10 Ways to Level Up Your Life in 5 Minutes or Less

Getting in shape and leveling up your life can be a daunting task.

Like Frodo setting out from the Shire and walking to Mordor, the end of this journey might seem like something that is years and years away.

However, just like Frodo, we have seen time and time again that the most important thing to do is GET STARTED.  Every tiny decision adds up, and these tiny decisions put together can build some serious progress towards reaching your goal.

Around these parts, we like to call this the Optimus Prime Strategy:  He transforms from a mac truck into a giant ass kicking robot…not with one movement, but rather hundreds and hundreds of tiny steps.

So, how do we get started? And, once we’re started, and things get tough, how can we keep that momentum going?

Here are 10 of my favorite ways to level up life in 5 minutes or less, because sometimes five minutes is enough to start building momentum.

1) Complete a 5-minute workout.  

Only 5 minutes? Who cares! Every decision adds up, right?  Plus, it’s not just about the workout; completing a five-minute workout will have your brain thinking “I am exercising, I need to eat healthy or I’m wasting my time.”

So here it is, the five minute workout:

  • Minute #1: 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest.
  • Minute #2: 20 seconds of squats, 10 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of squats, 10 seconds of rest.
  • Minute #3: Plank for as long as you, then rest until end of minute.
  • Minute #4: 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds of rest. (unless you have access to pull up bar, then do pull ups)
  • Minute #5: 20 seconds of lunges, 10 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of lunges, 10 seconds of rest.

Looking for more quick workouts? Check out the Angry Birds Workout Plan or the Konami Code Workout.

2) Perform a house cleaning in your kitchen.  

If I am within 25 meters of certain foods (Goldfish crackers, Sour Patch kids, Animal crackers, Coca-cola, peanut M&Ms), it is impossible for me to stop eating them.  They take over my brain until all of them are consumed.

So, I do not keep these things in my apartment.

Spend five minutes right now, and throw away the junk food in your house.  Right in the trash. And then take the trash out. It’s much tougher to be tempted by something that doesn’t exist…or something that’s covered in garbage 🙂

3) Meditate for two minutes.

Our brains are so overrun with stimuli these days, with dozens of things vying for our attention: Facebook, email, TV, children, friends, our phones, and more.  There is always something to do, or something that didn’t get done, or something that will need to get done.

We never stop and realize that, as my friends Gaelic Storm say: “one more day above the roses” is a pretty good day.  I use the app Calm, put my phone on Do Not Disturb, and go through a 2-minute guided meditation.

Here’s a great guide to Meditation for Beginners from Leo of Zen Habits.

4) Work on handstands.  

I have spent the better part of the past two years working on handstand balancing, and only in the past few months have I made significant strides.

How did I do it?

By practicing for just five minutes. Every. Day.

Handstands build concentration, strength, muscular endurance, and balance…they also make you feel like a badass and they’re a really cool party trick.

What’s that? You can’t do a handstand yet or are worried you need to drop a few pounds first? Read our beginner’s guide to handstands so you can get started TODAY.

5) Do a mobility routine.

If you spend all day sitting at your desk (although I love standing desks, I need to sit for creative writing), your hip flexors, back, and shoulders are probably all tensed up and tight.

I do a routine similar to the one listed below each morning when I wake up and once or twice throughout the day to stay limber:

6) Rearrange your bat cave.  

We are creatures of habit, so if we want to enact change in our lives, we need to make it EASIER to build new habits and TOUGHER to do the things we’re trying to stop.

How do we do that?

By decreasing the number of steps between us and new good habit, and increasing number of steps between us and bad habit.

  • Want to exercise more? Sleep in your workout clothes. Pack your gym bag BEFORE going to bed.
  • Want to play more guitar? Put it in the middle of your living room.
  • Want to watch less TV? Call and cancel your cable (I just did!) or unplug your TV so that you have to get up and plug it in each time you want to watch it.
  • Want to floss more? Unwind some floss and put it on the counter next to the sink, and only floss 1 tooth. That’s it.

Check out more on building your batcave.

7 ) Stop being a prisoner to your email inbox.

We spend way too much time on the unimportant, keeping us from doing things like exercising, going home to our family, playing more video games, etc.  I’m going to assume you use Gmail, because you’re reading Nerd Fitness, so here’s how to revolutionize your email in 5 minutes:

  • First of all, don’t keep an email tab open! Commit to only opening it every hour to start. Eventually, the goal is to only open it 2-3 times per day.
  • Create Gmail folders called “action” and “non-essential.” Use them.
  • For every “newsletter” email that comes in, create a filter to auto-send it non-essential or unsubscribe from the damn thing.
  • For every email from a co-worker, friend, or family member, answer it immediately, or quickly send it to the “Action” folder to deal with later.
  • Turn on the “send and archive” feature in settings.

