Reduce Stress: Practice the Five-Minute Favor

This post by Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, first appeared on

No one has time—for anything. Or so it seems. I, you, and everyone we know have played the busy card to get out of doing something that didn’t seem worthwhile. That’s because time isn’t money; you can’t earn more of it, and with only a few waking hours every day to get so much done, it’s easy to see why we get selfish about our schedules.

But I also know that a little bit of time can go a long way—especially when you’re helping someone else. That’s why I was really excited to read about the Five-Minute Favor, a term coined by Adam Rifkin, co-founder of PandaWhale, as a way of building up connections and good will not just with your friends and family, but in the workplace, too.

From the article published on HuffPo:

“Time is the currency that no one can really buy more of,” Rifkin says. “If you’re paying with your time rather than paying with cash, it’s more meaningful. Especially when you’re busy.”

Of course, you stand to benefit when you give. I wrote recently about how giving to people you know may boost feelings of happiness around giving. Imagine how different your day, or your life, would be, if you took five minutes out of every day to help someone else.

At meQuilibrium, we teach that there are four stress domains: Body, Mind, Surroundings, and Connection. Normally when we feel stressed, we attempt to silence or soothe the symptoms of the body, or mind. But what we forget is that shoring up connections, good will, and positivity in our lives is what creates a strong foundation for coping with stress. It’s what feeds your resilience.

TRY IT: The Five-Minute Favor

It’s about as simple as the name itself. The only rule is that it must be something you do to benefit another, with no direct personal gain / quid pro quo attached. Here are a few to try (and I’m sure you can think of many others).

Make a connection.  This is one of my favorites because in a sliver of time you can create some amazing opportunities for people. (This is Rifkin’s go-to favor.) Whom do you know who would benefit from meeting someone else? Whether it’s a colleague looking for the insight that a former colleague of yours likely has, or someone new to her field who would be thrilled to connect with a more seasoned pro in that same field, whom you happen to know. Think of one intro you can make today that could open up a world of possibility.

Pitch in. See a coworker struggling under an impossible project? Offer to pick up a piece of it, whether it’s some follow-up calls or follow-through on logistics. Since it’s not your project, you won’t be buried alive—and any little help you offer will likely be easy for you to do, and mean a lot to him. He won’t ever forget it.

Go out of your way. It’s easy to leave some tasks up to other people, because you’re technically not getting paid to do it. But when you go to extra lengths to make sure that, say, the right resources get into the right hands, you’re making someone’s life a little easier, and they know it.

Serve as a reference. It’s not hard at all to back a colleague or former employee for a new job or opportunity, especially when you believe in them. If someone asks you, say yes, or even better, reach out to a friend or contact who’s looking for work and offer to serve as a reference when the time comes.

Give some feedback. Maybe a former coworker could use an extra set of eyeballs on her resume, or a fellow entrepreneur would love some basic feedback on her new website. You don’t have to spend a lot of time to give incisive, helpful advice. Spend just a few minutes and you’ll give that person a wealth of information to work with, and possibly change the course of her business—and her life.