The 1-5-1 Rule: Plan, Update, and Reflect on Work, Asynchronously

Published on
April 25, 2024
Contributors
Phoenix Baker
Product Manager
Lana Steiner
Product Designer
Drew Cano
Frontend Engineer
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1-5-1 refers to a simple asynchronous rule for setting goals, giving and receiving real-time feedback, and learning from projects along the way.

At DailyBot, we’re always looking for ways to maximize the value of asynchronous interactions for high-performing, busy teams. Naturally, one of our points of departure has consisted on tackling the silent problem of modern work: strenuous calls.

Some forms of asynchronous communication have been around for years: memos, letters, even discussions on message boards or forums. But these kinds of interactions used to be seen as an inferior replacement for direct interaction with other humans. They were slow compared to face-to-face conversation or phone calls — especially before we had high-speed internet connections everywhere. And they weren't used much inside of companies because employees were still expected to be at their desks for 40 hours a week.

Now work flexibility changed the rules, and meetings are the single worst thing about work. They're the scourge of modern employment, a time-sucking plague that forces people to scramble for excuses to get out of, or find productive things to do in, an otherwise useless hour of their lives... OK, maybe we’re exaggerating.

We’re not going to say that meetings don't have their place, but they need to be used with intention. If you want to foster creativity and collaboration, there are other tools that work far better than a Zoom call or an in-person meeting. It's time to evolve the way we communicate at work.

Reducing meetings, then, becomes a way to promote healthy boundaries: topics and problems that can be managed via email or chat are deprioritized from your meeting schedules to make sure the few calls you do end up running are useful, efficient, and even invigorating.

So what does this rule entail? The term 1-5-1 comes from the “1 day → 5 days → 1 day” rule, which means that you set aside one day of your workweek to plan ahead your week, (usually) five days of the week to synchronize with your team on daily events, and one day a week to reflect on your recent accomplishments and mishaps.

💡

1: Plan ahead
5: Track on a daily basis
1: Use a weekly time to reflect

Takeaway
: You can be more productive and have more free time if you plan, synchronize, and reflect at work.

Working with the 1-5-1 rule

The 1-5-1 is useful for everyone — teams as well as individuals. A good way to get comfortable with the 1-5-1 is to track your tasks in a notebook, spreadsheet, or using an app (like DailyBot).

For a project that spans multiple days, you can easily make multiple daily plans and sehow time blocking, time batching, or day theming works at the end of the week.

The 1-5-1 checklist

The 1-5-1 rule looks different to a variety of organizations, but a quick checklist of the things that involves will likely include:

  1. At the beginning of your workweek: Consider weekly short-term goals, like writing that one email you've been putting off, or reading a chapter in your book, as well as long-term goals, like launching your new product.
  2. Use your recently acquired insights to make some time to reflect and analyze.
  3. Divide your work and use tactics to allocate enough time to further both short and long-term goals every week.
  4. Create a list of things you want to achieve at the beginning of each day.
  5. At the end of each week write down what you have done right and what could have been done better.

The outcome of this will be a well-structured workflow and an improvement in productivity. A win for both teams and individuals looking to maximize their performance in a balance environment.

Automate this rule using DailyBot templates

DailyBot is many things: a Pomodoro clock for some, a virtual assistant handling reports in a timely manner for others. In a bigger picture, DailyBot is a chat assistant for modern work. Small teams and large corporations use its chatbot and web app every day to automate workflows, get reminders, and ultimately run a tighter ship from the chat platform of their choice.

The perks of having an assistant running errands from you in c makes DailyBot a perfect choice when it comes to automating the 1-5-1 rule.

Understand your "why"

DailyBot has a product called Check-ins that essentially serves you as a reporting automator. With Check-ins, users like you can define a template of curated questions that will be prompt to you via chat on the days you choose.

This means that, with the right questions, you can create 3 templates that will automatically collect information about your team’s planning, daily progress, and end-of-week analysis every single week, and save this information so you can later pull it up from your private chat, and even send it to a public channel so everyone can be in sync with the rest.

Now, having the right questions is fundamental. Every team and organization out there have their own processes and idiosyncrasies, which is why thinking about the ‘why’ of every question makes or breaks this entire rule.

