These 15 To-Dos Can Be Knocked Out In 5 Minutes — Or Less

If you’re anything like us, your to-do list is long. And, like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, it feels like every time you cross something off or make any headway at all, a new task pops up in its place. But not every task has to be an arduous one. Some things can be done quickly and make a big difference.

And while an abundance of spare time is not a thing you have (what would that even look like?), once in a while we all find ourselves with a few minutes to kill. If only there was a way to fill these tiny voids of time with something productive. Well, we have good news.

Ahead, we've put together a list of some quick things you can do whenever you're bored or waiting around that will actually improve your life. Think: Changing your sheets, writing a thank-you note, organizing your jewelry box. After checking a few of these off your list, you’ll be surprised at just how easy they were to do — and how much better you feel now that they’re done.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
This is one of my favorites. Emails are ubiquitous, but a personal, handwritten thank-you note goes a long way. And writing one is sooo easy. No one needs a novel here — just a few lines. Thank the recipient for the sweet gift or thoughtful gesture and tell them you hope to see them soon (assuming that’s true). Done! Plus, how many chances do you really have to show off your perfect penmanship these days?
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
There isn’t always time for an epic catchup, and that's okay. The thing about a call is, it doesn’t take much. Tell your parents — or aunt or uncle or grandma or favorite cousin — that you’re running out the door (pro tip: be sure to mention this as soon as you get them on the line!), but wanted to say a quick hello and remind them how much you love them. And…that’s it! Simple, and it will make their whole day.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
This is actually a great one to couple with calling a loved one, because it’s mindless enough that you can do it while simultaneously chit-chatting. Changing your sheets always seems like it's going to be a hassle, but in truth it takes all of about five minutes. Plus, there's nothing as magical as getting into bed right after you've changed the sheets.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
I have a pretty tiny jewelry box with dividers and separate drawers and everything, and it still takes me minutes of rifling through all of my earrings before I finally find the ones I actually want to wear. You know what would really help with this problem? Organizing my jewelry box! And the truth is doing so takes about no time at all. It's also a good time to say goodbye to anything that's just taking up space. (Be honest, when's the last time you actually wore that slap bracelet?)
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
You know, the ones permanently draped on your chair, or in a growing pile on your couch; the pants you wore on Monday, the skirt from Tuesday and so on. All you have to do is put them away! It won't take long — you already have the hangers and the drawers — and your space will feel so much cleaner, lighter, and more free.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Personally, I find it hard to do much of anything without a tidy home. When things are in disarray, it’s hard to think, to work, to feel truly relaxed. I’m not talking deep-cleaning here — sometimes it’s the little things that matter most. Case in point: making your bed. It takes just a few seconds, and is guaranteed to make you utter an audible sigh of relief. We’re not talking Martha Stewart here, either. Corners don’t have to be tucked, sheets don’t need to be perfectly smoothed — as long as there’s more duvet cover showing than top sheet, you’re pretty much in the clear. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Something smells a bit funny in the kitchen — and you know exactly what it is. Taking out the garbage is a job you can surely get done right now, and if you're not interested in making a dedicated trip down to the trash, just leave it by the door and bring it out next time you leave the apartment. Don’t forget to replenish with a new bag on the spot — you'll be glad you did later on, when you absentmindedly toss your leftovers in the can without thinking.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
There’s nothing I love as much as surprising a friend or loved one for absolutely no reason. Like, ordering a magazine subscription for your BFF, for instance. (Sure, you might want to wait until there’s a magazine subscription sale, but those happen all the time.) You could also donate a few bucks to a cause they value, in their name; no amount is too small! Or maybe order a used copy of a book you were both saying you wanted to read, and have it delivered. These things all take about two minutes, and your friends will appreciate them forever.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Your friend texts to say he will be five minutes late, but the martini you just ordered is already on its way. You could scroll through your phone but then you're inviting a bunch of stressy work emails to interfere with your ability to have a good time tonight. Instead, focus on the only other prop you have on you at the moment: your bag. Get rid of those receipts you've been carrying around, inexplicably, for a year. Make a small pile. Then throw that pile away. Look up and see your friend has just arrived. And so has that martini.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Yes, you can make an easy dinner in a short amount of time, but that’s not actually the hard part. Deciding on what you're going to make — before you get so hungry that you allow your stomach to irrationally dictate it for you — is the hard part. Flip through your cookbooks, if you still have those, or look around your kitchen and see what you have laying around. Then make a list of what else you need from the store to complete that meal, or to start it from scratch.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
There's never enough time to read every article we come across during the day. But thanks to apps like Evernote and Instapaper, what we can do is save and keep track of all the stories we don't get to so we can revisit them later. If you commute to and from work on public transportation (i.e., where you're not driving), this is a total game-changer.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Meditating is one of those things people always think they don’t have time for, probably because what they're picturing when they think "meditate" is sitting in a perfectly still room with the lights off for a minimum of 20 minutes. In truth, you can meditate anywhere, and you don't need more than a few minutes to reap the benefits. Next time you’re on the train, or just have a few minutes to kill between meetings, do yourself a favor and try a mini meditation session. ("Breathe" takes just five minutes, and is life-altering.)
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Maybe you have a voracious reading habit, but constantly buying books isn't financially practical — not to mention finding the shelf space to store them. Instead, reserve one from your local library. When it arrives, you'll get an email notifying you to pick it up, and they'll hold it for seven days, so you'll have plenty of time to make it over there. Then, voila — a new book, and you didn’t even have to pay for it. And if getting to the library still sounds like too much of a commitment or you need it right away, most books can be reserved and then read on your device, as well.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
This might not make your life easier per se, but it will rejuvenate you in a wholly unexpected way. Next time you need an escape but don't have time to commit to a movie or a book (or even an article), try cracking open a book of poetry. Whether you already have a favorite poet or you're just testing the waters, you'll be surprised by how quickly perusing a few verses of poetry can make you feel centered and calm.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
My plants are thriving these days, and for that, I have my partner to thank. Not because he waters them, but because every time we're headed out of the house and he’s dragging his feet, I water our plants while I'm waiting for him to finish getting ready. It takes about one minute (we don’t have many), and then I get to watch them thrive. Lucky for the plants, it's never long before I find myself waiting — and watering — again.
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