the five-minute rule


Don’t procrastinate. If it can be done in less than five minutes, do it now. If it looks messy or unprofessional, clean or fix it now. We are nearly always busy here, and if you fall into the trap of putting things off until tomorrow, those things will never get done.

This little tidbit has appeared in CVWmedia’s policy manual in one form or another for nearly a decade. When I first wrote the policy, it was influenced by a time management technique, from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen, known as the two-minute rule. I thought a lot about that simple concept, and eventually it hit me: You know what’s better than a two-minute rule? A Five-Minute Rule. (But not a six-minute rule, because now you’re just being ridiculous.)

In my experience, the tasks that trip us up the most—the things we tend to procrastinate—are everyday tasks that can be completed in five minutes or less. We all encounter numerous five-minute tasks each day, and we’re all guilty of putting small things off in favor of larger projects and tasks that feel more pressing at the time. Or (let’s be honest) we ignore them in small moments of laziness.

But CVWmedia works in an industry that demands both productivity and attention to detail. Because of that, we pride ourselves on giving the same attention to small details that we give to the seemingly larger and more important things we encounter each day.

Around here, there are lots of little things vying for our attention: watching the latest project mock-up and giving the editor thoughtful and useful feedback, a quick discussion with a co-worker to make sure we reach an equitable solution to a given challenge, preparing for the morning staff meeting to be sure all of our project notes are up to date and ready to present, making the next pot of coffee, or reaching out to a client to be sure their event was a success.

None of those items require more than five minutes to complete, but they’re the types of things that push an organization beyond just good enough. And you know what? It just feels good to cross each one off any to-do list. Best of all? More often than not, once your five-minute items are completed, the “big” tasks on our to-do lists usually turn out to be not-so-big after all.

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