This system allows you to get your inbox to zero each and every time you complete it. The “archive” feature means every email is filed but not deleted. Never read an email more than twice.  Read it and quickly respond, or quickly send it to “Action” and then crush the action folder when you have time to deal with it.

Just don’t leave the tab open. And please God, turn off all notifications for email and social media on your phone/computer.  These, and other productivity tips can save your sanity. 

8) Email Your yoda.

Email your Yoda: somebody on the NF message boards or in your life that has found a way to succeed.  And not just successful people. But somebody that has succeeded in the way YOU’RE trying to succeed.

Don’t try to email Hugh Jackman because you want to look like Wolverine (celebrities operate on a different playing field), but I bet emailing Saint because you can relate to his “before” situation (maybe you’re also getting married soon) is a winning proposition.

A few months back, I reached out to my buddy Anthony, and let him know that I admired his training philosophy. Anthony and I are now working together to help me level up my routine (which included this 61 day challenge)

9) hack your happiness

Believe it or not, happiness is something you can hack. Here are a few sure fire ways to improve your mood today (thanks Eric!):

1) Take five minutes and write down three things that happened to you today and why they went well. Studies have shown that building the habit of writing down the things that you are grateful for will have a positive impact on your life.

2) Perform a random act of kindness. Pay for the next person’s drink at the coffee shop.  Give money to a homeless person.

3) Email a friend and tell them why you’re glad that you’re friends.  This will improve your relationship. And make YOU happier in turn.

4) Call a loved one and tell them you love them. I’m gonna call my mom today and tell her I love her, and because it’s its her birthday (hey ma!).

The fastest way to boost your happiness is to do something nice or kind for somebody else.  This will take you LESS than five minutes.

10) shut up, and do it now!

You know that one thing you’ve been putting off?  Maybe it’s your taxes, or doing the dishes, or signing up for that thing. Or maybe it’s exercising.

I don’t care how daunting the task may be.  You’re going to tell yourself that you are going to spend just five minutes working on that task.  Just FIVE minutes. Feel free to complain as loudly as you want, but ONLY if you are already working on the task.

More often than not, the first five minutes are the toughest, and once you get past five minutes, you’ll find that CONTINUING to work on the thing is easy.  Or maybe you stop after five minutes. You’re at least five minutes closer than you were before!

But stop delaying.  Do it now.

Every Little Bit

Kettlebell

Remember: every little win counts. And small things result gargantuan changes (which I learned from Prometheus) when completed with enough consistency.

These are ten of my favorite things that help me level up MY life.  I’d love to hear from you.  It’s been a while, so I figure let’s give away a free Nerd Fitness shirt!

Leave a comment with your favorite 5-minute life hack to level up before 11:59 on April 13th and we’ll pick a random winner to get one of our shirts.  Hooray free stuff!

So, how can you level up or make a positive change to your life in five minutes?

-Steve

This week’s Rebel Hero: NF Rebel Dani at Crossfit Hell’s Kitchen, where she trained with Olympic lifter Holley Mangold!  How freaking cool is that?  Fantastic work Dani, way to represent the Rebellion!

Dani and Holley

Want to be the next Rebel Hero? Take a photo of you doing something epic in your Nerd Fitness gear and send it to contact@nerdfitness.com so we can feature you on the site!

PS: We have some REALLY fun announcements coming for Camp Nerd Fitness on Monday, which is already 1/3rd sold out and still five months away!

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photo pin: gregor: kettlebells, Sunny Ripert: legos

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  • Joseph W.

    For a 5-minute life hack, I’d have to go with parking further away from whatever store I’m going into. It takes half that time to walk into the store or place of business and the other half to walk back. I’ve seen a dramatic change in weight loss just by changing things up a little at a time, heck I didn’t get fat over night. I’ve lost about 65 lbs in a years time and am feeling better with the small changes I’ve made throughout the year.

  • Jessica

    Take a 5 minute walk. just about everyone can walk for 5 minutes and all those steps add up!

