News - The life-changing magic of five minute ‘to-do’ lists

The life-changing magic of five minute ‘to-do’ lists

Most of us barely have time to scratch let alone spend time growing our business. That's where the magic of having a five-minute business growth to-do list comes in. Hands up who else looks at their to-do list with joy when they have finished a task, only to find that particular task isn’t on the list … so they write it in just so they can cross it off? Just me? I love crossing things off to-do lists. My stomach does a happy dance and I get a silly self-satisfied grin every time my pencil gets to draw a line through something. For particularly crappy projects, I’ve been known to draw multiple lines through the one item to really celebrate the fact that I’ve finished. The problem for me is, everything on my to-do list takes massive blocks of time and the crossed out lines are few and far between. Three hours here. Sixteen hours in one long coffee-filled block there. Two years over there (… see my previous comment about multiple lines being drawn through the one item and imagine my lines cutting through the paper on this one).   business-people-hands-working-papers-at-meeting     Like most of you reading here, in my early years of business I was too busy working in my business to spend time growing it. (In my head, all business growth projects needed at least a week of dedicated time to get done, so my projects would never make it to the top of my to-do list.) Then I discovered a bit of psychological magic trickery: the five-minute to-do list.  

My rules for five-minute business building

The five-minute to-do list is a list I keep in a separate notepad away from my regular to-do list. It is not in plain sight but popped away in a drawer to be pulled out when needed. Putting it away means I don’t get distracted from my main tasks. Every few days, I brainstorm a list of business building tasks that will take no more than five minutes to do. These are not everyday project or marketing tasks, but things that extend my reach, enhance connections, streamline a process or create a system.   Things like:
  • Write a thank you card to a specific supplier
  • Phone a colleague or alliance partner just to connect
  • Create and schedule a social media quote image on Canva
  • Brainstorm a list of potential blog topics
  • Turn a regular email into a template
  • Check my top performing Tweet of the past week and reschedule it to go out again
  • Review LinkedIn connections milestones and jot down a quick congratulations
  • Check out posts from competitors that received the most shares and likes to see what I can learn and improve in my own posts
  • Request a testimonial from a past client
  • Research guest posting requirements for one site
  • Re-read a past blog post and create a Tweet from it with a link back
  • Change my email signature to send traffic to a new blog post or build my social media connections
Unlike my normal list, the five-minute list is not prioritised. When I get a five-minute gap in my day, I pull out my notepad, scan the list and pick one that motivates me at the time, and get it done.   table-phone-gadgets-eyeglasses-laptop-makeup-earphones-desk     Freedom to choose from the list rather than just doing the next thing on the list takes out all the mental “shoulds” and “must dos.” It feels more like a mental break and a bit of fun rather than a slog. On super bad writing days, where finding words is like accessing decades old concrete via a jackhammer, I quietly pack up the project I’m working on, bury my regular to-do list in my in-tray and pray for a mini-fire that is contained only in the top left quadrant of my desk. These are the days where I pull out my five-minute list and gleefully work through everything on the list in a massive productivity blitz purely for the pleasure of crossing things off. I think we can all agree this is a much better use of time when compared to my usual “bad writing day” tactics of cat videos and tubs of chocolate ice-cream. So there you go – that’s my simple trick for working on my business, even when I am super-busy working in it. Remember, you not be able to dedicate a week at a time to business building. But five minutes here and there a few times throughout the week? That’s totally do-able.   This article first appeared on and is republished here with permission.
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