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Take five minutes to make tomorrow better

Early in my career, I found myself in the role of Production Superintendent, responsible for over 80 people working on the door build for the Rover 800 at Rover Group’s Cowley Assembly plant.

I was running round like a headless chicken, desperately juggling problems of all shapes and sizes from quality issues and parts supply to people challenges. My colleagues seemed to be doing much the same. At the time I was working closely with Honda, and it struck me that there seemed to be much more calmness in their approach; I vowed to create some of that in my section.

One of the techniques I developed was the idea of taking five minutes today to make tomorrow better.  I decided to commit to five minutes every day. Admittedly sometimes it was tough, but very soon I could see the results, and taking five minutes became easier and easier.

Now, years later, I recommend all my clients give themselves five minutes each day dedicated simply to making tomorrow better. I’ve noticed that people will tend to have preferences for certain activities depending on their original experience base, for instance in the extremes: selling or process management; dealing with people or tasks.

The activities we’re less interested in or less comfortable with are more likely to end up at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. I’ve found the five minute approach works particularly well for them - here are examples of things that I’ve seen more “marketing-oriented” (as opposed to “operations-oriented”) business owners tackle when they adopt this approach:

Addressing a poor performance issue with a member of staff: The Managing Director of a digital film production company had noticed one of her account managers wasn’t delivering what she needed. He’d joined the company six months before, full of promise and had been great at bringing in new business.

Despite her hectic schedule, she made time to have a meeting with him to express her concerns and explore the situation. Nothing obvious emerged from the meeting. However, two weeks later he handed in his notice, and she then discovered an email where he was trying to pass on business from her company to a competitor. She decided not to press action against him – relieved that by having her meeting with him she’d prevented a much bigger problem developing.

Ensuring credit checks are carried out on prospects and credit controls on customers: The MD of a specialist consultancy supplying salary surveys and data to large companies noticed that payment times from one client were getting longer. He took the time to investigate their credit situation and discovered they were having cash flow problems. He was not only more cautious in his business dealings with this client, it alerted him to potential problems with other prospects and clients, and put a systematic process of credit checks and alerts in place.

Dealing with organisational issues such as poorly defined roles and responsibilities: The MD of an HR services and software business with ten employees was finding that too many decisions and problems were landing on his desk. He was getting more and more overloaded. Rather than press on as he would have tended to do in the past, he raised the issue at his next team meeting.

A few minutes discussion flushed out that changes in the business over the last two years meant that a full review of roles and responsibilities would be a useful place to start. Collectively they made the time for 1-1’s and a group discussion over the next couple of weeks. The outcome was a new organisation structure and clearer responsibilities.

These kinds of things may not be the most glamorous ones – however, failing to tackle them creates bigger problems down the road. So for those of you who’d like to regain control and get your business moving forward faster, here’s how to get started:

 1) Take five minutes today to write down a couple of simple actions you could take that would help move you forward.

They can be as simple as one phone call, five minutes researching something online, or spending five minutes over a coffee jotting down more ideas for your long term vision of your life / business.

2) If the actions on your list feel too big, break them down into manageable five minute junks.

3) Tackle one five minute chunk per day.

4) And do the same the next day, and again the day after that.

5) If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up, just re-commit to five minutes the next day. Don’t try to increase it to ten minutes to make up for yesterday – just stick to five minutes.

Taking just five minutes each day will build momentum and very soon it will have a life of its own – by the end of the week you’ll see a difference (and you’ll probably feel different too).

 “Five minutes today to make tomorrow better” is part of the “Deliver Results in 100 Days” programme from Hilary Briggs, available free from her website:


About Hilary Briggs:

Hilary Briggs is Managing Director of profitable growth specialists R2P Ltd. During her earlier career, Hilary was Logistics Director for Rover Group Large Cars; European Product Marketing Director for Dishwashing, Whirlpool Corporation and Managing Director of Laird Group plc’s German-based Car Body Sealing Division, with a turnover of £200m and over 4,000 employees worldwide.  For more information about Hilary Briggs see /