  • Becca

    My five-minute hack: Wash all of the fruit I have from the grocery store or farmer’s market (apples, pears, etc.) so it’ll be ready to grab and eat for a healthy snack or meal. Given 15 minutes, I wash and pre-chop vegetables for easy weeknight meals.

  • Shae

    My favorite five-minute thing is to just do something productive. Something, anything, for five minutes. Eventually, it’ll get done, even if I can;t find an hour or two where I feel like knocking something big out.

  • Artemis

    I’m trying to make a habit of jotting down a few things I’m grateful for everyday. It’s helping my mood and has so far been a great change.

  • Steven

    I try to spare 5 minutes every day to clean my room. It may not seem like much, but I do it VERY fast! Plus, the 5 minutes of cleaning add up through the days and it’s kind of fun.

  • KB4RN3S

    There’s so many things in this list that I try and do. (I know …’Try not…’, right?) but two life hacks I’m working on are 1. 5 minute workout and 2. 2 minute meditation. I am a teacher WORKIG two jobs so my stress level is high and sleep is low so I don’t always get to the gym. But I can always take 5 minutes to do a workout and close the door and turn the lights off for 2 minutes to meditate and relax.

    My favorite on the list is “Shut up and do it”. I woke up this morning and tries to put on some shorts and they didn’t fit because my fat ass! Today is the day to “Shut up and do it”.

  • Shank

    Prayer & some bible study starts my day, laughter fills it & music + gym finishes it! Love music! In between are positive thoughts, changing any negative thought to positive, sharing w/friends & family, learning not to whine or complain about my job helps me love it, endure challenges & be successful. Prayer partner is definitely helpful to keep me on track. Linda

  • tmack8001

    My favorite easy 5 minute power up is to grab some kettle bells and simply do a little workout with them.

  • Arrowan

    When I’m feeling sluggish and caught in the lie that I don’t have time to exercise, I like to do arm circles. Ten to 20 big circles forward, then backwards, then 10 to 20 small circles forward, then backwards. Back in my marching band days we started every outdoor rehearsal this way. Once I’ve done those, I usually feel like stretching my arms, and then I feel like stretching my legs a bit. It’s just brief stretching but it gets me somewhat loose and makes me aware of my physical body again. There’s usually a cascading effect from there, and I’m more likely to choose a piece of fruit over a bag of chips, or the stairs over the elevator.

  • IronGlider

    Great article!

    Except for many of the ones that you’ve mentioned, I find many lifehacks to be difficult to implement in the long-term, perhaps because it can get difficult to recall when there are so many, at least I find that anyway. I find many of the ones you’ve mentioned are extremely useful day to day as I’ve really had to build a habit of (consistently) doing them. I find that they make life so much easier, tather then just ‘hard-hatting’ all the time with a frown…

    Hmmm, a 5min life hack that isn’t listed here? I have 3 (very) special pictures I usually have around (one of them is my avatar pic!) Each represent my inspiration (life), motivation (health and fitness) and passion (work and productivity). Together they build a ‘tri-force’ of power, if you will.

    I find them so awe-inspiring that it just helps me click into the moment, right there and then, and bam! I start to feel a mental/physical co-operation 95% of the time, and all within 5mins.

    I’ve found it hard to find the right combination of imagery, but I guarantee its worth seeking out for! 🙂

  • Claire

    I do some eye exercises that just take a few minutes a few times throughout the day to help improve my vision. I learned about them on this Creative Live workshop:
    http://www.creativelive.com/courses/easy-exercises-improve-your-vision-eric-cobb

  • Cheesman

    Whenever I’m down and just absolutely do not want to work out, or do anything at all, I have a routine that I go through. I stay in whatever position I was already in, most likely sitting or laying down. I imagine myself surrounded by ninjas, orcs, aliens, etc. And I get up, and shadow box until I am pumped up and ready to go take on the world! It’s a great way that I have to get out of a slump. And it only takes around 5 minutes!

  • Do I do this 5 minute workout every day, or every other day? sorry, total noob here!

  • Kari Shae Kelly

    I love to do everything with my husband. He has gained some weight since our marriage but can still keep up with my 8 year old niece better than me. I am short and small and can’t do a pushup. But when we decide together to work on a part of our lives we accomplish it so much easier than we do sperately. He can now avoid his mt dews with more confidence and drink more water than before and I can now do 6 knee pushups instead of 2. Together we will work on becoming a healthier and happier couple and one day see our 50 anniversary.

