Friday, 18 January 2013

Five-minute productivity

I hurt my back this morning so doing anything for more than about five minutes has been tricky. After about five minutes I need to move – walk around, stretch, lie on the floor… Anyway, I thought that today would be a write-off as a consequence. I had really wanted to sit and write, but that’s just not going to happen. At least, not write as in ‘disappear down the rabbit-hole and into the world of my book’ kind of writing, which involves total immersion for me, and hence long stretches of sitting. At least, longer than five minutes!

Instead of disappearing down the rabbit-hole, I have been doing a number of five-minute tasks and to my surprise, I have been a lot more productive than I expected to be, just in a different way. 

Things I have done (which I wouldn’t have otherwise) include:
  • Sorting out filofax inserts in the ‘stash box’, putting card between different types of insert and labelling it all (I know I’m not using a filofax at the moment, but if/when I move back, this will be useful!)
  • Sharpening all my pencils. I keep them in an old jar, with the code “sharpened up, blunt (or propelling pencils) down”. All neatly up now!
  • Getting an Ikea six-drawer chest out of a cupboard, tidying it out and sorting sundry stationery out of my desk drawers (where it gets lost) and into the chest, then labelling the drawers with Post-It notes
  • Ordering some blackboard paint so that I can paint the fronts of the drawers with it and then label them with chalk
  • Slicing up paper into the correct size for my Mulberry binder, ready to print inserts
  • Printing next week’s day per page inserts for the Mulberry
  • Planning next week’s meals
  • Going through the kitchen cupboards and writing a shopping list for tonight’s shopping (which DH will be doing on his own…)
  • Cleaning the kitchen (little bit by little bit)
  • Cleaning the bathroom (little bit by little bit)
  • Emptying all the bins (one by one)
  • Writing a blog post (bit by bit)
Etc. etc. etc.

Ready for when the blackboard paint comes...
Sharp, sharp, sharp!

I have been phenomenally more productive than I usually am! I have done each task just for as long as I could, frequently leaving them mid-task to go and do something else that allows my back to move in a different way, whereas normally I would try and tackle a task from start to finish. Of course, I’ve planned or written nary a single word of my book, but at least I’ve done some cleaning!

Maybe that’s the solution, at least to the housework (a task which rates only marginally higher than having root-canal work with no anaesthesia…). Do a task for five minutes, then do something else. I’ll skip the wrecking the back part first though…!


  1. It is truly amazing how much you can achieve in a short space of time! Hope your back gets better soon

  2. Thanks for sharing this timely post. I've discovered recently that I'm much more productive for shorter periods of time & have been limiting the time I have for the task I'm working on. I hope your back gets better soon.

  3. Sounds a bit like FlyLady's philosophy of doing something for 15 minutes and then moving on. She is big on using a timer and it really is surprising to see just how much one can get done when focused on that one task. Congrats on all you've gotten done!

  4. I spent one day with no multi tasking. I did one job at a time. I wouldn't even take the basket of clothes upstairs when I went to meditate (because I knew they would distract me). I was phenomenally productive. Not only that but jobs were done better as I was more mindful of what I was doing. I multi task a bit now. But nowhere near as much as I used to and I get a whole lot more done than I did before.

    When I'm writing (or worse editing) I use the kitchen timer. No distractions for 20 minutes. Not even stroking the dogs when they put their heads in my lap. By the end of 20 min I'm usually on a roll and can keep going for ages. But I need that first 20 minutes.