The One Minute Rule

Today, I decided to try venturing outside the house to work at the library again, after my long, morning-sick hiatus.  The path to the library takes me by this garden, which the William & Mary grounds crew updates regularly with flowers of the season.  (So colorful, so cheerful!)  My return to the library was a good one, in part due to something called The One Minute Rule.

I learned of The One Minute Rule from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project book and blog.  The One Minute Rule is this: if you face a task that will take less than one minute to complete, always do it — don’t procrastinate! Wash that dish, answer that e-mail, sort that mail, wipe that counter, load that washing machine, pick up those socks.

By good nature or by good training, my husband seems to have internalized The One Minute Rule sometime in back in childhood.  He washes his dishes, he puts his books away, he answers e-mails promptly, and on trash day he brings the emptied garbage can back from the curb at his first opportunity.  (Well, most of the time, anyway.)

I, on the other hand, pile the dishes in the sink (“They’re soaking!”), leave books and magazines strewn about (“I’m reading that!”), have over 1000 messages in my inbox (“Oh, I really should answer that one…soon”), and merely stare at the garbage can from the window for much of the day until guilt and a feeling of bad-neighborliness compel me to roll it back to its proper place.

The trouble, though, is that a cluttered home is stressful to me.  When I realized that most of the clutter around our house was mine (not Matt’s!), and that mostly it was due to my habit of not finishing things that I start (on scales both small and large), I concluded it was time for action (and action on a daily basis, not action in the form of my usual sporadic whirlwinds of decluttering).

“Start small!”  I thought.  Holding myself to The One Minute Rule seemed like a good beginning.  And I must say: it works.  Committing to tackling every project that can be completed in one minute gives a person both a feeling of forward movement and an emptier inbox and a cleaner kitchen counter.

The Rule has also nudged me in the direction of breaking down larger projects into smaller, more manageable ones that can be done, if not in a minute, then in ten or fifteen — a habit which leads to a nice sense of progress, rather than a perpetual feeling of running, without moving, toward a far-off goal.  (Like the completion of a dissertation — hence, my progress at the library today.)

Try it out!  I’m still pretty new to the rule, but already have seen what a help it can be to little ol’ procrastinators like me.  Color me happy about it.

Have a happy weekend, everyone!  Tomorrow is the first full moon of summer — perfect for a moonlit stroll in the cool of the evening!  Enjoy it!

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3 Comments on “The One Minute Rule”

  1. Cristina says:

    I hate mess but I use to create it sometimes, and then it’s too big and I don’t want to tidy up. It’s better when you do the things atm, everything is more easy.


  2. jana says:

    It’s a brilliant rule! The best one ever. I hate a messy house. But what I hate even more is admitting that 99% of time, I’m to blame, as my husband must have spent his first ten years of life in the army or something. No matter how much I’d like to blame him, the mess is mine. And so, I am confessing to not being completely frank with the man I love as I tend to pretend to be squeaky-clean by upholding the 1-minute-rule whenever he’s around. I just dread the day when he comes home from work early and discovers my dirty little secret. Literally.

  3. patissonne says:

    haha, I’m pretty messy me too but somehow, all the clutter soothes me & I do find my stuff even if it’s in a mess… but yes, the idea of the 1-min rule sounds good, a litle order is good; so I’m going to try it out! ;)

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