The Value of 5min

If I could give credit to whoever first made this observation I would, but I found this on a random website about the habits of successful people a few months ago and it changed my life:

Successful people measure time in minutes.

I know, right? Not much of a revelation at first sight. We all measure time in minutes; after all, that is what watches and phones are for.

But then it struck me.

As a young person, I began to organise my time dependent on public transport. I always hated the thought of being late, so I generally calculated my time with an extra bus or tram in mind. They’d generally arrive every 15min, so if I wanted to get somewhere, I made sure I’d arrive there about 30min earlier, just in case something made me miss my ride.

I had kept this habit up into adulthood, measuring my time in half-hour or quarter-hour chunks. If I had a free half an hour, I would do the washing up or the hoovering or start marking my books.

Little did I realise how much trapped time this created. The washing up may have lasted 10min, but the remaining 20min seemed too little time to get into my marking properly, or to get the hoover out.

It’s only been in the last few months – when my pregnancy took over and things got hectic at work as well as manic at home – that I have got into the new habit of measuring my time in minutes. Now that I have a baby to care for, this has become more imperative than ever before.

Got 5mins before the boy has to be woken up? Great! I can sort the laundry into piles. Got 2min until we need to go on the school run? Stick it into the machine. Got a free minute while everyone is happily playing away? Sort the mess on the table top.

The thing is, 5min don’t sound like a lot. That is, until you have to wait for something for 5min. Then it suddenly seems like forever. A 5min wait for a bus in the pouring rain with a screaming baby can seem like a lifetime. A 2min silence to commemorate the victims of an atrocity committed a long time ago seemed a long time to keep a straight face as a teenager. Hell, even waiting just three minutes until food is warmed up when you’re ravenous seems like waiting for snow in the desert.

The trick is to use that time wisely. If 5min can seem like forever when you’re not doing anything, they are 5 equally long minutes in which to get stuff done. I used my 5min this morning to stick a load of washing on after sorting it all upstairs. They were 5min we had spare before the school run. I now have a whole 30min to play with whilst my son is asleep upstairs, giving me time to jot this down and hang the laundry up to dry. I may even have time to carry on making my daughter’s Christmas hair band. Or dust upstairs.

5min are not a boring restriction, they are an opportunity. There are, after all, 288 5-min stretches in the day.

By the way, I still turn up to an appointment about 30min early. Some habits are unwise to break 🙂



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