The success of the 1-5-1 lies on defining very well the set of questions you want to ask your team every day. As the process requires the daily participation of your team, establishing what’s beneficial and what’s detrimental to your team’s best practices is key.

At DailyBot, we love to think that you don’t have to ask a lot of questions to expect great results, just the right ones. Our ‘why’ is rooted in Agile and lean methodologies, and we believe many of these practices can be beneficial to all kinds of industries.

Define your outcomes

Now that we discussed ‘why’, let’s look at what we can expect of this workflow and how to set it up. If you’re a DailyBot user, you will find 3 basic templates that will help take things off the ground with relative speed and ease, no matter how large your team is.

About this template: Plan the essential goals for the week. Use this template along with the “Week analysis” to quickly check at the end of the week what has been accomplished from these reports, and a mini planning reflection for the next one.⇒ Outcomes: Whether you're the most organized person in the world or tend to live in a state of disarray, having a weekly schedule can help you get more done and feel less overwhelmed. You'll feel more in control of your work, and you'll have fewer distractions.

Get started on Week planning →

About this template: The great Scrum 3 key questions for a daily stand-up with your team. Use this template to write down your daily tasks and track issues. Try to stick with 3–5 daily tasks. While this template can stand on this own, it’s always better to use it along with templates like the Week Planning and the Week Analysis to gain perspective and stay on track with your higher goals.⇒ Outcomes: Workers who use standups gain accountability and momentum towards their goals. As you recount or check off each task that you completed on the past day, and move new things to your to-do list you’ll maintain good work habits and routines throughout the week.

Get started on Daily Standups →

About this template: Use this template’s findings to reprioritize, include, or remove tasks and projects as they align with the team's latest goals. Use this template along with our Week planning from above to keep track of said goals at the start of every week.⇒ Outcomes: Now that you’ve jotted down anything that has surprised you or given you an ah-ha moment this week, you come out focused with a plethora of lessons learned, interesting facts new methods, and essentially anything that you can replicate on the next week and help you grow as a person and teammate.

Get started on Week analysis →

Use best practices like time blocking

According to Todoist, “time blocking is a time management method that asks you to divide your day into blocks of time.” The idea behind time blocking is that you’ll become more productive because you’re less likely to get distracted by unimportant tasks or spend precious time switching between tasks.

This structure helps because it forces you to think about the resources you have — the time in a given day — and the best way to use them.

For some people, the idea of this much structure sounds stifling or inflexible. But actually, it can be liberating because it frees up your mental energy for the task at hand rather than constantly worrying about what else needs to get done.

In short, time blocking can help you reach out the goals you’re setting every week, but it has its drawbacks. If you don’t have a good system for tracking your time, you might find yourself checking off items on your list without spending enough time on them. Or you might find that certain tasks take longer than expected and run into other blocks of time.

If you’re thinking about trying out this method of managing your day, test it out before fully committing. You might want to try blocking specific times and see how long they actually take. Then adjust your blocks accordingly.

Communicate progress

You don't need to micromanage every activity that happens within your team — in fact, that's likely to be counterproductive — but you do need to stay informed about what's happening.

Use the Daily Standup template to keep tabs on the projects that are underway and make sure that major milestones are being met.

If it’s critical for your team to make fast-paced decisions, use the blocker question to help resolve issues as they come up and make sure everyone has everything they need to keep moving forward. Make sure the progress communication is clear and brief, and use your chatbot to share reports in a channel so everyone else can also stay informed.

Reflect on where you are and where you're going

"Stop and smell the roses" is one of those old sayings that has become trite through overuse. But there's a lot of wisdom in those five little words. How often do you take time to seriously reflect on where you are and where you're going?

Use the Week Analysis template to ask yourself (and let your team do the same) about the small victories, the setbacks, and every other learning opportunity in some detail. Evaluate your progress against your plans.

As your understanding of the recently-finished week gets deeper, use the second question on the template to manage your expectations for the upcoming week, tweak your approach on the way you’ve been collaborating or communicating lately with your team, and get your priorities straight. Periodic reflection will help keep your goals at the forefront of your mind.

The bottom line, this rule can help you organize your day-to-day tasks without feeling overwhelmed, plan and analyze goals and tasks, and pinpoint problems and strengths on your productivity. We can all benefit from the 1-5-1 rule, a simple, yet effective way to bring more structure into your team or personal workflow.

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