5-minute-madness as a tool for motivation and productivity

In this post, I want to introduce you to a method I’ve started using over the last years which usually had positive effects: Lifting my mood up, getting me out of a rut, allowing me to make progress on tasks that had gone stale.

I call this method the “five-minute-madness”. The inspiration for this stems from conferences where it comes in the form of the “one-minute-madness”. Speakers have exactly one minute to present one slide, and after this minute the slide will automatically switch to the next one of the next speaker. The goal is to expose the audience to a lot of “abstracts” of talks and bring them into a position to decide which full-length talks to listen to.

How does this work outside of this scope? Here’s how: You take a lap/round timer (Tabata timers tend to work well) and set it to give you a signal every 5 minutes. Before the madness begins, you choose a certain set of tasks to work on. Then, when the first 5 minutes start, you get to work on the first task. You continue working on this task until the timer sounds. In this moment, you drop everything related to the first task and switch to the next one for the next 5 minujtes.

Curious how it works? First of all, just give it a try! It’s super easy and you could start out with 6 tasks clocking in at just 30 minutes in total!

Did you try it? How did you like it?

Here’s what my usual experience of this is:

  • If I’m already doing well on energy, I get more energy by the end of this
  • If I’m low and procrastinating, it tends to get me out of that mindset
  • I tend to be able to go to bed happy even if I did not achieve that much on paper

I will be adding some more posts to go into details about what I’ve learned about this technique, but here are some first thoughts and hints for the next time you try this.

  • Small tasks that will actually fit into those 5 minutes can be nice, but don’t restrict yourself to them. I quite commonly put tasks or projects on my list which I know will take much more than 5 minutes – if you are in the flow of doing useful things in these 5 minutes, you will find something useful to do also on a larger project.
  • There can be too much of a good thing. I have the feeling that going beyond an hour on this method is too much – YMMV.
  • Watch out for distances and circumstances. E.g. some tasks require you to be physically in a specific space whereas others require you to have certain circumstances such has having a phone or a device for accessing the internet at hand. Switching too much or having to spend too much of the 5 minutes getting to a new location is frustrating and leaves you with too little progress.

The image on this post is: “Stopwatch” by wwarby and is licensed under CC BY 2.0