Archive for September, 2009


54321 — Get More Done

I am a collector of information. I consume texts and audios and videos. And occasionally from all that input comes some completed output. More commonly all that info goes in and I synthesize and summarize it for my own joy of learning with no external evidence of having ”learned” anything.

This input without output goes against my own KAB model of learning. Theknowledge may be going in, some new awareness may be developing, but without the behavioral change true learning has not occured.

This week I recognized a new application for a tool/concept I’ve had access to indefinitely. The concept is called Pacing and Leading. The tool is a slight twist on the 54321 technique.

Pacing is like meeting someone else where they are at and walking with them. Leading is taking small steps to influence the destination while the other person follows. The first is a way of building rapport where the second is a way of using that rapport.

The 54321 technique was originally used by Betty Erickson as a way of shifting her focus from external to internal. This version of the 54321 technique is a way of applying pacing and leading to interactions with yourself (rather than with others) in order to shift your focus from internal to external. Effectively a person can pace their previous pattern of input then lead themselves to produce more output.

During your 5 (or 6) day work week you follow this progression:

5 input, 0 output
4 input, 1 output
3 input, 2 output
2 input, 3 output
1 input, 4 output
0 input, 5 output

The idea is to pace your current lack of output and lead to more productive behaviors. The units are up to you. If you need to start by working with indivdual tasks do that. As you get into this pattern you can work in blocks, 5 minutes or 10 minutes to start. So, mid-week you might spend 15 minutes (3*5min) on ”input” tasks and 10 minutes (2*5min) on ”output” tasks. Continue to increase the units as necessary or start later in the sequence (3I-2O or 2I-3O). You’ll soon find what increments work well for your personal work style.

What are ”input” tasks? Anything that does not produce useful work as a result. Research/reading, planning, and chatting with people are the big time consumers for me. Other people have similar lists that may include customer service, games/sports, or socializing around a particular beverage. There is no judgement on the value of these behaviors beyond the measurable output — or lack thereof.

”Output” tasks are those that produce a measureable result. My primary output tasks are writing, recording presentations, and building web sites. I know other people’s lists include producing widgets, generating TPS reports, or digging ditches. Again, no judgement of the value of the behavior, just the measurable results.

Some people make a list all the tasks that they do in a given week and identify tasks as input vs output. Once the habit of producing more output has been established the focus can shift to what output tasks produce the most *useful* output, but that is a post for another day.

My mission (and yours, should you choose to accept it) is to increase output over the next four weeks. I am starting with this 54321 method and will add more ideas here as I implement them.

Before you head off to build your new habit of producing more output — start right now and leave a comment below letting me know you’ve accepted this mission and a tip or trick you may currently use to shift from input to output modes.

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan | No Comments »