How To Do 1 Hour’s Study In Only 5 Minutes

how to do 1 hour study in 5 minutesI’m writing this post right now because I just pulled 50 mins of quality study out of a hat.

From nothing!

And I’m chuffed!

I’d been travelling all day, and I was knackered. It would have been so easy to just turn over and fall asleep, but I didn’t!

I turned it around, and here’s how you can do it too…

Tackling Your Weaknesses

This trick I’ve been using to study foreign languages recently is so simple it’s embarrassing.


But it’s so incredibly effective that it’s literally doubled my study time in the last few weeks.

It’s so effective because it completely dismantles and obliterates my one serious, overriding weakness.

No, it’s not chilli-infused dark chocolate (although I wouldn’t recommend you stand in my way!).

It is procrastination

Procrastination in Language Learning

Procrastination…that old chestnut!

I am, at heart, a massive procrastinator. Procrastination doesn’t mean doing nothing. In fact, procrastinators are often great at getting stuff done – just not those things that they really should be getting done.

One of my secret weapons in learning Cantonese is spaced-repetition flashcards.

My daily dose of flashcards is the one thing that I really should be doing everyday.

On its own, one single flashcards session is not a huge thing, but as I’m always going on about, it’s those small things done regularly that give you the huge gains. (Otherwise known as the 80-20 rule).

I’d love to know why I struggle so much with my daily study routines, but I really don’t know.

Perhaps part of it is me needing some novelty in everything I do (a really debilitating personality trait!). Perhaps it’s just called “being human”.

Anyway, what’s the trick?

How To Study In Only 5 Minutes

It’s so simple I’m almost embarrassed to say it. I just tell myself: “Only 5 minutes this time!”

“Just a quick one!”

“5 minutes then I’ll stop!”

My mind is fickle enough that, by telling itself this, it can take action immediately and start studying.

5 minutes is achievable in virtually any circumstance.

And yet what happens?

Without exception, those 5 minutes turn into 20 or 30. Or in this case, almost an hour. Once I get started, I just do a bit more. Then a bit more. The some more.

It shouldn’t work, but it does.

It’s quite simple when you break it down:

  • We’ve rarely got an hour in which there’s nothing else we fancy doing (Result: we do nothing whilst we think about what’s best to do);
  • And yet, we’ve almost always got 5 minutes (Result: we just do it without fussing).

Once we get started and the 5-minute timer goes off, that same rational mind that told you that you have 5 minutes free tells you that “you may as well do another 5 minutes whilst you’re at it!”

What’s Your Personality Type?

As with everything in the learning game, this is going to work for some people and not for others. If you’re the strong-willed type, you’ll have no need for such simple trickery!

But if, like me, you sometimes find it impossible to get started, even though you know better, you may just find that this simple trick reenergises your language learning journey!

Does this work for you? Here are 3 things for you to do right now:

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  • Incredibly interesting finding :O I myself procrastinate a whole lot so, I actually learned most of my Japanese anki decks when I had exams at Uni. I’ll definitely try your method! Gtz

    • Good luck with it! It’s really interesting what you say about your final exams; psychologists who deal in procrastination actually recommend people to invent fake larger goals in order to get the ‘smaller’ things done.

      So, for example, you could put the ridiculously broad “learn Russian” at the top of your to-do list. The immenseness of that would make you procrastinate into learning your kanji flashcards instead!

      It’s fascinating stuff!

  • Bartosz Muszkat

    I don’t have free 5 minut, but will find 3 ;))). BR, and thanks!

    • 3 minutes – should turn into at least 20! 🙂 Good luck!

  • Phil Smith

    I find that using the 5 minute method works for me too. However, sometimes starting the five minutes is put off because it is still a vague idea in my mind. So I use an online countdown timer set to 5 minutes, and the vague idea becomes something concrete. One of the tabs on my browser has the online countdown timer, and I never close this tab.

    • Hi Phil! Thanks for the comment! You mentioned that the 5 minutes is a vague idea in your mind… what do you mean exactly?

      • Phil Smith

        Olly, because of you and others I have made a spreadsheet to keep my plan on, and I am studying MUCH more efficiently. One of the things I do on my plan is to listen to my target language for at least 30 minutes a day.

        I find if I just look at the clock, I can’t keep good track of the time I spend on my listening. “I have to go to the bathroom”. “Yes, wife, what did you say?” “What do you want doggy or kitty cat?” “Hmmm . . . this reminds me of ___, let me Google that”. You get the picture. The time is too vague in my mind and I don’t stay focused, and now I know I haven’t spent the time like I thought I was.

        So I got an online timer. I use two screens, so I have my target listening web page on one screen (I use Yabla). On the other screen, half is the online timer and the other half is a text document where I can write down what they are saying, if I do it that way. Or I listen without writing.

        Either way, if the wife comes in the room, the pets bother me, or whatever, I click the pause button on the timer. If I have to look anything up, I pause the timer, etc.

        This method and the spreadsheet has allowed me to do some quality listening, and pointed out to me that I was not listening nearly as much as I thought. The spreadsheet and timer also keep me more focused.

        • I love this, Phil. It’s classic goal setting and time tracking… tried and tested! Keep up the good work!

      • Phil Smith

        Hi Olly! I replied in the article you provided.

        Thank you for your contributions to my language learning!

  • Génesis Victoria Rivas

    Hello, my name is Victoria, I am from Venezuela, I speak spanish, of course. I would like to practice my english with someone of you. If you want to practice spanish with me, that would be great. I hope you can help me too improve my English and I hope to help you to improve your spanish, if you want… I think 5 minutes are good enough… 😉

    • Chaitanya Chaitanya

      I will teach English ,If you are Interested!!

      • rahiba aboobacker

        i’m also interested

        • Fahim Hasan Akash

          May I join??

          • rahiba aboobacker

            Which language you prefers

          • Fahim Hasan Akash


          • rahiba aboobacker


    • Dona Thomas

      I am kinda interested too!

    • Mihir Khatana

      If u don’t know English….. How can you write this English words

  • Andy R

    Why don’t I feel like doing something? Because I’m not doing it.

    • Love it! 🙂

      • Noel van Vliet

        That’s it. The task you’re not doing always seems way more daunting and boring than it really is. The longer you wait to take action, the more horrible the task becomes (in your mind). Once you get going it’s often nothing like you thought it would be. In many cases you actually have a reasonably good time.