The Five-Minute Challenge

When I began my blog, I planned to post twice a week, with more theoretical philosophy of life type posts on Tuesday and practical, hands-on posts on Thursday. I knew that I would be posting about time management occasionally. It’s a challenge we all face, and I consider it one of my areas of expertise. The problem is: Does it belong on Tuesdays because time is a theoretical concept, or does it belong on Thursdays because, although not hand on, it is certainly practical.

Practicalities forced me to post about time on Thursday this week. Practicalities also forced me to drop the idea of posting twice a week. I started a new job, so I less time that I can write. Every other week I will post a practical idea on Thursday; the other weeks I will post a reflection on life on Tuesday.

Today I want to talk about a little technique I use to break up overwhelming jobs into bite sized chunks, avoid wasting precious time, and make sure that certain tasks get a little attention every day. I call it the five-minute challenge.

I came up with the idea when faced with a very messy kitchen. It was so bad I didn’t know where to start. I decided to set a timer for five minutes and challenge myself to clean one section of the kitchen in that time. When that was finished, I moved on to the next section.

I discovered that the challenge gave me motivation to keep moving. Racing the timer gives a little adrenaline. I also found that I have an easier time facing five minutes of an unpleasant task than I do an unspecified amount of time, even if I know I am going to have to set the timer a few times to finish the task.

And it’s useful for other things too. There are those in between times like when you need to leave the house in 8 minutes. It’s not enough time to take on a project, but there’s usually something that could be done. If you wash 5 minutes worth of dishes now, that’s five more minutes you have to tack onto a project later. And the timer helps you keep from being late.

Then there are those everyday tasks like keeping your house clean. It’s good to keep somewhat on top of them, but you don’t need to do a thorough housecleaning every day. I use a daily five-minute challenge or two to keep on top of things like that.

What can you accomplish in five minutes? I’m going to see if I can do those breakfast dishes before I have to run out of the door.

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