After this Introduction and the “Making Sure You Get Things Done” section, keep reading to discover dozens of specific things you can do in just 5 minutes.
Even 5 minutes is enough time to do something meaningful. That’s the idea behind this book. Please don’t let a few minutes of free time pass without doing something that you really want or need to do.
Life is precious, after all, and it’s not smart to waste it.
This collection of specific things you can do in 5 minutes serves two purposes. First, you can flip through this book and find useful suggestions that you can put to work right away. Second, these ideas are designed to spur further thought and help you create your own list of meaningful micro-tasks.
I’ve made a real effort to avoid wasting your time with useless and unhelpful suggestions or advice you can easily find elsewhere. That’s because I want you to succeed in living your best life ever. Using and enjoying time you would have otherwise wasted is part of taking control of your life.
If you find that you’re letting your valuable time slip away by not using every available 5-minute period you have free to your best advantage, you might benefit from deciding in advance – right now, perhaps – what you want to do the next several times you have a few minutes free. I recommend always having ideas in mind for useful or fun things you want to do. That way, you don’t have to think about what to do when some free time becomes available.
Making Sure You Get Things Done
If you find that the things you want to accomplish aren’t getting done despite your planning, there may be a reason for that. Here are 3 barriers that may be standing between you and the things you want to get done:
You’re not setting aside the time. When a task takes only a few minutes to do, we often don’t bother to allocate it any time in our schedule. It might help to make a list of several 5-minute tasks you simply must get done soon, then work through them in order when you find a few spare minutes. The things at the front of the line should be the most important ones.
You don’t have the right things with you. Some tasks get put off because you never have the right piece of paper or equipment with you to do them. It can be a real letdown to remember to do a task, sit down to do it and realize you aren’t prepared. You might be able to keep notes for your tasks on your phone or take a photo of relevant paperwork so you always have it. Of course, you can also simply grab the things you need and make sure you’re never without them until you’re done with them.
You don’t really want to do it. If you find you have time for everything in life except those one or two micro-tasks that should be at the top of your list, they may be things you find unpleasant, distasteful or difficult. In those cases, make time to do the task right away if you’re going to do it at all. When you get the task you’ve been avoiding done, you get a particularly strong sense of accomplishment.
Of course, some 5-minute blocks are best used for things that don’t necessarily have to be done. Using free minutes to enhance your mind, body and soul is a great idea that will reward you as well.
Now, let’s get on with the show.
Presented in random order, the following suggestions for things to do with 5 minutes can help you stay productive, have fun, improve your life and enhance your use of time, no matter where you are. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a useful one.
What To Do With 5 Minutes
Cancel something. Extra subscriptions and memberships are time-wasters – and may be wastes of money too. Whether it’s an unwanted magazine subscription, an annoying email newsletter or notifications from that Meetup group that you’ll never really attend, there’s great satisfaction in freeing your life from something you don’t need anymore. Are you really using that wholesale club membership? Some companies give your money back if you cancel – or at least you’ll put a stop to something auto-renewing. You can always start it again if you find that canceling was a mistake.
Delete dozens of emails. The older an email is, the less likely you are to ever need it. So delete dozens of old, valueless emails in 5 minutes and you’ll never have to see them again. If you find something you want to keep, label or file it in a folder immediately. If it needs attention, mark it unread and come back to it the next time you have 5 minutes free. For maximum productivity, don’t stop deleting, filing or marking until your full 5 minutes is up. If you have a large backlog, use as many free moments as possible to get things under control – for a simpler life and an easier to navigate inbox.
Take some artsy photos. This is a personal favorite – because I really love taking photos. Even when you’re in an environment that isn’t exactly beautiful, you can find a fun, quirky or unique angle to exploit in a simple photo or two. Experiment a little. Post your artsy photos on Instagram or Facebook without comment, if you like, and you might help add some cheer to someone else’s free time. And if you don’t delete the image, you’ll always have a record of how you spend those few minutes.
