The 5-Minute Rule: Why You Need It

One of the drawbacks to getting old is that I can’t always remember things that seemed very important when I first thought of them.

Most of the time, I solve this by jotting a quick note in my computer. If I’m not near the computer I’ll usually jot it on my phone. However, when I’m close to the office I’ll often just focus on the note while parking the car and entering the office. Once the computer is on, I’ll record the idea on my “to-do” list. It seems that most of the good ideas show up while I’m doing “mindless” things like taking a shower or parking the car. (In fact, there’s a whole lot of science behind that, and that is another story.) Sometimes really important things miraculously appear at these inopportune times. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not solving world hunger with these ideas but I could be remembering the phone call I forgot to make for the last two days. If I forget again today, a customer (and my boss) is going to be very angry.

Once I get to the office and before I can turn on the lights, somebody is standing right in front of me with a “critically important” issue that needs my immediate attention. And POOF!! that brilliant idea to fix that problem, solve that puzzle or something equally important is gone.

Why is that person so rude as to be in my face as I enter the door? Maybe they’re really angry and have been waiting for two hours to vent their anger on me. Maybe they want to tell me their version of the incident before I hear it from “the victim”. Maybe they’re just linear thinkers and can’t start on task #8 until I sign the document signifying task #7 has been completed. Depending on your perspective, any of these issues might really merit IMMEDIATE attention. At that point, having the courtesy to allow me to start my day unencumbered is the last thing that person is thinking about. I should jot a note and then focus all my attention on the concern being raised. And most of the time I do. However, every-once-in-a-while I don’t and I lose that great idea.

This whole topic might seem stupid to you. For that I’m sorry. However, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that immediate problem, you’ve probably lost an important thought or two as a result. Even if you’re not a compulsive note taker, everybody needs a few minutes to get their bearings so that they’re ready to take on the day in their most productive manner.

We’ve implemented a 5 minute rule in our department. Everyone gets 5 minutes to get settled. If we violate the rule, we better have a darned good reason. We can all show a little self-restraint and a little courtesy. This is just one tiny measure we all take to make the job a little easier and, who knows, we might help solve world hunger.


Pete Meslin

Meslin is the director of transportation for Newport-Mesa Unified School District and an editorial advisor to School Transportation News. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified onMonday, 16 October 2017 17:35