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Effortless Organizing Solution #15 - The 5x5 Habit for Increased Work Place and Personal Productivity and Efficiency


As a professional organizer, I have the opportunity to assist home owners and business owners with office organization—specifically information management and productivity efficiency. You are not alone if this area presents a challenge for you.

One method to simplify information management is to use the "5 x 5" habit for incoming information. The 5x5 habit consists of five categories of incoming information and five possible decisions of what to do with each piece of information. By grouping items, you can begin to rewire your brain around this sometimes overwhelming chore.

The 5x5 habit methodology is a component of the GO System. It’s simple. “GO” stands for Getting Organized! The GO System is a proven, step-by-step process that can help you find things when you need them and, more importantly, help you stay focused on high-priority activities.

Here's how to break it down:

Five Information Categories

The first step is sort incoming information into one of five categories:

1. Paper: All mail, catalogs and magazines, junk mail, memorabilia, kids' schoolwork, newspaper/magazine articles.

2. E-mail messages.

3. Voice mail messages.

4. Verbal requests from family, friends, co-workers, and others.

5. Your ideas: Your own projects and ideas.

Five Decisions

The next step is to narrow down your decisions for what to do with each piece of information by making one of five decisions:

1. Discard: A basic premise of staying organized is to learn to throw unnecessary paper / information away. Some questions to ask are:

- Will you have time to read this?
- Are you legally required to keep it (certificates/proof of identity)?
- Is there a tax reason to keep it (resale of property/tax basis/annual tax filing)?
- Can you get this information later if you need it?
- Is the information still current?
- Will you actually use it/refer to it?

2. Delegate: Does it belong to someone else, can someone else take care of this, will someone else want/use it?

3. Take immediate action: If it takes two minutes or less (just a guideline), do it now! This is the one piece of advice that my clients tell me they use constantly. If you think you don't have time now, what makes you think you'll have time later? For example:

- Make a phone call.
- Enter an event in your calendar.
- Enter a phone number/address in your contact database or book.
- Sign a document and return it.

4. File for reference: No action is required, but you want it for future reference. File in a simple reference filing system.

5. Requires follow-up or action that takes more than two minutes (anything that doesn’t fall into the previous four decisions). You can place these items in a “tickler system” (1-31 daily files and January-December monthly files) for items that need action on a specific date or in a general action file such as:
- Phone calls
- Reconcile
- Read
- Bills to pay
- Meetings
- Any other action that is pertinent to your situation

Using the 5x5 habit for incoming information and the simple file systems for reference and follow-up/action will substantially increase your productivity and ability to focus on what is important.

The GO System addresses the major issues that cause chaos and disorganization:
- Handling Incoming Items
- Prioritization Issues
- Rational Use of Time
- Project Management Issues
- Email efficiency
- Electronic Information Management

The system is easy to understand, easy to implement and easy to maintain. It doesn’t get any better than that!

I am a Certified GO System Trainer and Consultant and a member of the Network of Productivity Excellence and I would welcome the opportunity to provide practical ideas on improving your workplace and personal productivity.

Call 503-246-0710 and schedule your three-hour individual or group productivity session.

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