The Five-Minute Rule could make your life a lot more rewarding

Everyone likes to talk about how busy they are — it’s the new currency of our day-to-day lives, in some respect — but regardless of how slammed you are day-over-day, there’s a good chance you have five minutes somewhere that you can spare. Apparently, that’s all you need. If you do something creative for five minutes every day, be it doodling or writing or getting up and taking a different type of walk, it can foster “creative juices” and brain activity simply because you’re removing the initial impediment to a process. That’s often the hardest part for people, so doing it in small increments daily can move you in another direction creatively. To quote Psychology Today:

Yes, the central magic of the five-minute rule comes from the fact that often, for procrastinators, starting is the hardest part. We’re scared of the big, amorphous blob of a task precisely because it is so big and ill-defined, and because we worry that it will take two hours or two days to get to the bottom of it. And so we wallow. We don’t even open the envelope holding that bill we know we have to negotiate. We don’t even unzip that suitcase we have to unpack. We don’t even take two minutes to assess the piles we have to organize and figure out how many categories to sort them into. But it’s those small openings and unzippings that in many ways are the biggest psychological barriers of all. If you conquer them—and it’s probably doable in just a couple of minutes—and then force yourself to stop after just that incremental progress, your energy and momentum will have started to flow. You might not even want to stop. And—here is another reason the rule is so great—it will make you much more likely to come back to that task when you’re ready to give it another five minutes (or perhaps 10 or 20) in the next day or so.

People recommend using Post-It notes in this context because they’re literally meant to be tossed and replaced. That’s a lot less overwhelming than formatting your five minutes in a different medium, whereby it seems to you off the bat that you’re looking to really achieve a result. Nope. When you’re using a Post-It note, you know that the end result of the five minutes doesn’t have to be perfect; hell, it can be crumpled up and thrown out. But you just did something different and creative for five minutes, and that’s awesome.

(I once had an interview with 3M, who makes the Post-It note, for a job. I was kinda sick at the interview — maybe a low-grade fever — and when the woman asked me ‘why 3M,’ I said, “I honestly think the Post-It note is the greatest invention in the last 50 years; maybe more than Google.” They both looked at me like I was speaking Greek, then moved onto another question. That was awkward.)

The point of all this is simple: stop thinking about how busy you are and get out of yourself once in a while. Re-dedicate five minutes to a boost. You can do that; you do have the time. Remember: short bursts are the new black in the current global workplace. So take those five minutes and add some value back to your day-to-day.


Ted Bauer