  • Kyle Strasdas

    My favorite quick life hack is this: At the beginning of the day, make a list of what you need to do, but with only 6 items, in order of priority. Start with the first item and don’t move on until you finish it. Once you have conquered the first item, then you can move on to the second item. If you complete all six items before the end of the day, add six more. If you don’t finish everything, carry what’s left over to the next day. It will make you a lot more productive.

  • Steve, awesome list! In my job, the email is relentless – I have applied skills from Tetris to David Allan’s GTD method to achieve & maintain inbox zero.
    Here’s how: http://classicallytrained.net/tetris-time-management/

    I need more than just the “action” and “non-essential” folders. I also use “for follow up” and “reference for project ‘x'”

    Keep up the great work!

  • Jens Butsch

    Wow I didn’t think that you would come up with such a great list when I started reading. I especially like the kitchen cleaning part because I already did it myself but my family was not so happy that I throw away their favourite food. How would you teach them that they should eat healthier?

  • FaceAK

    In addition to losing the cable, lose your home wifi. There is free Wifi EVERYWHERE so if you really need it, you have to get out of the house (which can be good!) to use it. Or, if you need it really quick for just one thing, use the hot spot feature on your phone. Now you won’t binge watch Netflix and waste your summer days perusing the interwebs.

  • FaceAK

    ooooo I should use this to get out of bed in the morning! haha

  • FaceAK

    Plus, my thumbs start to hurt if I have to type on my phone too much!

  • howtousethelawofattraction.biz

    I love this quick but effective look at how you can begin to live a healthy lifestyle. Personally as a mother of three, and an entrepreneur, i find i need to be efficient in every moment of every day. Your guide definitely provides insight into helping the most average person achieve a healthy lifestyle no excuses approach. Especially using five minutes of your day. I will implementing your five minute workout a few times throughout my day today and thank you for that info. I believe i have jsut attracted my new abs…thanks again!

  • Eunice

    Howdy!

    One of my favorite tricks is what I now name ‘Fresh Air Five’. Whenever I wake up feeling groggy, or with a headache, or anything else I don’t like, I just get to my window, set it open and stick my head in the wind for a few minutes. Fresh air tends to resolve a lot of things for me, from headaches to nausea to a sleepy head, and it leaves my feeling fresh and revitalized. I’m hoping it will help out some of you as well! I would like to share this http://ilivetoinspire.com that we launched based from peoples’ basic problems.

    Thanks for this very informative list!

  • Saar86

    I recently discovered a proven nutritional supplement helps in weight loss and proper lifestyle.

    After two weeks I noticed a change in my moods, concentration and my weight.

    Is a type of blue-green algae called spirulina. Rates sites trestles dietary supplements quite expensive but I found a seller on eBay selling super low price and even provides free shipping.

    To find out the link supplied with the product.

    http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5575083311&toolid=10001&campid=5337471814&customid=&icep_item=190950871817&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg

  • Kan of Steel

    My favourite hack you can use at home, work or gym is glide paths. Set up your routine for path of least resistance.

    My gym kit goes straight in my bag after washing. I remove obstacles so my protein powder is easily accessible first thing in the morning, my suit and shoes hang together in a clear space in the wardrobe. Glide from one to the other and out the door.

    This also helps with decision fatigue… That feeling you get when you have just made to many decisions in the day and can’t decide what to able for tea

  • Jes

    It’s not that exciting, but I like to turn around, look at an object, and either donate, trash, or keep it. It’s a way of cleaning the house that I read about someone online, and I find it a useful tool at randomizing my cleaning. I have tendencies to cling to objects, which is a bummer, and I love being able to break myself of hoarding habits.

  • IgnoreLimits

    This is a great post, I agree with the mobility workout suggestion – very few people do this.
    In terms of meditation though can you get into a calm state and get your breathing right in such a short period of time? I normally have to allocate a minimum of 20~ minutes for it.
    SJ
    http://www.ignorelimits.com

  • ryan

    I tried to loss weight for a while and went on and off but a few weeks ago i found this thing called green coffee (iv’e never heard of it before…) and I feel like its really helping me… I’ve been taking it for around two weeks n every morning aroung half an hour before breakfast and I kinda feel like I might have lost a few pounds because of it… I got it on this web site call greencoffeeroad.com I’m going to get another pack and hopefully it’ll still do the job and keep me happy about it…

  • Chawna Jones

    I am list obsessed and have been since High School since my best friend turned me on to them!

  • bilo messaoudi

    I am frequently scared of trying new things but these articles really motivate me to just go do it. Keep up the good work!