Food52 in 5

How to Clear Your Head in 5 Minutes or Less

February 16, 2018

What can you do with just five minutes? Actually, way more than you think! Introducing Food52 in 5: your cheat sheet for speedy, delicious recipes, fun mini projects, and more.

I spend a lot of hours looking at a screen most days—more than I’d like to admit between my phone, laptop, and television—and I know I’m not the only one. Oftentimes, thanks to my latest exercise obsession, I’m even looking at a screen while I’m working out. Which is why it’s become important to me to consciously unplug at some point every day, preferably outside.

Sure, a long walk on the beach or hike in the woods would be lovely, but that’s not a daily option for most of us. You know what is? Five minutes outside—no computer, no phone. I’d suggest spending that time in a way that feels good to you. The key is not to let your brain go into overdrive.

Not *exactly* outside, but you get the idea. Photo by James Ransom

Ready to give it a go? Here are some ideas for making it happen:

  • Schedule the time. We all have 5 minutes to spare, but if you keep moving from one thing to the next it’s easy to let the day slip away. So be proactive and think about your schedule. Maybe it’s best to consistently carve out the time first-thing in the morning, or perhaps you’re always sluggish mid-afternoon. Whatever the time, consider setting a calendar alert. Then treat it as seriously as any appointment.
  • Find a buddy. Invite a work friend to join you for a quick daily walk around the block. It’s harder to skip if you’ve shared your commitment with someone else, so if you can’t find someone to do it with you in person, challenge a long-distance friend to try unplugging for five minutes a day for one week. Text each other daily for encouragement and accountability—after you’ve returned to your phones, of course.
  • Make it work for you. If this feels like one. more. thing. to fit in, think about how you could tie this into something else you’re already planning to do that day. Maybe your five minutes is running an errand, or taking off your headphones for your walk from the subway to the office, or, if you work from home like me, stepping outside to refill the bird feeder.

Whatever is currently weighing on your brain, whatever might be holding you back from taking time for yourself—work emails, the thought of missing a call, a to-do list a mile long—it can wait for 5 minutes.

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Do you have any tricks for disconnecting and re-centering? Share them in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • AntoniaJames
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Smaug March 7, 2018
I suppose I'm dating myself, but I like to go out in the yard and do something for a plant.
AntoniaJames February 20, 2018

I’m glad to see Food52 devoting some editorial real estate to this "what can you do in five minutes?" approach, which I’ve been evangelizing since the earliest days of the site. Several years ago, one of the editors picked up on this to write a short-ish feature on tasks quickly done in the morning, to make the evening meal easier. I created a quick list, just off the top of my head, of the many 2 - 6 minute tasks that I do to take advantage of small “pockets” of time when I’m home. To share it with anyone who might find it helpful, I’ve posted a link to this (still somewhat stream of consciousness) list of quickly completed tasks.

(This general idea is not original to me. I have been doing this in my office since reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” which was published the year I started my own law practice. It’s one of the most useful business books out there. But I digress . . . .)

I’ve added this overarching suggestion to the linked Google Doc about a month ago:

When I plan / review my menus for the following week to lay out my prep activities for the weekend and weeknight evenings, I create a list of every small food prep or other task that will eventually need to be done.  I put it on a medium index card, which I keep handy to consult whenever I have a few minutes of "downtime,” or to include in my longer prep sessions.  

Also, there are quite a few good suggestions of 5-minute tasks in this Hotline thread started last month: I’m guessing that many of these ideas will be the subject of separate posts in the near future . . . . . . .