Respond to 1 to 5 messages. Whether they’re phone messages, texts or emails, 5 minutes is plenty of time to respond to one – and you might squeeze in responses to two, three or more. Choose to limit phone calls to absolute necessities like conversations with relatives and friends who live afar. Answer everyone else by text or email, no matter how they contacted you. When you choose the method of communication, you’re taking charge of how much time you use responding. After you repeatedly answer a person by your preferred method, they’ll get the message about how you like to be contacted.
Read. Keep your Kindle stocked with a few favorite magazines, a couple of books of essays, poems or short stories and other material that you can read quickly. Keep a physical book of short things to read near you, if you prefer. Some people view reading as a chore, but it can relax a racing brain and stimulate creativity. Marvel at why someone bothered to write such a mundane poem or examine the quality of prose in a classic short tale. Your mind and mood will be better for your efforts – and you may have trouble stopping at just 5 minutes.
Journal. You may be tempted to call it “writing in a journal,” but journaling is often much different than writing. Your journal might be filled with drawings, doodles, sentence fragments or even equations, if that’s how your mind works. In just 5 minutes, you can dump out what’s on your mind, brainstorm about what to do next or simply practice a drawing technique. A journal doesn’t have to be filled with diary entries or essays; instead, it can be anything you want. And you can decide later whether its entries will ever be shared with anyone else.
Relish your favorite song. Most songs are less than 5 minutes, and if you happen to be a music fan, listening to your favorite song can alter your mood – in a positive way, I hope. Even people who shun meditation and religion find comfort, excitement and even sensuality from listening to a favorite song. Keeping some songs you particularly like ready to go on your desktop or laptop computer or your phone to play when things are looking bleak might be the best way available to improve a declining day.
Do some quick cleaning. A handful of minutes is plenty of time to walk around your home or office and return items where they belong, throw away or recycle some little pieces of paper or junk mail and tidy a shelf or desk. If you find yourself in your car when you have 5 minutes free – maybe when you’re waiting on someone or when traffic is stopped – there’s always the console and glove compartment to look through. Cleaning is also a good way to pass the time when you’re in the passenger seat of your own car and someone else is driving.
Walk. I believe that walking has physical, emotional and spiritual benefits – and I do it every chance I get. If there’s a green and lush walking trail nearby, that’s great. But your 5-minute walk can be in your yard, around your apartment complex or simply along the sidewalks of a shopping center. Rather than worrying about whether you should be doing something else, clear your head while you exercise your body by taking a walk. You’ll be surprised how enjoyable a simple walk can be. You might even generate a solution to a longstanding problem or at least create a sense of well-being for yourself.
Tighten some doorknobs. I once got “locked” out of my closet because the doorknob was so loose from frequent use that it simply wouldn’t turn anymore. I had to slam my weight on the door to open it, breaking the catch. Then I had to find a new, larger strike plate to cover the damage. So I strongly recommend from experience that you tighten the screws that hold your doorknobs on and oil the hinges while you’re there. Being able to open the doors in your life is really important.
Create your own motto. Whether you create a mission statement, a life goal or just a funny saying that you can share with others, 5 minutes is plenty of time to come up with something witty, pithy or profound. All those quotes and memes that people share online were written by someone, so why not make it your goal to only share mottoes, sayings and quotes that you’ve written yourself? You’ll be using your free moments wisely by creating something new – rather than just sharing something old and time-worn. You can choose to take credit for your creation, share it anonymously or keep it to yourself.
Make or edit your bucket list. It’s important to have a list of things you want to do before you die – often called a bucket list – so you can measure your progress toward achieving those things. If you haven’t started a list, use a few minutes to write down what you most want to do or accomplish, and add to this list in future 5-minute blocks you have free. If you already have a bucket list, edit and add to it if your priorities or desires have changed since you created it.
Contribute to Google Maps. I enjoy taking photos and adding them to Google Maps so that others can experience a place before visiting. This is especially rewarding when there are very few other photos of a place. Google Maps includes photos and videos of businesses, parks, points of interest and more, and all you need to contribute is a Google account. (All Android users have one, and iPhone users can get one.) You can also answer questions, update out-of-date info and more – to help others have better real-world experiences in your area. Simply open the Maps app and click Contribute.
