You’re short on time, and the last thing you want to do after a long day is spend it scrubbing the house. But the reality is that stuff still needs to get done. So how do you ensure you’re being as productive as possible with the small amount of time you have, without running yourself ragged? Simple – you utilise little pockets of time. This post contains a list of 25 things you can do in 5 minutes or less.
Over the weekend, I shared a video on eliminating ‘zero’ days. No matter how little time or energy you have, you can always manage to do one thing to keep things moving.
Maybe you’re sick of standing around waiting for the microwave to ping, or for your other half to run to the bathroom before you head out the door, or for your kid to put on their shoes. Perhaps you’re standing in the queue at the post office, twiddling your thumbs or catching up on your Twitter feed.
You’ve loads you want to do, but you know you only have a few minutes. How can you make any progress in that time?
Well, here are some things you can do in 5 minutes or less to fill those small, unexpected pockets of time with something productive, so you can make consistent progress towards your goals.
25 Things You Can Do In 5 Minutes Or Less
1. Make a phone call
Whether it be to confirm a reservation, place an order, or make an appointment, you’re rarely so tired that you can’t make a quick call. (As an introvert who hates talking on the phone, this is always a particularly satisfying one to check off the list.)
Consider calling up your insurance provider or utility companies to see if you can negotiate a better rate. Sometimes simply asking about the best available package is enough to ensure significant savings on your bills.
2. Look something up
It could be a phone number, an email address, a physical address, the answer to a question you have… Whatever it is, Google will have about 5 zillion answers for you in a split second.
3. Learn something new
In the space of a few minutes, you could learn some greetings and a basic phrase or two in a foreign language. You could research the best recipes for a particular ingredient. You could learn a new word and its meaning. You could look up what that strange setting on the washing machine does.
4. Read 2-3 pages of a book
Unless it’s particularly complex, like a college textbook, chances are you’ll be able to get through 2-3 pages of whatever book you’re reading, or make a start on a new one.
5. Clean the floors
Assuming you don’t live in an open-plan mansion, you can likely sweep, mop, or vacuum a room in your home in less than 5 minutes.
6. Clean one item/do one chore
In 5 minutes, you could: scrub your toilet, dust some of the main surfaces in your home, wash at least one window, empty and re-fill the dishwasher, put on a load of laundry, clean the inside of the microwave, wipe down the hob, fold some clothes…
Pick a chore that’s been on your list for a little while and see how quickly you can get it done.
7. Prep food
Peel and chop some fruits or vegetables, divvy up large portions into smaller snack sizes, put something in the fridge to defrost for dinner, pack a lunch for the following day, decide on what you’re having for dinner and get out all the ingredients and cooking equipment you’ll need…
How much better would your diet be if you devoted even just 5 minutes a week to prepping some healthy snacks?
Set a timer for 5 minutes and see how much junk you can remove from your home. You can either pick a specific area that’s been bothering you (like your closet, mud room, junk drawer, etc.) or just grab a bin and see how much of your home you can zip through before the timer goes off.
Or go the digital route and delete some apps, old photos, and songs you no longer listen to.
9. Tidy & organise a space
We all have certain areas that tend to get messy. So, whether it’s a kitchen counter, a desk, a sideboard, the fridge… straighten and organise everything on/in it so it’s no longer an eye-sore.
10. Shred papers
Paper is a huge source of clutter in homes and, even though you may have decluttered it or separated out what you no longer want or need, I’d be willing to bet you have a pile sitting somewhere that needs shredding. Take 5 minutes to go through it and destroy as much as you can. (Be sure to recycle it!)
If paper clutter is a particular bugbear in your household, try these 10 tips to eliminate it for good.
11. Empty the bins
All of them. If you’re like me, you’re not too bad at emptying the kitchen bins because you see them all the time, but the bathroom, bedroom, and office bins may not get such regular attention. Grab a big black sack and empty them all into it.
12. Clear out your inbox
Whether it’s your email inbox or the place you stash all your papers, set that timer for 5 minutes and work your way through as much as you can. Unsubscribe from newsletters you no longer want to receive, delete outdated emails, respond to anything that only requires a quick reply, file important items for future reference, etc.
If email is your biggest struggle, I have a post on tackling an overflowing inbox with 7 great tips, including how to filter messages.
13. Write a thank-you card
This one only takes a minute but could really brighten someone’s day.
Journaling has many positive benefits, including helping process your thoughts and emotions, and preserving your precious memories.
