Meet The 5 Minute Rule: AKA, Your New Work Hack

Featured Image Source

How many times have you told yourself, “I just have to get started and then I’ll be fine?” Or what about the phrases, “The first step is the hardest,” or, “Well begun is half done?” All these idioms, colloquialisms, and general slogans that you’d find on any guidance counselor’s wall are used so often because we’re so horrible at starting tasks.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Kate Hodgson (@kate_hodgson)

I’m not at all saying that everyone who’s reading this is unproductive and doesn’t like getting things done. I’m saying, in general, people dread the idea of getting out of bed, off the couch, putting their phone away, stopping whatever they’re doing, and starting work. So how do we combat that challenge? We start small.


The Problem With Procrastination

Procrastination is triggered by our fight or flight instinct. It’s the middle ground the brain finds to appease both its emotional and logical sides. 

The emotional side seeks comfort and assurance. It causes us to avoid tasks that won’t offer any instant reward. We can blame this side of the brain for our lack of motivation for our 5 am runs.

The logical, rational side of the brain is the long-term planner. While you might assume that this side would be the go-getter, it is also the side that will bog you down with to-do lists and details. 

The two sides clash, leading to you sitting on your couch 2 hours after you said you’d get up and do something. To make our brain work for us instead of against us, we often need to trick our brain by giving it incentives and easy, manageable tasks.

Time To Break It Down


View this post on Instagram
















A post shared by Donna Shenk (@heydonna)

You can do almost anything for a small period of time. We take workout classes in which we do burpees for 30-second increments. We train for marathons by running for 5 minutes and walking for 15. And if you’re an overachiever like I am, you’ll set that 5-minute sprint goal and run for 6. Our brain likes to compete with itself and beat what you think you can do. 

The small things we do eventually lead to bigger things, but we need that small increment — whether it be 5 minutes, 2 minutes, or 30 seconds — to give us our start.

The 5 Minute Rule

Elon Musk is said to have come up with the 5 minute rule. As the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, The Boring Company, and so much more, he works 80 to 100 hour weeks. It’s been reported that he breaks his day into five0minute slots to get the 80-100 hours rolling. He went to Twitter in 2018 denying it, but people still credit this hack to him.

The “five minute thing” can also be traced back to cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s estimated that 4 out of 5 people find working on just one piece of their work solves the majority of their procrastination problems.

Gimme Five

The five minute rule is exactly what it sounds like. It’s giving yourself five minutes to start or do a task. After five minutes is up, you’re free to go get a coffee, start a TV show, or… maybe add another five minutes? Maybe twenty? Maybe work until you’ve finished it? After all, you’ve started it, why not keep going?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Tiimo – Visual Planner App (@tiimoapp)

The five minute rule is a way for you to ‘trick’ your brain into getting in work mode. You just tell yourself you’ll do a small thing for five minutes and then you can be done. Task accomplished, workday over, go home. 

The five minute rule takes away the fear of a looming task, thus eliminating our fight or flight reactions. It’s not that our brains mind hard work, it’s that we don’t like the idea of it. So we dip our toe into the kiddie section of the pool rather than plunging into the deep end head first.

Other 5 Minute Hacks

While there’s nothing wrong with the original five minute hack, here are some more ways to utilize the first five minutes of your work day.

Spend Five Minutes Making a List

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Tina Radcliffe (@tinaradcliffeauthor)

I start every day at work by writing a to-do list. I write down all my tasks, color code them, give them a specific time limit and expectation, and I categorize them in order of importance. My anal-ity aside, this is what puts me in the work mindset. 

Psychologist and author, Dr. David Cohen, lives by his to-do lists. He says, “They dampen anxiety about the chaos of life; they give us a structure, a plan that we can stick to; and they are proof of what we have achieved that day, week or month.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Sade • Time Management Coach (@sadejones_)

One of the best feelings of accomplishment is when I tick off everything on my to-do list. Making the list and having a physical thing to look at and cross off also quells the anxiety in our brains when we’re overloaded with tasks. 

Sometimes we don’t start something because we don’t know where to start. Next time you feel like that, sit down and make a list. This action in and of itself puts your mind into work mode. So by preparing for the 5-minute hack, you’ve already done the first step.

Change the Timing


View this post on Instagram






A post shared by Nic | Time management coach (@justcallmenic)

Five minutes is a good number to start with, but as you continue to do this, I suggest changing the time allotted. Time blocking has been used for a while now and has helped so many people organize their lives and days. I would specifically recommend it if you’re a busy mom or working from home. Time blocking is a lot like making a to-do list or a schedule: Just write out the things you need to do for the day and estimate how long they’ll all take. Then put it in your calendar or app.

This hack helps with the overwhelm because you usually think you have more to do or need more time than you actually do. If you have hit that rare occasion where you have more to do than hours in the day, it allows for organization in the chaos, but also a visual representation of your workload that you can then bring to your boss (or yourself if you’re the boss) and discuss the overload that you’re dealing with.


View this post on Instagram







A post shared by Alyssa Sheedlo (@alyssa_sheedlo)

Time blocking will also help because your schedule will dictate what you do and when. There won’t be any confusion and you’ll be less likely to ‘take a break’ and come back three hours later, stressed and annoyed with your past self.

Use the Five Minutes for Self-Care


View this post on Instagram





A post shared by Create & Cultivate (@createcultivate)

So many people can’t start their work day without a cup of coffee, a quick meditation, or a workout. This is also a form of the five minute rule because it’s taking five minutes to get in a work-oriented mindset and start your day. One thing to note about time blocking is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be only work. Add in time for small self-care moments throughout the day to break up your work week and give yourself time to breathe!

Benefits of Time Boxing

Time Boxing (also known as time blocking), or the act of dividing your day and tasks into small timed increments, plays to Parkinson’s Law which states, “Work expands the time allotted for it.” So when we don’t plan our days, we might still get our work done, but it will most likely take longer than it would if we had capped it. Because the allotted time is so short, you are less likely to waste it and you’ll soak up every minute of the time you’ve given yourself.


Have you tried time blocking? Which of these 5 minute hacks do you think will be most beneficial to you? Comment below!

For More Productivity And Time Hacking Tips, Read These Articles:

These 5 Time Management Tips Are Helping Me Work Smarter, Not Harder This Year

Here’s How To Leave Work At The Office And Enjoy Your Free Time

Join the Conversation