How to make your to do list manageable with the Rule of Five

If you know anything about me, you probably know I’d be absolutely lost without my to do list. I’m a chronic overcommitter and I’ve always got a million things going on at once. The only way I can make sure I don’t miss a meeting or forget about an exam is by living by my planner and my to-do list religiously. Recently, I’ve been introduced to something called “the Rule of Five” that has completely changed the way I handle my day-to-day tasks and assignments.

What’s your favorite way to manage your to-do list? Tell me in the comments below after you read the post!



I've recently started using the Rule of Five to keep my to do list under control and it's been making such a difference in my time management! Check out this post to see how you can implement this rule. | HOW TO MAKE YOUR TO DO LIST MANAGEABLE USING THE RULE OF FIVE | HONEYBEE JOYOUS


My planner

I keep my to-do list in my planner. I’ve tried a lot of different planners in my lifetime, but I’m currently using a customized PurpleTrail daily planner (read about it here if you want to know more!)

I love trying new planning tools and sometimes you try something and it just CLICKS! My new planner from PurpleTrail has changed the way I plan for the better. | MY NEW FAVORITE PLANNING TOOL (FEATURING PURPLETRAIL) | HONEYBEEJOYOUS


I really like the set-up of this planner because the setup of the daily pages has a perfectly sized “to-do list” section where I can keep track of just the most important tasks I need to do that day.


The Rule of Five

I first came across the concept of “the Rule of Five” in a blog post from Trello, which you can read here. (P.S. If you want to know about my love for Trello and how I use it for blog content planning, you can read my post about that here!)

The Rule of Five is pretty simple and it involves putting just five things on your to-do list:

  • 2 things you’re working on
  • 2 things you plan on getting to next
  • 1 thing it would be ideal to work on but you don’t expect yourself to get to

The Trello blog post talks about the Rule of Five in terms of workflow management from the perspective of a supervisor in an office. However, I was so intrigued by the concept that I decided to put it into action in my own life and make my own daily list of five things in my PurpleTrail planner.

The idea behind this rule is that it will help you to prioritize and be honest with yourself. Two tasks is a manageable amount of information to expect yourself to focus on without getting overwhelmed. And having two more tasks for when you finish the first two gives you something to look ahead to and helps you understand what you have coming up.

Most importantly, putting something on your list you know you’re not going to get to and don’t expect yourself to get to helps you be honest with yourself. There is always going to be more to accomplish than you’re able to. There’s always more studying or more cleaning or more meal prepping that you could be doing. Recognizing a task on your list as something you are not going to get to is a recognition that you do not have to do everything.


How the Rule of Five has helped me

A battle I’m constantly fighting is my effort to realize that I can’t (and don’t have to) do everything. There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of thinking that being constantly busy means you’re making the most of your life, but I try to remind myself that quality is more important than quantity.

Using the Rule of Five in my daily to-do list making process has really helped me rethink how I prioritize my various responsibilities. Of course, I still can’t help myself from making more detailed to-do lists that list out every step it takes to complete a given task, but starting the day making my Rule of Five lists helps me focus my energy where it truly needs to be focused.


{How do you make your to do list manageable? Have you heard of the Rule of Five? Leave your productivity tips in the comments! I read and respond to every comment and I’d love to learn some tips from you.}



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