Yesterday I came across the beautiful phrase I have used in the title today.

One day I was carrying a large suitcase and a bag up the stairs. Well, I travel a lot and I do not travel light. I met a boy running down the stairs. He got to where I was and politely offered to help me with my luggage. I was so glad and I let him. Once I got to the door, he was off like a lightning bolt and I was left shouting “Thank you!” to his quickly retreating back.

I was touched. It is not often nowadays that you find people that help at no cost. That same evening, I was on the way to my house. I got in the matatu and an elderly lady was trying to get in after me. She had several baskets and bags that she was slowly trying to load into the matatu before getting in herself. Now normally I leave and let live (my mother would disown me if she knew) but on this day, I remembered the kindness of the boy earlier in the day and so I helped the lady lift up a sack into the matatu (to my utter shock, the sack was so heavy I had to climb down and lift it with both hands to get it off the ground. Needless to say, I started strength training. Small embarrassments like old ladies lifting heavier weights than I are just not acceptable).

What I did is what some people call paying it forward. There are some favours and services that people do for us consciously or unconsciously that we could never repay. The next best thing to do is to repeat the favour to someone else in the hopes that they will catch the bug and do it to the next and the next and the next. I define this as investing in others. Try it and see what happens.

We cannot help everyone but everyone can help someone. The five-minute favour is exactly this. You deliberately set out to do a favour for someone that will take you exactly 5 minutes. For example:

  • Like a tweet or a post on social media
  • Forward a vacancy to someone who is looking
  • Send out a recommendation for a referee
  • Compliment someone on a job well done – so what if it is my job to clean the floor. Go ahead and tell me to thank you for doing it
  • Buy from a vendor that seems to be struggling (even if you do not use the product, you can give it away to someone that needs it)
  • Give up your place in a long queue

Be creative. Find 5 Five minute favours and email them to me. I will share them every Friday going forward.

Further readings on the 5-minute favour

Author of this article, Susan Nyakiamo is a personal finance coach, email:

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