I am part of an entrepreneur group, and our coach issued a challenge that started last week. It’s a three-month focus effort meant to disrupt our habits & excuses and re-set the bar to what we believe is possible. I’ve done many challenges before, usually in the 30-day range. In fact, I was a full week into my own 30-day challenge when he threw down this gauntlet.
Now as the youngest and only girl in my family growing up, I am usually quick to jump on the just-watch-me-do-it bandwagon. So I’m doing it. Of course, there’s great momentum in doing something new along with a group. While the rest of my household (including my dog) aren’t excited about the 5 am wakeup, I know there is an online community out there hitting the alarm along with me. That helps.
For the last several years, I have been studying the science and psychology of habits. I even teach a popular workshop on how to tie both of those together into productivity. Two of my favorite experts on the subject are Tim Ferris and James Clear. Both are authors of wildly successful books, so when Tim Ferris (who wrote the Four Hour Work Week among other books) had James Clear (who wrote Atomic Habits) on Ferris’ January 6, 2023 podcast, I was all in on the nerdfest. I’ll include a link to that podcast in the show notes.
And like with most learning efforts, a special sparkle of information often stands out at just the right moment for you to hear it. For me, this happened near the end of the two-and-a-half-hour episode. And, yeah, I listened to the whole thing.
James mentioned the positive impact of what he called “5 good minutes.” That one idea led me into a happy research hum about the impact of a few minutes plus then I started tinkering with my own habits.
For the Bottom Line on Top of this episode, I’ll use a quote from American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn who said: “Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.”
And often the simple act of starting can be a progress accelerant over the rest of your day. Several previous episodes have touched on the concept of mental momentum as well as the power of putting that into practice. For example, episode 19 covers the 10-Minute Kickstart and how that can accelerate initiative to move things from the overthinking column to the already-started one.
For today’s conversation, let’s look at a few of the elements of how to use 5 minutes to power the good.
The impetus of the five-minute mark, says Clear, is that something is better than nothing when it comes to the brain taking notes that it then sends on to the body. If exercise is a goal but not a strong desire, the brain will accept a quick deal (hey, it’s just 5 minutes!). However, once the body gets going, adrenaline starts to kick in and the five minutes seems even more doable. Then you’re likely more inclined to do another five minutes, and so on.
So as you’re thinking about how to have these minutes for yourself, here are three things that can help set those up for maximum impact:
1. Specificity. Your brain wants to be invited to play. A goal without a plan is just a wish. Take the intention – let’s say it’s to drink more water – and tell your brain when the action will start. The “when & where” are the superglue here that make it go from hey-that’s-a-good-idea to a mental contract. “Right after I brush my teeth in the morning in the bathroom, I will drink a glass of water.” That is specific.
2. Scenery. We are multi-sensory creatures; however, the most powerful sense is vision. “The human body has about 11 million sensory receptors, says James, and approximately 10 million of those are dedicated to sight.
For this reason, pay attention to what you see in your everyday environment as that will be a powerful trigger for starting the clock on the good minutes. Back to the water example, you can have the date scheduled with your brain to drink water when brushing your teeth. However, placing a colorful glass next to your toothbrush – that’s the pre-action. It’s going to attract the attention of those sensory signals. You see it, you do it.
3. Speak It Out Loud. Moving from science to psychology, another powerful tool to the habit contract is agreement. At the start of your day, or even right before you want to launch the good in your minutes, say it out loud: “Okay, for the next five minutes, I’m going to sort through these papers on my desk.” It might feel a little silly, but when you do it, the brain goes on alert and starts to micro focus instead of scanning the horizon for shiny things.
Or using the exercise example, saying “I will now do 10 pushups” – that helps anchor the action. And once that action is completed, the brain gets to check it off the list and rewards the body with dopamine. It’s a win-win all around.
To recap, be specific with the when & where, amplify your scenery, and speak the result that is about to happen. These subtle signals can generate goodness into your mind – and your minutes.
I’ll close with another quote from Jim Rohn that says, “If you’re not willing to risk the unusual, you’ll have to settle for the ordinary.”
I have plenty of ordinary minutes in my days, so I’m willing to try a few tools to see what positive things can come from minor moments.
In the days ahead, I wish you a lot of good minutes and plenty of time to take good care.