5 Minute Timers: See How Much Thinking You Can Do in 5 minutes

Discover How Much Thinking You Can Do in 5 Minutes

Step 1: Choose a tough problem to solve or a tough question to answer.

Step 2: Just Do It Cycle: Set a 5 Minute Timer. Try to actually solve the problem or to answer the question fully in 5 minutes. No, don’t just make a plan; try to completely solve it.

Step 3: Brainstorm Cycle: Set a 5 Minute Timer again. Regardless of whether you think you solved the problem or not, assume that your first attempt failed and brainstorm as many alternate solutions as you can in the next 5 minutes. You are not actually trying to solve the problem in this cycle, but trying to brainstorm as many ways of solving the problem as you can—don’t be afraid to include wild and implausible ways.

Tip: Apply the 5 Minute Timers on the same or other problems or questions for a week until it becomes a standard part of your tool kit to bring to bear on tough problems.


1) What was your experience of trying to solve the tough problem in 5 minutes? Did the 5 minute brainstorming produce useful results for you?

2) Do you typically get less done in 5 minutes than you did during this exercise? If so, how can you use Just Do It Cycles and Brainstorm Cycles to do more thinking during your day?

3) Can you list 10 tough problems you could try this technique on?

Credit: This is a simplified version of the “Resolve Cycle” tool from the CFAR manual

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