As a “chunk” of your day, five minutes seems like next to nothing. 300 seconds. It’s less than one-third of one percent of your daily allotment of 24 hours. As a lifetime goes, not even a blink of your eye.
But in terms of your personal and professional lives from an “advancement and enhancement” standpoint, five minutes means everything. That’s why you’re never too busy to give someone five minutes of your time. If you are, find ways to tweak this aspect of your priority list.
Five minutes seems inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not. Let’s find out why.
Five Minutes – What You Can Accomplish in 300 Seconds
The list of things you can do in five minutes would probably take five years to compile. Consider what you can get done in a relatively short window of time:
- Go for a quick walk around the block.
- Grab a morning coffee at Starbucks.
- Clean up your work desk or de-clutter your closet.
- Unsubscribe from a handful of annoying spam email providers.
- Balance your checkbook.
- Make a chocolate cake. (Seriously.)
- Do 50 squats, 50 pushups or engage in a full-body stretching session.
- Call your parents, a friend or a relative.
If you can do these things (and thousands more) well under the five-minute mark, ask yourself, “Am I too busy to give someone five minutes?”
The Formidable “Ripple Effect” of a Five-Minute Conversation
If you really think you DON’T have five minutes to offer someone, it’s time for a quick reassessment. And by “someone,” that means anyone. The person could be a long-lost acquaintance, a new business associate or even a complete stranger on the street.
In his phenomenally successful book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey illustrates how most people prioritize “shallow” and “deep” actions. The shallow stuff – small, in-the-moment, yet barely reverberating beyond the present – command most of our time and plans. The truly consequential, future-altering things – which should be absolute priorities – aren’t given nearly as much time as they should be given.
Here’s the great thing about a five-minute interaction with somebody – it’s both convenient and consequential. The amount of time won’t sidetrack your day, and the aftermath of a brief encounter that you take the time for has possible “legacy impact” for days, weeks, months and even years afterwards.
Business = Never Too Immersed in “Busy-ness”
Setting aside five minutes during your work day can be challenging, especially if you’ve got a packed schedule, but how many times have you been to a “critical” meeting, only to wait for a few late arrivals? A spontaneous conversation won’t sidetrack your entire day. Here are more unexpected benefits of giving someone five minutes of your time:
It’s not always face-to-face. A five minute email message reply can have as much influence as a chat on the sidewalk.
But face-to-face interaction still rules. How many Facebook “friends” do you have? How many do you interact with on a daily basis? Probably not many. Conversely, a seemingly fleeting encounter is an opportunity to impact someone – and you – with authentic interaction. Social media can only take you so far; our personal “tribe” isn’t very big, and by giving someone five minutes of time, you’re potentially expanding those important acquaintances.
It’s rarely the worst time. Even for uber-productive professionals, 300 seconds isn’t THAT valuable. There are a handful of times in your life when hitting the pause button isn’t acceptable – deaths, tragedies, other extraordinary circumstances. Thankfully, you’re available the other 99.999% of the time.
Five minutes can be a teaching and learning experience. Whenever we think someone wants a few minutes of our time, we’ll sometimes revert to “teaching mode.” It’s not always explicit or intended, but it’s a natural reaction that may fall into thinking, “This person needs something from me, and I don’t need anything from them.” Actually, the dynamic back-and-forth of a random conversation puts you in the service of others in a good way – a personal network building way – and that can benefit you both personally and professionally.
It’s not just about you. Forget, for a minute, the impact five minutes has on your time. By declining a conversation, you’re telling the other person, “Sorry, you’re just not worth it.” Altruism has played a small role in everyone’s existence, and shrugging off a request for five minutes goes against that intuition.