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Find an Extra Hour Every Day With a 5-Minute List

Read Time: 3 min

There are days when 24 hours just isn't enough. I'm sure you've experienced at least a few of those. Wouldn't it be great if you could find an extra hour without having to sacrifice sleep or something else you love to do?

Finding that extra hour a day might be easier than  you think. The trick? Create a "5-minute list."

What is a 5-Minute List?

Your 5-minute list is simply a list of tasks and activities you can do in five minutes. Even better, the list itself shouldn't take you more than five minutes to create.

What kinds of things might end up on your 5-minute list? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Check or update one of your social media accounts.
  • Check your email, or respond to a few.
  • Put together a to-do list or schedule for the next day.
  • Straighten your desk or other work area.
  • Read and comment on one work-related blog post.
  • Run updates on your blog.
  • Back up your blog's database (or key files).
  • Respond to comments on your blog.

These are the little things we do during the day to promote ourselves, maintain our sites, stay in touch with clients, and network. They're also the kinds of tasks that can distract us from the big picture. It's easy to let checking a social media account for important updates turn into an hour of browsing for example. If it can be completed in five minutes or less, add it to your list.

How to Use Your 5-Minute List to Find Time

Once you have a list of things you can accomplish in five minutes, use it to find a little extra time during your work day. Here are some of the ways I've managed to do that -- things you can do too:

  • Stop scheduling all the little things. Allot your entire schedule to bigger tasks you want to complete. Then, squeeze in your five-minute tasks as you go -- if you finish something else early or in between bigger tasks for example. You can always find another five minutes.
  • If you ever find yourself procrastinating because you can't get your head into a project, pull out your 5-minute list. Complete one quick task to get your mind focused on work again. Sometimes checking something small off your to-do list is all it takes to motivate yourself to get something else done.
  • Knock out more work in your off-hours. Now, I don't recommend working regularly when you're supposed to be off enjoying time doing other things. But let's say you watch a favorite show every evening (and you don't DVR it to skip commercials). Use those commercial breaks to tick one item off your 5-minute list. Look for situations like that where you have wasted minutes that you can turn into more productive time.

Finding five minutes here and there adds up throughout the day. It's not difficult to do this 12 times, giving you an extra hour of time towards work (or anything else).

Find even more time during the day by having a personal 5-minute list as well.

For example, if you don't have time for a typical workout, get up for five minutes and walk around your house. Do it several times per day, and you'll walk for a half hour more than usual before you know it. Or use your five minutes of "found" time to take care of chores around the house, make a personal call you've been meaning to make, or just close your eyes to relax and clear your head.

Personally, I like squeezing these kinds of tasks into my hourly five-minute breaks when I use the Pomodoro technique. It means my work breaks don't go to waste, and I don't have to spend as much off-hours time worrying about things around the house.

What could you accomplish with an extra five minutes? How much "found" time could you come up with every day with your own 5-minute list?

22 thoughts on “Find an Extra Hour Every Day With a 5-Minute List”

  1. Hi Jennifer- I can attest that this really works. I use it and love it. Great thoughts. I also find if I cross them off as I go, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot at the end of the day.

    Reply
    • I’m with you Chris. I love the feeling of checking something off my to-do list.

      While I used more general examples of 5-minute tasks in the post, you can also do this by taking large projects and breaking them down into micro-tasks. For example, I’m not one of those people who can start the week with three goals. For some it helps them focus. For me, it makes projects seem to drag on. So I break them down. When developing a new blog, that might mean registering a domain name, setting the site up on my server, basic WP setup, setting up the page structure, setting up the post category structure, etc. The bigger goal is broken down into its smallest possible components.

      When doing this, I don’t spend an hour or two working on a big project only to feel discouraged because there’s always so much more still to do. It lets me visualize my actual progress. And, more importantly, it reminds me that I can make that progress even if I only have a few minutes available. These tasks might not always be 5-minute list options, but many of them are. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. It’s a great advice, I usually set my 15 minutes list. But I think I should do some tasks in 5 minutes as you mentioned above πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • There’s no reason you can’t have both. πŸ™‚ Your 5-minute list can include micro-tasks that can be squeezed in at any time. And your 15-minute list can include slightly larger tasks (or groups of tasks like updating multiple social networks instead of just one). I could see a 15-minute list being a good way to start and end the work day — knocking out a couple of things right away and then squeezing a little more in at the end of the day when attention spans aren’t always at their longest.

      Reply
  3. Hi Jennifer,

    Clubbing together small tasks is a great way to complete them which would have otherwise being neglected.

    I’m a fan of checklists and while I manage to accomplish quite a few tasks with them, this 5 minute list can come quite handy especially when time is a constraint.

    Surely, this is going to be a part of my to-do list.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Patricia

    Reply
  4. Hello Jennifer,
    I’ve never heard about the 5-minutes list before and i think its a very awesome idea.

    Yes, you can easily be carried away while trying to do a quick check on Facebook and before you know, an hour has passed while you’re still there.

    But having this 5-minutes time frame for those short tasks will tremendously increase your focus so you don’t move off track.

    Reply
    • Exactly. It’s always amazing to me how much can actually be done in just five minutes. It’s longer than we sometimes realize. That’s why it ties so nicely into the Pomodoro technique for me. I had the same revelation when I started using it — you can do a heck of a lot in each of those 25-minute sessions! And with a personal 5-minute list, I can combine the two — 25 minutes working at my desk, 5 minutes up and about doing chores around the house, etc. So far, so good. Anything that helps me get more done while giving me more downtime at the end of the day is awesome in my book. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Thank you so much, Jenn. What a simple solution! I usually spend too much time to create a complicated list, but end up never doing any of them because I feel so overwhelming. Very useful tips!

    Reply
    • Breaking down your days into micro tasks doesn’t work well for everyone. If it’s not working for you, consider choosing a single goal or primary task to focus on. You might even want to skip some more minor tasks for a day or two (like social media updates) so you can make some headway on your main project or goal. Then start reintroducing those smaller tasks in five-minute increments.

      Reply
  6. I’m counting this as one of 5 minute to-do items today! I tend to get sucked in to social media, wasting so much time. So I recently severely cut my Facebook time, and I discovered I have a lot more time for things actually care about. Imagine that.

    Reply
    • Right? It’s so easy to lose track of time. I’m still guilty of it more than I’d care to admit, but when I remember to keep these kinds of micro-task lists around, it’s still much easier for me to snap myself back into something productive.

      Reply
  7. This is great! It’s those little things that make the list seem so overwhelming at times, but it sure does feel good to check them off it! πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • If you end up with two many things on your 5-minute list and its length starts to feel overwhelming, one option is to prioritize the tasks into a few different groups (keeping the lists separate so you don’t look at them all at once). That’s a case where index cards can come in handy because they naturally limit your list size. If you don’t want to prioritize them, you could also group them by project. That can help if you tend to hop around a lot and you want to stay focused on a single project longer. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  8. This is a great idea. I’ll do it, but with a twist: I’ll put my 5-minute list using a desktop checklist and save my Todoist list for work. Sometimes I use random.org to randomly select which tasks to do. It makes it more of a game.

    Reply

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