I Crossed This Off My List This Week

Time Management ChecklistSaturday was February 1st. Not only was it the beginning of a new month, but it marked a deadline I have had lingering in my head for a while. I finally accomplished something I’ve thought about for weeks and I’m afraid I simply won’t get the credit for it I deserve. So what did I do?

…I took the Christmas wreath down off my door.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, unless you’ve also put off a tiny task for way longer than you’d like to admit. We all know we should adhere to The 5 Minute Rule: if it takes less than 5 minutes, just do it now, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

I’m not even going to pretend that this Christmas wreath was affixed to the house in any sort of complicated manner. It was on a nail. One silly nail. But every time I passed by, I found some excuse to do anything other than take care of the stupid wreath.

It’s easy to see how senseless this type of procrastination is when someone else is doing the procrastinating, however, I’m guessing there is a task on your to-do list RIGHT NOW that’s been sitting there for months and would take less than a few minutes to complete.

Is it something for work? A task around your house? An email you’ve been meaning to send? A phone call you’ve been meaning to make?

Do it today.

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How To Stop 5-Minute Tasks from Taking Over Your Life

Time Management 5 Minute RuleThe “5 Minute Rule” is one of my favorite pieces of time management advice to keep your to-do list trim. “If it takes less than 5 minutes, just do it now!” However, how do you ensure that your day doesn’t become an endless barrage of short 5-minute tasks and you never get any “real” work done? It’s a valid concern. Check out these three tips to let The 5 Minute rule help your time management.

1. Set aside “focus blocks”

In The Time Diet, everything you do is either a Meat, Vegetable, or Dessert. If you’re focused intently on a Meat when a 5-minute task comes across your desk, try keeping it on your desk until you finish your train of thought. Then, before you reward yourself with a break, tackle the 5-minute task. Sometimes these tiny little Vegetables can be a great way to break from our Meats while still remaining productive.

2. Monitor your procrastination

Sometimes people search for tiny 5-minute tasks to do when they are really procrastinating on something else. (For example, a light bulb has a greater chance of being changed in my house if I’m trying to avoid writing my dissertation…) Be honest with yourself when assessing these tiny tasks. Are you doing them because they are important? Or are you just trying to avoid doing something else.

3. Make a process for your interruptions

If you’re continually interrupted with the same short little task, how can you create a procedure to handle these interruptions? Can you send calls straight to voice mail when you’re working? Can you create a signature file outside your office door to sort through at the end of the day? Can you post a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” on your door or in an email? Use your creativity.

Taking care of little tasks quickly is important, but so is keeping your focus. With some discipline and planning, you can keep your to-do list trim, while still maintaining your concentration.

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Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The 5-Minute Rule in 3 Easy Steps

Time Management 5 MinutesLook at your to-do list. Have you been staring at the same tiny tasks, day after day, putting them off until the infamous “later?” What if I told you those tasks are actually wasting your time? The time spent worrying about, making excuses for, and dealing with the consequences of a tiny unfinished task greatly outweigh the time it would take to actually finish it. This is why I’m a huge advocate of The 5-Minute Rule:

If it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now

Not later, not tomorrow, now.

You can give it a try today. Pick a tiny “Vegetable” task from your list you’ve been putting off, and ask yourself these three questions:

1. Will this be any easier to do tomorrow?

2. Is there any reason I can’t do this right now?

3. Will this take more than 5 minutes of my time?

If the answer to all three questions is “no,” then go finish that task right now. In fact, when you’re finished, email me (Emily@TheTimeDiet.org) and let me know what you did! I would love to know what this blog inspired people to do.

My “Battery” of Excuses

I’ll share my example of The 5-Minute Rule from this week. The battery in my garage door clicker died a week ago.  When I come home, I pull into the driveway, get out of the car, open the garage manually, get back in the car, and drive in. A huge problem in the grand scheme of life? No. But every time I did it, I was annoyed. I was annoyed that I haven’t taken 5 seconds to get a replacement battery out of the drawer and change it, but by the time I get inside, I’m distracted with a million other things to do and the thought of going back out into the garage seems simply absurd.

My excuses were fabulous: “I’m sure those batteries are lost by now,” “It’s always so difficult to get the back of the clicker open,” “ I already took my shoes off and I don’t want to step on a scorpion in the garage” (a real consideration in Arizona!) Finally, I said, enough! I write a time management blog and this behavior is simply unacceptable.  I started the stop watch on my phone and went to change the battery. When all was said and done,  2 minutes and 30 seconds had elapsed. 150 seconds. Why in the world hadn’t I done that sooner?

What will you accomplish using The 5-Minute Rule? Drop me a line and let me know!

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