I will never forget when my 9th grade English teacher stood in front of our class and demonstrated what our “plates” looked like.. That is, we had a lot on our plates (plural) and they were “a’spinning.” I wish I had a video of it. The image of her on one leg balancing invisible spinning plates on her pointer fingers, foot, and head is burned into my brain.
Well, whenever I start to feel like those plates are getting out of control, that’s when I know I need to take a step back. My first reaction is to dig deeper, but that only forces me into a deeper hole where I feel more overwhelmed.
A trick I’ve implemented over the years (and I swear it works for EVERYTHING) is to take a “power five minutes” action. After taking an actual break– that’s a key element– take only five minutes to accomplish something.
While it seems like nothing more than a blink, there’s a lot of time there. Just think about those last five minutes when you’re waiting for class to end or sitting in traffic (or stuck on the subway due to “train traffic ahead”). Those five minutes stretch on seemingly forever. So don’t worry! There is time.
The real trick in choosing five minutes is that it also doesn’t allow for overthinking or over-planning. Also, you have to focus on issues and opportunities in a bite-sized form so it’s automatically less overwhelming.
Some examples of how I use the “Power Five Minutes Exercise”:
– Organization | Sometimes the root of my stress can be simply a reaction to my physical space. I might not have time to thoroughly mop my floors and dust the nooks and crannies, but I always have time to take five minutes to tidy up. Maybe it’s my desk, or Swiffering the floors, or breaking down packages/boxes for the day. I always feel better if I spend just five minutes getting a little organization task done.
| Guys. This is my secret weapon. Let’s take, for example, my blog. There are countless things that need to be fixed, things that I want to do, and things that should be done. I’ve tried writing a master list once and stopped when I got to a new page on the Excel spreadsheet because it got insane. (Obviously made me feel overwhelmed.) Knowing my own limitations at the moment, I’ve taken to doing five-minute brainstorms on quick things I can adjust, fix, or implement and action steps. A five minute list (+ action steps) is way
– Vent | I actually am a big fan of venting. Or, I guess I should clarify: controlled venting. Getting stuff off your chest can definitely impact the clarity going on in your head. I know I need to vent when my brain feels like the inside of a vacuum bag: dirty, cluttered, and messy thoughts swirling around at violent speed. Time to empty. I can sometimes get away with writing (typing) things, but most of the time it’s better to call my mom or one of my really trusted friends. Set the timer for five minutes and you have to stop when it goes off. (Most of the time, I’m good to go by minute three.)
– Talk It Out | Similar to venting, but more constructive. I like to hash things out with another person. Asking them to poke holes or play Devil’s Advocate can be really useful. (Again, this is when the five minute time limit can be useful as I tend to find myself getting angry with the Devil’s Advocate ha…) I also think that asking questions can be helpful, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed because you’re confused. I bet you’ll unlock some new thoughts when you hash it out with a friend or coworker.
Those are just five examples of ways you can implement the Power Five Minute Exercise. I really do think it can be used in so many scenarios. Take five minutes to meditate; spend five minutes a day trying to create a new, healthy habit; go crazy and run up and down the stairs for five minutes to get the blood pumping.
Five minutes is nothing… but it can also be everything!