Life, Studies

Why You Should Make 5 Minutes Your Fundamental Time Unit

I wrote this article in less than 2 units of 5 minutes. You can definitely read it in less than 1 minute.

You force yourself to make tasks actionable

My biggest struggle with my task management is that tasks often times feel too daunting to start on them. If I ask myself “what can I do in 5 minutes?” I’m sure that I’ve broken down the task enough.

Damn you, Parkinson

Believe me, you can do a lot more than read an article in 5 minutes. Let me present you Parkinson’s Law:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

By forcing yourself to complete a task in 5 minutes, suddenly you can do a lot more, since you’re forced to focus to an extreme amount, cut off all distractions and do just enough instead of being your perfectionist self. You simply have no choice, it’s awesome!

You’ll learn to estimate time

Within 1 minute and 22 seconds my timer will ring. That’s what we call immediate feedback, every 5 minutes.

You can squeeze in more stuff everywhere

Who doesn’t have 5 minutes? In Scrum (software development methodology) we work in sprints. The goal is to produce one or more useful features and send them to the client in a short amount of time—usually 2 weeks.


So why not do sprints of 5 minutes, in your personal life? Here’s my challenge to you: for the next week, do your tasks in increments of 5 minutes. Every unit, think what can I do in the next 5 minutes?, set a timer and go! Doesn’t matter if you need another round, just keep sprinting like a madman and you’ll get a shitload done, while having loads of fun. And did I mention the free time to rest, meditate or read, that you can claim now?


Three Simple Ideas for Radically Improved Studying

Programming and studying engineering is awesome, but it gives you one nasty habit you’re probably going to have for the rest of your life: you spend way too much time on finding the most effective and efficient ways to get things done. So why not do something useful with it and share it on the internets? Here’s the three principles that form the foundation of all my studying:

Disclaimer: I’m studying engineering, so these ideas are developed for math and other engineering related subjects (physics, computer programming, anything with ‘problems’, really). I don’t know how well this works for, say, languages.


If you made an error, never just scrap the whole thing and try again. Find out where you went wrong — how can you avoid making that mistake again?

Here’s a harsh truth: if you’re frolicking trough your exercises, solving every problem with a couple of elegant pen strokes, you’re not learning anything. Your task is to find things you don’t know the answer to. And then find that answer. That’s learning.


Whenever you’ve successfully solved a problem (or not; see above), re-read it. What were the high-level steps that got you to the solution? Were there any exceptions, any special cases you have to remember next time?

Seriously, don’t skimp on this: after every exercise, I write down a little evaluation, where I note what mistakes I made, how I can make sure I don’t make them again and whether there may be a simpler, faster or more elegant solution (after reading the model solution, if provided).


I’m not saying you should study all the time. Definitely not. But taking a couple of minutes to go over your notes, summarize what’s been told (even if just in your head) and clarify your notes will make you understand all those new concepts in no time.

So there you have it! Three simple ideas for radically improved learning. Fail, reflect and repeat.


What are the things that have helped you the most, regarding better learning? I’m curious!