Is the 5-item Limit in Critical Now Unrealistic?

April 29, 2015

Occasionally when I teach the 5-item limit in the Critical Now section, I get some push back, and it usually goes as follows: “I will definitely do more that 5 critical items today, so this 5-item limit is unrealistic.”

My answer is this:

You can absolutely do way more than 5 critical items in a day. I am just asking you to limit the size of the list at any given point in time to 5 items. So, let’s say it is 10 AM and you find you are about to add some more items that will put Critical Now over 5. My advice is to then stop and get some of the items already on the list done to make room, and then add the additional items.

The reasons for the 5-item limit are many.

One is to force you to get some of the items done early in the day. Don’t let them build up and  try to get them all done at 6 pm. That’s why you are working till 9 pm each day.

The main reason for the limit, though, is that when Critical Now gets over five the list becomes a blur, and I can guarantee something is going to drop through the cracks—I guarantee it!

So if it’s getting larger than 5, put the lowest priority of them at the top of the Opportunity Now list (using the Target now approach) to show that they are slightly lower priority compared to the five in the Critical Now.

Also, I have to ask you, if you routinely have 10, 15, 20 critical now items per day, I wonder if these are not operational tasks that are better tracked my a dedicated operational system. For example, if your job is to process 40 invoices a day, I hope you have an invoice management system. Or if you make 25 sales calls a day, you should be using a CRM system. Don’t try to use MYN for tracking lots of repeating operational tasks. You are using the wrong tool for the wrong job.

And finally, let’s do a reality check. Are all the items in the Critical Now section really absolutely, positively due today? I bet you are stretching that definition for many of the items.

So again, 5-items max in Critical Now!


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6 Responses to Is the 5-item Limit in Critical Now Unrealistic?

  1. GTDuser says:

    I am a lawyer and I rarely have more than 1-2 critical now items if any. I am using a Now Horizon to constantly scan my next 10 days commitments and knock them off via Target Now before they are Critical Now.

    And Michael please do the audiobook version of Master Your Workday Now. That book is a gem, I already went throught it 3 times and I intend to read it some more to really get the details right.

    Being GTD user for years I can say MYN solved all of my issues with overloaded next actions lists. Thank you!

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Great comment, thanks!
      As to an audio book for MYWN, it’s just not selling fast enough these days to warrant it. I wish it were!

      • itsmee says:

        Audiobooks can be a great help to the visually impaired as well as a revenue opportunity. Perhaps there’s a social enterprise or crowd-source that could help with the legwork and perhaps share some of the credit?

  2. GTDuser says:

    Then perhaps start thinking about updated version of MYN? Its been out long enough and it seems like Simple Awakening is another layer on top of Control, Create, Connect.

    I love your writing, you have a very elegant “lightweight” style: your books are simple yet profound.

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Thanks for your kind comments! Glad you liked Simple Awakening. I have not advertised this book to my readers yet, you think most are ready? Michael

      • GTDuser says:

        You have very varied readers. I don’t think that some mom that read 1MTD to get her household in order or sales person that want to get e-mail under control will be interested. However if someone read Master Your Workday Now and truely embraced it (like me) he or she will be into Simple Awakening.

        However I think you are really asking me this question “Will I tarnish my reputation if I give Simple Awakening more exposure?”. The anwser is no. Just because you have explored your spiritual side it doesn’t mean that all of sudden you will be kicked out of “business books writers club”. If anything your business and corporate background makes Simple Awaking all that more interesting. I say go for it.

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