Exercise. You don’t have to start on your regular exercise routine. Instead, you can run in place, stretch or massage a sore muscle or lift a few hand weights. There’s no need to work up a sweat, but a few minutes is plenty of time to work on a tight shoulder or stiff knee. You might even use the time to test out a new workout routine you found on YouTube to see if it’s really for you. A few minutes of exercise here and there adds up to a healthier and happier body.
Consider your calendar. In just a few minutes, you can make some serious decisions that will save you hours in the future. Should you stop attending that book club or pub quiz night that you don’t like all that much? Could you get more done if you change your weekly visit with your grandmother to later in the day – after you accomplished the day’s work? When you take time to consider your calendar, you can free yourself from time-wasting activities that you’ve been doing out of habit and make time for better things to do.
Set priorities for the week ahead. No matter the day of the week, you can set your personal and work priorities for the next several days in a few free minutes. Is next week too busy for that dentist’s appointment you had scheduled? Should you get the stuff to make that new dinner you’ve been meaning to try? There’s no reason to over-plan, but arranging a few events or activities to anchor the week can give your brain something to latch onto when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work or bored and depressed.
Delete old photos from your phone. You may have more photos wasting space on your phone or your online account than you realize. Unnecessary photos happen when you take two or three of the same one, when you snap a receipt to make sure you have it later (and then never need it) or when you take an image of a sign or poster to remember some detail about an event that has now already happened. In 5 minutes, you can delete dozens – and never have to deal with those useless images again.
Get started on your adult coloring book. Not long ago, everyone seemed to be recommending adult coloring books as a relaxing and mind-ordering process. But a lot of us never really got interested. In just a few minutes, you can grab your adult coloring book and your pencils, pens or crayons and see whether you care for this pastime or not. You might be surprised how much – or little – adult coloring books appeal to you.
Watch a video that’s just the right length. If you search YouTube for “5 minute videos,” you’ll find a large number of entertainment and relaxation options that are just the right length (and many that are much longer than 5 minutes too). A Google search will bring up even more choices. If you aren’t careful, however, you’ll use up all your minutes just looking for videos. But that can be fun too. Remember, every minute is yours to use as you like – and you don’t always have to do what you set out to do.
Learn a 5-minute craft. A quick Google search for “5 minute crafts” will connect you with the “5-Minute Crafts” channel on YouTube – one of the most subscribed on the platform – and many other choices for fun things you can do alone or with your family. For some of the featured ideas, you’ll need to get the materials in advance, but you may already have the things necessary for some quick crafts. If you have the space to leave a craft area set up in your home, you can rapidly create something cute, fun or useful without a lot of last-minute hassles.
Grab a catnap. Nothing is more refreshing than pressing reset during a stressful day with a catnap – although it’s difficult to understand why a nap of just a few minutes is called a catnap since cats often sleep for hours! But you must know yourself: If falling asleep means being asleep for hours in your case, this option isn’t for you. If you can doze off quickly and come back around just as fast, then you might benefit from the relaxation and muscle-releasing pleasantness of just a few minutes of light sleep.
Burn 30 calories dancing. Whether you’re interested in burning calories or not, dancing is a fun way to get some exercise. But dancing isn’t just about exercise. It can be very freeing too – if you let it. It can also help relieve tired, aching muscles and revive you during an afternoon slump. You don’t even have to be good at it to enjoy yourself and get some benefits. The more vigorous your dancing, the more calories you burn. Just be careful not to tire yourself out if you must go right back to work afterward.
Play with your dog or cat. No matter how much time you spend with your companion animals, it probably isn’t enough. A free 5 minutes is plenty of time to get your dog up and moving or help your cat get interested in a new toy. They’ll reward you with their gratitude and might just remind you the next day that you need to spend an extra 5 minutes with them again. Since you’ve brought these animals into your life, you might as well enjoy them in your free minutes.
Remove unwanted apps from your phone. Your Android or iPhone may be able to tell you which apps haven’t been used in the last several weeks – or you can simply scroll through a list of installed apps looking for ones that are wasting space and slowing down your phone. This might include fast food apps you downloaded for a free sign-up bonus or games you didn’t like as much as you thought you did. And be merciless. You can always put them back later if you decide you need them. Restart after your cleanup to improve phone performance. (You can clean up your desktop or laptop too!)
