be done but that you keep putting off.
  • Under your Top Five items, make three additional lists – errands, emails and phone calls.
  • In the morning, start with Item #1 of your Top Five and then work your way down. If you get stuck or find yourself procrastinating, tackle something from your errand/email/phone call list.  Then get back to your Top Five.
  • At the end of the day create a new list. If you didn’t finish the day’s Top Five, put those back on the list or replace them with new priorities.

Give it a try and see if it works for you.  Hopefully, five will be your magic number of productivity.

Author: Sheila Storrer of Sheila Storrer Coaching helps clients get unstuck from what holds them back.  Contact her at 425-941-9194 or


The goal is to complete as many of your Top Five as possible but it’s not a 100% game — whatever you finish is a win.

*Start a new list each morning. What’s a priority today might not be a priority tomorrow.