How to change your life in five minutes or less

Updated to Life on May 4, 2023.

We all have wants.

We want more time. A better/smaller body, more energy, money in the bank, love…whatever.

We are want-machines and as soon as we satisfy one want we find another. Or two.

Often we don’t know where to start. Like how to start exercising after a 10-year hiatus. Or who to believe when it comes to advice on eating healthy. 

So we don’t start. “Procrastination,” wrote the late Wayne Dyer, “is the art of keeping up with yesterday, and avoiding today.”

It turns out that the experience of progress is a powerful ingredient for taking action.

Just like a flywheel that is hard to get spinning, we all experience resistance to taking action. Especially when the action is new to us.

Enter the five-minute hack.

Instead of adding another to-do to your list, or thinking over and over, you should do something, you take one little step (Learn about Small Wins here). You give yourself five minutes. That’s all.

Sound ridiculous? After all, you have BIG problems to tackle like updating your website, hiring an assistant, coaching a team member, or losing five pounds. And big problems call for big action and a big commitment, right?

That might be true, but how many times this week have you thought about that big problem, and…done nothing? Around and around the thought goes and it usually starts with “I know I should…”, “If only I could…”, or “As soon as I…”

As soon as we experience a ‘need’ we think about it until we, finally, take action. Illustration by author

Instead of taking action, you experience a little worry, a pinch of regret—maybe even shame. “If change feels like walking off a cliff blindfolded,” wrote Rosabeth Moss Kanter “then people will reject it.” You deserve better. 

The solution is the five-minute hack (what I call Small Wins). 

Instead of thinking about how you should do something, you think “screw it!” Pick one thing you can do in just five minutes and then (this is the hack) go back to what you were doing.

You’re not trying to write the book, or organize the garage…you’re just investing one little five-minute chunk of life in the right direction.

Five minutes, that’s it

To add a bit more detail to this idea, here’s a list of a few things I did this week. These were all overdue tasks that I’d already wasted time thinking about, but doing nothing. Here’s what happened when I accomplished using the five-minute hack:

  • A list of changes I want to make to my website (I’ve been putting off updating my website for over 3 years).
  • Clearing my desk of notes, pens, and files.
  • Listing an old laptop for sale.
  • Labeling 3 charging cables that I constantly get mixed up.
  • Inviting a couple we haven’t seen since summer for dinner.
  • Writing the first paragraph of my next blog article.
  • Blocking my runs and gym workouts for the week on my calendar.
  • Ordering a replacement set of reading glasses.

Notice, I didn’t complete any of the tasks I’d been thinking about. I didn’t update my website, reorganize my office or label all the charging cables in our house. But, I did complete a five-minute hack for each of my wants. 

And I got momentum. The flywheel was spinning. I could see progress.

Here are just a few things that happened next…

— I blocked an hour to map out changes to my website and booked a call with my webmaster to start the changes.

— I liked the feeling of a clean desk so much that I committed to five minutes on Fridays to do a mini-purge.

— I sold the old laptop later that week.

When you think about losing 10 pounds you face resistance. It’s a natural reaction to any goal. And all the excuses start coming up:

** I don’t have the time. 

** Last time I tried this I failed. 

** I don’t know how etc.

Instead, find a five-minute hack that can’t fail. The objective is not to finish the project or reach the goal. The objective is to complete the five-minute hack. That’s all.

It could look like this:

  • Download a new vegetarian meal recipe.
  • Do 10 burpees, 5 pushups, or 15 squats. 
  • Remove junk food from your cupboard and fridge.
  • Book a call with a team member to clarify expectations.
  • Include a five-minute speed walking interval into your morning walk.

You will always have wants. It’s the blessing and curse of being human.

And those wants can become small wins if you start with just five minutes. Finishing a project or reaching a goal is the ultimate victory. We all want the business, body, or money of our dreams. 

The only way to get there is by getting started. 

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash