Got a minute? Gretchen Rubin’s One-Minute Rule, where you do any task that can be done in under a minute without delaying, might just change your life.
Back in 2006, author Gretchen Rubin wrote a blog post outlining her one-minute rule. Essentially, she has herself do (and not delay!) any task that can be done in under a minute, like putting away dishes, answering an email, or making her bed. She noted that it’s easy to make herself follow the rule because it involves tasks that can be done in under a minute, which overrides her initial instinct to procrastinate it. Inspired by a recent Buzzfeed article where writer Natalie Brown did the same, I tried my best to follow the one-minute rule for a weekend. Here’s what I learned.
1. It gets easier as you keep at it: At first, I definitely still resisted doing it (especially with washing dishes, my personal chore nemesis). But the more I kept at it, the more it became second nature. It got so that finishing little tasks actually started feeling rewarding instead of draining! Well, except for washing dishes, which still totally sucked.
2. It made a disproportionate difference: I mean, it’s not going to immediately fill your bank account, deep-clean your house and fill you with a sense of overwhelming purpose. But the one-minute rule can help you tackle small chores before they become big chores. Instead of having to pick up a pile of clothes off the floor, I only had to toss a shirt in the hamper, instead of having to answer a backlog of five emails, I only had to send off one. Getting small tasks done meant that I didn’t have to do bigger tasks later, which made a huge difference in my productivity.
3. It made other tasks easier to do as well: Obviously, there are tasks you can’t do in under a minute: updating your resume, taking your dog out for a walk, or cooking a meal. But just getting started on the one-minute tasks gets you into the right mindset to start these bigger tasks; instead of losing yourself in shame and frustration that you can’t start this Huge Big Task, you start thinking about how you can do a little of the task. By the time the weekend was done, I set up the Etsy store I’d been meaning to, bought a cable so I could start drawing with my tablet again and got 2000 words of my novel written. Pretty cool for a one-minute activity project, huh?
4. You can take out your garbage from your third-floor apartment in under a minute if you run: but you probably shouldn’t.
And if you’re liking the sound of this one minute rule, it’s not the only timed method for helping concentration-deprived people get stuff done:
The fifteen-minute rule: For those whose goldfish-like attention spans trap them in an endless purgatory of refreshing apps and checking emails (guilty as charged), the fifteen-minute rule helps get over the initial focus hurdle. The rule is this: you do whatever you’re supposed to be working on for just fifteen minutes, and you can decide whether you want to keep going after those fifteen minutes are done. The secret is that once you’ve focused on your activity for fifteen minutes, it’s much easier to keep going. While this strategy hasn’t always worked for me (sometimes you just can’t get through the work doldrums) it’s worked more often than it hasn’t.
The twenty-minute rule: In 2016, writer Thomas C. Corley suggested a twenty-minute rule: devoting twenty minutes a day to a goal or aspiration of yours, like playing the piano or writing a novel. Corley says that he developed the habit after “5 years of studying rich people,” which seems a little excessive for a habit that’s basically “do stuff you want to be good at.” But I’ve been doing a fifteen-minute form of the task since last year and have found it to be extremely helpful.
The ten-minute rule: Michelle L. Bryant suggests a ten minute rule, where you break down all the items on your to-do list into bite-sized, ten-minute tasks. I haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks extremely helpful for my wildly-distracted, ADHD brain.
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