You might not be able to make it to the gym for a full session, but there’s still loads you can do in 5 minutes to get the blood pumping. Try a mix of lunges, squats, jumping jacks, stomach crunches, push-ups, jogging on the spot… or just throw on a upbeat song and dance!
Obviously 5 minutes alone isn’t going to keep you lean and healthy, but it’s still much better than just sitting on your arse.
16. Cancel subscriptions
Call or email the companies whose subscription services you no longer want, and cancel them. Taking 5 minutes to do it now will save you so much time and money down the line.
You might feel like this is akin to doing nothing, but taking 5 minutes to still your mind can really help with so many things. It can bring clarity to a question you’ve had, it can calm you down when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, it can help you get to grips with a problem you’ve been struggling with, and it can regulate your breathing and heartbeat thereby keeping you healthy.
The benefits are numerous and, when you’re in a better, calmer frame of mind, you may find that you’re much more productive for the rest of the day. So don’t discount this as a waste of time – it may be one of the best things you can do for your productivity.
Think meditation is a bit airy-fairy? Can't quite see yourself getting into it? This post on mindfulness meditation for beginners might change your mind.
18. Back up your devices
You won’t know the true value of your devices and their contents until you lose them. Take just a few minutes to back up your files, folders, and photos. If you’re not sure how, use the 5 minutes to find out by doing a quick search online. Then the next time you have 5 minutes, put what you’ve learned into practice.
Trust me, I speak from experience when I tell you that backing up your devices is one of the best, easiest things you can do for peace of mind and, if the worst happens, to save your sanity.
19. Go on an unfollowing spree
Pick a social platform and go through the accounts you’re following to see which ones can be culled. Spend just 5 minutes cleaning up your feed and I guaranteed you’ll get that time back in spades when you’re no longer having to scroll through crap to get to the stuff you actually want to see.
If you fear you may actually be on your phone a little too much, here are my top tips for breaking social media addiction once and for all:
20. Pick an outfit
Knowing what you’re going to be wearing can really take the stress out of a morning, especially if you’re in a rush. Or knowing what you’re going to be wearing to an upcoming special event can make everything run a little smoother. (It’s also much better to find out now that the moths have had a go at your favourite dress than right before you have to leave the house.)
21. Sew back on a button
If you’re like me, you’ll have a little pile of clothes that needs mending, but you never seem to get to it. But it’s only going to take you a few minutes so quit putting it off and stitch that button back on, or re-hem those trousers, and get those items back into circulation.
22. Write a list
Whether it’s a grocery list, a to-do list, a list of supplies for an upcoming party or project, a list of upcoming birthdays, a list of gift ideas… If you’ve got something on your mind, get it down on paper so you don’t forget.
If you've got a little more time on your hands, why not try a brain dump? Great for getting everything out of your head.
23. Disinfect doorknobs & light switches
This one is particularly important when there’s sickness in the house. Take a disinfectant wipe, or grab a cloth and disinfectant spray (spraying onto the cloth, not onto light switches or anything electrical), and get wiping.
24. Beat rugs
If you’ve got rugs in your home, roll them up, take them outside, hang them over a fence or clothesline, and give them a good bash with a broom or other hard object. Don’t do it wearing anything that you’re not comfortable getting covered in dust.
Vacuum cleaners can’t always get deep down into the fibres, so giving your rugs a good beating every now and then will keep them clean, improve their longevity, and will improve the air quality in your home. No-one wants to be breathing in dust all day.
This is a particularly good one for those most frustrating of days when you need to unleash your rage on something inanimate.
25. Make a start on a big goal
You probably have something big you’ve been wanting to do for quite some time, whether it’s traveling the world or starting your own business. Today’s the day you make a start, maybe by drawing up a quick budget, doing some research, filling out the necessary forms, applying for a passport… Whatever it is, take 5 minutes today to take your first step towards your dream.
No more excuses about not having enough time – you have the time, you just have to take it. Regardless of what you’re doing with the other 1,435, you can find 5 minutes in your day to take action towards a goal, tick another chore of the list, or to achieve something small.
By utilising those small pockets of time when they crop up, you’ll be promoting productivity, gaining forward momentum, and getting more done than all those people staring at their phones.
Just 5 minutes a day won’t eat into your time or energy reserves too much, but it’ll steadily chip away at that to-do list.
What do you do when you have 5 spare minutes?