my 5-minute rule

February 21, 2022

“If it takes less than 5 minutes to do, do it right now.”

A super simple and effective rule I try to stick with for various aspects of life. It applies to work, emails, chores, fitness, planning, and what not. This helps me stay active and cross off things on my list speedily.

It can be that sometimes extremely simple activities like organizing my desk, which would not take more than a couple minutes even if I try very hard, can end up seeming tedious and take days before I get to it. Could because I have been procrastinating on it or just been busy with other endless list of things to be done. Maybe it’s taking some mental energy every time I look at the desk and remember that I need to organize it soon. But if I just take time to do it right away, I don’t have to think about it anymore and you might even save those minutes later while working or being able to find things more easily. The chaos is gone in 5 minutes. Why keep it for days?

That’s only one example on my mind but this could be anything that is small but unknowingly bothering you. But if you try to fix everything right now, you won’t do the most important stuff, right?

The idea is to not try to do every little task right away. Don’t go thinking of everything you could do that takes less than 5 minutes. That’s a long list. I’m talking about only those things that come to you, what you see in front of you and your day could be slightly better when it’s addressed or solved. Maybe booking a train ticket, making a meeting appointment, replying to a couple emails, putting stuff away in the closet, washing a couple dishes, etc.

You might argue that at most times important tasks take much longer than 5 minutes to do. How do you apply this then? My answer is that this does not always apply of course. There’s no universal optimum way to do everything. You must prioritize your to-do’s and often you want to “eat the frog in the morning”.

But I also believe that you will be able to break down plenty of tasks into little bite-sized pieces. Then suddenly you are making small steps on that big assignment. That works for me in comparison to avoiding it for the next days and waiting for one ideal and big timeslot to do it.

Your priorities for the day should definitely be the guiding factor for which of those 5-minute tasks you do first. But sometimes you just need to get moving… In those cases, you might find it handy to start off with easy-peasy 5-minute things which set you in the right mindset and momentum to do other bigger chunks of work.

Just a Sunday afternoon thought (written and posted in 5 minutes of course). Take it or leave it 😉