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The 10 Minute Rule

Why all it takes to get everything done is 10 minutes

Procrastination used to have a really good hold on me – ensuring that jobs took an excruciatingly long time to complete, with a huge amount of energy wasted on finding excuses not to do it. Whole days could slip by while I buzzed from task to task, rarely getting anything substantial done and pretending to myself that I was SO busy that I couldn’t possibly begin the task I was trying to avoid. As a result, the only things that got done were low value, easy tasks , which by their nature were also undemanding. This kept me in a comfort zone, afraid to extend myself and risk failure – which, of course, meant staying in the certainty of stagnation. Ultimately, I grew tired of the discomfort, tired of beating myself up for not getting the stuff done that others seemed to manage and tired of the self loathing and fear I felt by continually beating myself up for the lack of progress. 

Then things changed. They didn’t change quickly but, as I realised that I had to start doing things differently, I did find one very simple rule which, with time and plenty of practice has changed my attitude and my life. If there’s something on my to do list – whether for home or work, whether big or small, whether I want to do it or not, whether I know what I’m doing or feel hopelessly out of my depth, I just do it for 10 minutes.

Often something magic happens in these 10 minutes. Some tasks are completed. That awkward email that I’ve been struggling to get the right words for…done and gone. For others, 10 minutes is just a beginning. I sit down and start something that seems so big I don’t know how I will move it forward, let alone finish it, but, after 10 minutes, I have taken a step forward, and usually have a plan for the next step, too and I’m away…I may still have several hours worth of work to do but I’m heading in the right direction.

I started off by implementing the 10 minute rule in my work as a journalist and found that it helped me to multi-task and stay on top of my to do list – particularly those big tasks that I put off starting in case I didn’t do them perfectly. It worked so well that I started applying it at home. Instead of vowing to spring clean my home, I put 10 minutes of tidying or cleaning on my to do list. Sometimes when I get started I find that this turns into half an hour but if I want to stop after 10 minutes I always do because that’s the deal I’ve done with myself. As a result, my home is never spotless, unfortunately, but it is tidy and clean enough for me to invite people in at any time and for me to feel happy and comfortable there.

I have a full and active life. I work, I run a business from home with my partner, I blog, we have a toddler, I’m recovering in two 12 step fellowships and I have friendships and hobbies of my own that I want to invest time in because they all make me happy. Keeping all of these plates spinning in the air can feel like hard work at times so I apply the 10 minute rule to every aspect of my life because, you know what? No matter how busy my day is I can always find 10 minutes, somehow.

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