Five minutes hardly a block of time big enough to even notice. If we’re five minutes early or late we see ourselves as “on time.” If we only have five minutes left we are “out of time.” If we have five minutes before something starts, it’s starting.
But, five minutes, all by itself, can make a very large difference in our continual struggle to “keep it all together.”
If you are like me, you put up with disorder, telling yourself you’ll get to it tomorrow, you’ll clean it later, you’ll get to it when you have time, etc. I’m not talking about big messes or routine cleaning, but rather the “mini-messes” that seem to be all around people like us. You’ll find these in corners, counter cubbies, junk drawers, closets, and surfaces that just seem to collect piles. I think it is self-preservation for a Type B person like myself to look at, but not really see these piles. It’s as if they become invisible.
Take my desk for instance. It stays a mess. Little doo-dads and odds-and-ends of papers are scattered where I dropped them because I had no where to put them. Important papers are piled because I can’t throw them away so “I’ll file them later.” Do I like it this way? Not really. I would like my desk to be clean. But, I just never seem to get to it.
Before I started this article I decided to do an experiment. In seminars, one of the hints I give is called the “Five Minute Rule.” I have used it occasionally but never consistently. So, I decided to put this rule to the test. I tackled some annoying but unimportant tasks and allowed myself only five minutes working at top speed. I started with my desk.
Wow! What a difference five minutes made. I tossed, filed, put away, sorted and returned everything on my desk in five minutes. Even I was surprised.
Next I looked at my office with a critical eye. When I took time to really see what I was looking at, I saw boxes on the floor, papers in corners, cobwebs in crannies and junk in cubbies. All of these things “bugged” me but I quickly went into my “gonna get to it” mode which eases my conscience while not committing me. In five little minutes I got rid of boxes that had been sitting in the same place for over a month, I straightened crooked pictures, picked up paper, returned old coffee cups… well, you get the idea. Five minutes took care of things that had nagged at me for months.
Wow. This was motivating. Looking forward to the next five minute cleaning frenzy I turned my attention to my car. Waiting while I get my gas pumped I decided to make use of that “down” time. So, I straightened my tapes dusted the dash, picked up the big trash, got the little junky things that pile up on car floors into a bag and tossed it all into the station’s trash can. The feeling I had was exhilarating.
This has made me look at the lowly five-minute block of time in a whole new light! The next time you look at little messes and feel overwhelmed or find yourself saying, “I’ll get to that…” ask yourself what you could get done in five minutes and go for it. You’ll be amazed at what you accomplish!