I don’t know why I did it.
A couple weeks ago, I sat down at my desk to start working and for some reason decided to do something else instead.
I shut the music off, cleaned off my desk, opened a new document on my computer, and set a timer for five minutes.
Then, I typed a list of things I want or need to do.
It included work and personal items. Tasks I’d avoided and ones I was eager to tackle.
Everything from doing my taxes to doing laundry, from writing the next issue of my newsletter to sending a client a suggestion about how to grow her audience, from creating a new Spotify playlist to buying a new book.
Even some ideas to share in This Is How I Do It.
A couple minutes in, I ran out of stuff to add to the list.
But rather than stop, I stared at the timer as it continued to tick down.
Twenty seconds later a new batch of ideas tumbled out of my head and into the document.
When the timer dinged and my five minutes was up, I looked over my list and was amazed at all that had surfaced in that brief time.
It was a good use of five minutes, but not just because I now had a fleshed out To Do list.
The true value of what happened was that I had taken back five minutes of my day.
We tend to float from thing to thing during the day and our time just sort of vanishes in the midst of our work and distractions. But, this spontaneous exercise led me to carve out a focused five minutes on a single task and in doing so it felt like I’d found an “extra” five minutes in my day.
That realization inspired me to try it again the next day.
And the day after that. And the one after that.
I’ve now done it every day for a couple weeks and highly recommend you try it for yourself.
Take the 5-Minute Challenge.
You don’t have to use your time to make a list of things you want or need to do — use it for whatever you want.
But here are a few suggested parameters to follow when you give it a shot…
Pick one thing to do with your five minutes.
There’s no multitasking during the 5-Minute Challenge.
The point of the exercise is to commit to do a single thing — any thing — for five minutes.
You can choose to do anything you want, but I recommend doing something that will help you in some way — maybe it helps you get organized, clear your mind, relax, or make progress on something.
Give your full focus to your chosen activity.
Shut everything off that can potentially distract you.
No TV, no music, no million tabs open on your web browser, no email notifications.
Throw your phone in a river.
You deal with so many distractions all day and it may be hard to shut them out for extended periods of time, but you can do it for at least five minutes.
Doing so will give you a break from all the noise and it may even encourage you to apply a similar focus to other activities you do during the day.
Singular focus is hard at first, but doing it for even a little bit can be addictive (because it feels great).
Set a timer.
No matter how hard you struggle to do your thing for five minutes, at least attempt to do it for that amount of time.
Don’t allow yourself to bail early.
If you struggle to do the full five minutes — the way I ran out of things to jot down on my To Do list — just sit there.
You’ll be amazed how inevitably something pops into your head and you’re back at it.
Five minutes is not a long time. You can survive it.
Take it to the next level.
Once you’ve done the 5-Minute Challenge for a few days, you’ll likely find it becomes a habit you enjoy.
If so, feel free to step up your game.
Maybe five minutes a day becomes 10 minutes? Or instead of doing it once a day, you do it twice a day?
You don’t have to expand it and there’s a beauty to the simplicity of setting aside just five minutes to do something, but if you find it helpful why not build on it?
The 5-Minute Challenge is a great habit to have, but it can also be a launchpad for bigger and better habits.
Go set your timer and think about it.