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A “Life Hack” – The 5-Minute Rule

Timer2Whether you have made any New Year’s resolutions or not, we are almost always looking for ways to change and grow. Indeed, many believe that continued growth throughout our lifespan is one of our main purposes in life. We also know that sustaining positive life changes can be extremely difficult.

As a psychologist, I am always looking for ways to help my clients make changes, and I typically try to use these same strategies myself. To that end, I’ve become a big fan of “life hacks,” which are productivity shortcuts and tricks for life improvement.

I have found one life hack particularly useful because it addresses a fundamental hurdle to the change process: inertia. Inertia, in terms of physics, is a body’s resistance to a change in motion. Applying this term to daily living, it simply means that part of us really has trouble getting started in new directions.
A “life hack” to circumvent this inherent resistance to change is often called the “5-Minute Rule.” This 5-Minute Rule can be used when we want to start a new behavior such as exercising, cleaning, meditating, or practicing a musical instrument. We set a goal that we will do this new activity just 5 minutes and, at the end of those 5 minutes, we have the option to stop – guilt-free.

Now, the beauty of the 5-Minute Rule is that we are setting the bar so low that we can overcome the inherent resistance to change. If our goal is to work out 30 minutes a day, we inadvertently set ourselves up for failure because the bar is set so high. We often do not even try in such cases. However, with the 5-Minute Rule, we set the bar so low that we can overcome the inertia that often gets in the way of starting. Once we get started, we often find that continuing beyond the 5 minutes is fairly easy to do. Importantly, with the 5-Minute Rule, we can stop after 5 minutes and still consider it a success. You can see why this is called a life hack!

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