Just 5 Minutes

The other day at the grocery store, I found myself being impatient. The line moved slowly in front of me. The person checking out seemed to be paying with pennies that she dug out of the bottom of her purse…one at a time. I checked my watch. I shifted my position. I scanned the tabloids. I read the ingredients of all of my favorite candy bars. I sent a few emails from my blackberry. I phoned a friend. I put the singles in my wallet in order according to year. And I checked my watch again.

Five minutes passed from the time I first noticed that I was stuck in an unmoving line and the check-out clerk said, “Good morning” to me. Just five minutes.

A couple of days later, a friend of mine told me that she had had a productive day. She said that the secret of her successful day was living in five minute increments instead of trying to live the whole day at one time. Since I had just experienced a long five minute wait in line, her comment caught my attention.

“So what can you do with five minutes?” I asked her.

“Well,” she told me, “I decided to fold a load of laundry and put it away. It took me five minutes. Normally, I wait until I have all of the laundry done before I fold them. But by the time all of the laundry is done, there’s so much on the couch that I need an hour to get it all done. And then I don’t even want to start because that’s a big job. But with just five minutes, I could see where my efforts paid off. The couch was cleared, and I could turn my attention to other things.”

That got me thinking about how much time we waste because we view five minutes as such an insignificant amount of time. It’s not insignificant if it’s wasted waiting in line. In fact, it seems pretty darn long then.

What could we do if we used our five minute periods each day instead of wasting them? Well, I think we could do a great many things. For example, you can make a dent in household chores if you…

  • Straighten out a kitchen drawer that has started looking like a hybrid junk drawer and a primitive rubber band collection…
  • Dust or vacuum a room in your house…
  • Gather up and take out the trash…
  • Strip the beds and get them ready for the wash…

But you can also spend those five minutes doing something that has a more lasting consequence like investing your time with people. You can…

  • Read an entire picture book to your young children or grandchildren…
  • Tell your best employee that she’s doing a great job and that you appreciate her…
  • Call your mom or dad, son or daughter, brother or sister, or friend just to say “hello”…
  • Ask your children “Tell me about the best part of your day. What did you like?”…
  • Leave a lipstick heart on the bathroom mirror for your significant other…

Or you can use those five minutes spending time to think, to plan, to reflect. You can…

  • Start a list of your top priorities for the day or week…
  • Think about how you are progressing in different parts of your life ranging from work performance to fitness…
  • Reflect about the things and the people you are grateful that are in your life…
  • Ponder the most significant, defining moments of your life…

When you think about the five minute periods of time you have each day THAT ARE WASTED, you realize just how many of your dreams may be within your grasp if you took full advantage of those fleeting moments.

Where will you spend your next unplanned, unscheduled five minute break in your day?

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