5 Minutes: Time To Get Stuff Done

by Miles Mettler

In coaching one of the most often used phrases I hear is ‘I don’t have enough time’ to get stuff done. People are pressed for time. It clearly has emerged as the most valuable commodity we exchange.

Time is elusive. You can’t hold on to it. You can’t see it. You can’t store it up. You can’t stop it. You can’t get it back. You can’t create more of it. (You’re probably getting stressed just reading that.)

Time slips by…or so it seems. But we all start with the same amount each day…1,440 minutes.

Regardless, I hear the ‘I don’t have enough time’ excuse when it comes to exercise, eating healthy, getting work done, cleaning the house, preparing meals, playing with the kids, doing fun stuff, praying, reading the Bible, going to church, reading, playing golf, etc., etc.

It seems people are seeking to live a balanced life but their perception of a balanced life is off base. A balanced life doesn’t mean everything is done equally. A balanced life is one that matches your stage of life in which the things that need to get done get done in order to live a life that is physically, mentally, relationally, financially, and spiritually healthy.

Often I’ll ask those who tell me they don’t have enough time to exercise if they really think that they’re busier than all the people who do exercise regularly. Is that really possible? Or are there other reasons?

Time To Think Differently

In working with people, there are four common problems I’ve identified when it comes to time.

  1. Awareness is lacking: Most people don’t really know where the time goes or how they are using it. And the assumptions they make about how they are using their time are often wrong. [Download the free tool below.]
  2. Beliefs about time are wrong: It is common to think about spending time but it's more valuable to view time as an investment. You want your investments to give you maximum return. 
  3. Confusing activity for accomplishment: Being busy isn't the same as being productive. The best guide you can use for how to best use your time is to identify what you value most. Is how you're using your time congruent with what you value?
  4. Discount the value of 5 minutes: Multiple blocks of 5 minutes throughout the day can add up to significant amounts of time that can either be squandered or used toward accomplishing small tasks that need to get done anyway.

Changing behavior begins by becoming aware of current thoughts, habits, patterns, or activities. That's the key to addressing the first problem listed above, which is the primary purpose of this post.

The amazing advancements in technology and communication platforms have come with a price. In fact, the advancements in technology have outpaced our ability to manage them. As a result, what could and should be enhancing the quality of our life is actually contributing to our lack of time and inability to get stuff done. The cell phone often fills those five-minute blocks of time instead of tasks that advance our goals.

The secret of the successful life is the diligent use of our allotted lifespan."

George Sheehan, MD

As reported in the Huffington Post, there was research conducted by British psychologists that revealed young adults use their smartphones roughly twice as much as they thought. The study found that youngsters in the study used their phones an average of five hours a day, which is about one-third of their total waking hours.

Additionally, it was reported in Science News for Students that the average college student uses a smartphone about nine hours per day. Additionally, because the smart phone is so accessible and enticing, young and old are often on their phone while doing other activities that should demand complete focus, like homework and office work. It’s beyond the scope of this post, but the problems with cell phone addiction have been widely reported.

So what can you do to increase awareness about where time goes and instead work toward getting the important stuff done? A good tool to start with is to track how you’re currently using your time. To do so realistically and effectively, I’ve found tracking 5-minute intervals throughout the day provides the most useful feedback.

5-Minute Time Tracker™

Below is a link for you to download the 5-Minute Time Tracker™ to assist your efforts. There are some tips provided for how to use the tool. However, use whatever method you feel provides you with the best feedback to assess how you’re using your time. Is how you're investing your time congruent with what you value most? Your Time Tracker will actually reveal what it is you really do value.

5-Minute Time Planner™

In addition to identifying how you’re currently using your time, to be more proactive, use the 5-Minute Time Planner™ to set yourself up for success. Either the night before or first thing in the morning, use the Time Planner to pencil in what you plan to do that day. Start by first entering the highest priority items based upon what you value most.

By increasing your awareness you’re better able to make changes that will impact not only what you do but also how you feel. The aim is not perfection but progress. With attention and awareness you can turn your minutes into movement toward your goals. Unless, of course, you don’t have enough time.