What happens if you do five minutes of exercise today?
You’ll probably have a slightly better day because exercise is good for your brain, but you won’t look or feel very differently.
What happens if you do five minutes of exercise every day?
Again, not much in the short run.
But what happens over the course of a year?
Let’s say you’re not totally consistent, and you miss some days because of vacations or being sick or whatever. So over the next year, you exercise for five minutes a day for 300 days. That adds up to 1500 minutes, or 25 hours of exercise.
25 hours of exercise will have a serious impact on your mind and body. All those five-minute sessions stack up to something significant.
Now let’s apply this to school.
Would you become a dramatically better math student with five minutes a day of extra practice?
In the short run, no. But if you kept it up, by this time next year, yes. How could 25 hours of extra practice not help?
The same applies to five minutes a day of vocabulary-building, reading, or writing. If you want to see long-term growth, five minutes a day will get you there.
This would even work for something medium-term, like ACT prep or studying for an AP test. Five minutes a day is way better than nothing.
This approach embraces the philosophy that everything counts: Every day is a chance to take a step forward, and every step forward is worthwhile.
Personally, I’m doing five minutes a day of Spanish practice via Duolingo. I’m not dramatically better at Spanish than I was six months ago, but I am noticeably better. And it’s an easy, sustainable habit.
Five minutes a day is easy.
That’s the whole point. Five minutes is too short to honestly say to yourself, “I’m too busy. I don’t have time.” It’s too easy for your brain to think, “That’s too hard!”
Doing five minutes can cure your procrastination.
You can do five minutes even when you’re feeling tired and lazy. You can do five minutes when you’re sick. You can do it when you’re on vacation. You can do five minutes every day, no matter what.
Long-term thinking is the key.
We don’t do five minutes a day because we think short term. We focus on the benefits we’ll get immediately or this week or this month. We don’t think about the benefits that will accumulate and compound over the next year or decade.
Two years ago, I could barely do one push-up. So I did one push-up a day, every day for a month. It got easier. The next month, I did two push-ups a day. This month, I’m doing 24 push-ups a day.
This did not rapidly transform my body, but that was never the goal. I didn’t start this habit thinking about the next two months or even the next two years. I started it thinking about the next two decades. I wanted long-term strength.
This kind of long-term thinking has given me the patience to progress at a slow but sustainable rate. Over the last two years, I’ve done thousands of push-ups, and I’m noticeably stronger. Over the coming decades, I will do tens of thousands of push-ups, becoming far stronger than I ever thought possible. And my push-up habit doesn’t even take five minutes to do.
What can you do with five minutes a day?
What areas of your life would benefit from this approach?
Is there something you’ve been avoiding?
Is there a personal or professional weakness you should be addressing?
Is there a skill you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the time?
If you start working on it for five minutes a day, a few years from now, you’ll be very glad you did.
P.S. For more habit-formation ideas, check out my other blog, Becoming Better. I also offer one-on-one habit coaching, using proven strategies and supportive accountability to help you achieve your goals and live an extraordinary life.
Chris Loper has been working as a tutor and academic coach since 2014, racking up over 10,000 hours of experience supporting students.
Along with Greg Smith, Chris is the cocreator of Parenting for Academic Success (and Parental Sanity) – a five-part course offered every summer.
Chris’s most recent endeavor combines his academic and habit-formation expertise to help students thrive in college. Visit SmartCollegeHabits.com to learn more.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons, available on Amazon and through most local bookstores.
He lives in Issaquah, WA where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.