Take a moment for dental hygiene. Let’s face it: Most of us don’t floss our teeth every day. But flossing is a good use of 5 minutes. It removes sticky plaque before it becomes hard tartar that you can’t brush or floss away. While you’re at it, you may benefit from a rinse with hydrogen peroxide, which kills bacteria and can leave your mouth feeling fresh and clean, especially if you brush immediately after using it. Why not treat yourself to a quick bonus oral hygiene session? The benefits are greater than you might expect.
Donate to a charity. If you want to use a few free moments to make yourself feel better, there are very few things that provide a greater sense of accomplishment than helping fund a charity. Visit the website of your local animal shelter, botanical garden or homeless shelter – or donate to a national organization. You might even get a t-shirt, mug or other reward for your generosity. And when your 5 minutes are up, you’ll move on with the rest of your day knowing you’ve done something great, no matter the size of the donation.
Drink some water. If you think you’re drinking enough water, you could still probably benefit from an extra glass or two. An extra glass of water has significant health benefits and can increase your energy as well. Relax for 5 minutes and grab a glass of water – cool, but not so cold that it’s difficult to drink much at a time – to lubricate your joints, boost saliva production to counter a dry mouth, improve your skin and hair, flush waste from your body, help manage your blood pressure and more. Drinking an invigorating glass of water can also be a better pick-me-up than a sugary snack.
Update your bio or resume. A few minutes may be all that’s necessary to review your resume or your website’s bio page and make sure all the details are accurate and well-presented. You can’t correct too many errors in 5 minutes, but you can decide whether a serious update is needed. Even if you don’t plan to change jobs and don’t need to show your bio to anyone, a document of this type is still a great calling card that can help you introduce yourself and your expertise to others – and you never know when an updated version might come in handy.
Prep food for tomorrow. Some meal and snack prep can be done in mere minutes. Divide up prepackaged food for tomorrow’s lunches or snacks – or make a quick fruit salad like I did a few minutes ago. (Chopping an apple and combining it with grapes, strawberry yogurt and some crushed nuts only takes 3 or 4 minutes!) You could also put something from the freezer in the fridge for defrosting and prep the veggies to accompany it. Tomorrow will move more smoothly when you prepare for it in your spare minutes today.
Transfer a few dollars to your savings account. Even putting an extra $5 in savings when you have a few spare minutes helps you increase your emergency or vacation fund and keeps you from spending the money immediately on something you don’t really need anyway. Since making the transfer shouldn’t take a full 5 minutes, use the extra moments to look through your bank accounts and review your saving habits – to see if you’re putting away as much as you’d like. We could all benefit from saving more and spending less on impulse purchases.
Share something of yours online. A great use of a few extra minutes is to share a blog post you’ve written with your Facebook friends or a favorite image you’ve taken with your followers on Instagram. You can also use the time to snap a photo of an art or craft project you’ve created recently and post that on a blog or one of your social media accounts. Sharing your work with others is a way of sharing yourself. Plus, there’s a lot of negative and questionable stuff shared on social media – and sharing something positive will give your friends something refreshingly different to enjoy.
Create a list of micro-tasks to do in the future. If you’re still having trouble deciding what to do with your free minutes after reading this book, here’s something to try: Use your next 5 minutes free to make a list of small tasks you can do in future small blocks of time. Then you’ll never have free time that you can’t turn into useful, fun, productive or at least purposefully unused time. Some say that lists are a waste of time, but if you’re already wasting time, why not see if a list could help you?
Don’t do anything. There’s great value in slowing down and taking a few minutes to catch your breath. Just as you don’t have to waste small blocks of time you have free, you don’t have to use every one of them for something productive, profound or profitable. Some minutes are best left unfilled. Don’t be lazy – but don’t overbook your life either. Whether you’ve been productive and have accomplished a lot recently or things are falling apart around you and you aren’t getting much done, a 5-minute break can be just the thing to get you ready for whatever comes next.
Good luck in whatever you do now and in every minute of your life. You deserve the very best.