The “5 minute Time Machine” is a simple thought experiment that only takes a few minutes to try, but it can be inspiring and clarifying, and help you get your priorities straight. It is basically a short imaginative exercise designed to help focus on your priorities in life. And more importantly, help you figure out what those priorities are. Here is how it works.


Step One

Imagine you find a time machine in your back yard. It has simple instructions. You can only use it once, and you can choose to go back either 5 years or 10 years in time. Because of sci-fi rules about not changing history etc. the only thing the time machine can be used for is to go back in time and meet yourself 10 years in the past, and you can give yourself one piece of advice.

Or if you a fast-talker maybe a few pieces of advice, whatever you can fit into 5 minutes. It’s basically the plot of Back to the Future boiled down to five minutes!

So, and here is the important part: what would you say to your past self? WHat piece of advice would you offer? What words of encouragement? It is crucial that you actually take 5 minutes and imagine the speech that you give yourself.

Now, what you actually would say to yourself is going to be different for everybody of course! Personally if I had five minutes to talk to myself in my twenties I would have a few words of encouragment. But I would also have some demands: I would tell myself to take more risks, to actually put myself out there and simply DO more. Because when I look back at myself at that age I see a guy who had a lot of great ideas but who wasn’t making enough of an effort to chase after his dreams. I would basically want to tell myself, whenever you have a weird, wild, wooly idea, just start doing it and see where it goes!

You’s could be totally different, of course, that’s just my example.

Step Two

Now imagine that today, as you are going about your business, folding the laundry or whatever, your self from the future, ten years from now suddenly appears and gives you five minutes of advice! Your future self has time to tell you just one piece of advice: what do you think it is?

Actually take 5 minutes to imagine what this talk might look like.

It might even be the same advice that you would give yourself in the past right now! I think the point of this exercise is, when we try and use our imagination we actually kind of know already, what advice we have for ourselves, what we really want out of life, and what our priorities are. This sci-fi imagination experiment just helps us tap into that.

Step Three

Write down that advice you have for youself. And here is the part that takes guts: now actually see what happens if you try to live it!