What I am about to describe in this article is not an original idea, and they always say to give credit where credit is due. I’m not really sure who to give credit to though, or even where I got the idea from in the first place.
I can possibly pinpoint a few potential people, websites, or resources. Mainly, I am imagining I got most of this from Tim Ferriss, either from his books, blog or podcast. If none of this comes from him – then sorry bro.
The point of this entire article is to teach motivated slackers how to learn new skills, or build new habits.
Motivated slacker? Yeah, it’s an oxymoron, but it is also how I would probably describe myself. I have a ton of lofty goals and interests. Most of which I start, and begin with plenty of enthusiasm, but eventually burn out and stop. There are few things I’ve really stuck with in life. If this describes you in anyway then read on.
Tim Ferriss writes a lot about Pareto’s Principle, better known as the 80/20 rule. Basically, what this means is that 80-percent of your results come from 20-percent of your efforts. That is great in theory, and probably true for most things, but what if you struggle to even put in the 20-percent necessary to accomplish your goals.
For motivated slackers like myself this can feel like a daunting task. 20-percent might be the sweet spot, but for us getting there is half the struggle.
Enter the five-minute strategy.
What is the five-minute strategy? The simple version is that you spend only five minutes a day doing something, and then the rest of the day is fuck all. That’s right I used the word fuck.
Now let’s be clear, only spending five minutes doing something isn’t going to make you the master of the universe or even the master of that skill. To get good at something you will eventually have to put some real effort into whatever it is you are trying learn or get good at.
Instead, what the five-minute strategy does is create the baby steps needed to begin learning. You had to learn to walk before you could begin running.
Spending five minutes a day doing something is an easily accomplished goal, and requires almost zero effort to do. It sets a person up for success, and anything more than five-minutes is considered extra credit.
Part of my struggle with learning new skills has always been figuring out how to continue doing them in the long term. Consistency is key when it comes to getting better at something, and for me that can be hard. If I miss a day, I typically get down on myself, and begin asking existential questions about the meaning of life and why the fuck am I trying to learn German?
With a five minute a day commitment though, I feel like I can string several days of practice together, and if I miss a day it literally requires zero effort to get started again.
Continue to practice something for only five-minutes a day for 30, 60, or 90 days and you’ve now developed a habit that feels completely effortless to do. Shit, you might even start enjoying it and craving to do more.
For me this was how I learned to meditate. I wanted to begin meditating because I’d read that it was a good practice to have. I was also an easily stressed individual. I tried several times to begin meditating, but trying to start became a stress in itself.
That was until I committed to doing at the bare minimum only five minutes a day. After I got a feel for it and the style of practice that worked for me, I began to slowly increase the amount of time I’d practice meditating. Five minutes became six, six became seven, and eventually I could sit still for 20 minutes with my eyes closed.
The point is; find something, spend five minutes doing it, and stick with it. It’s that simple.