Change Your Life in 10 Minutes

Are there things in your life that could stand improvement but you just don't seem to be getting around to them?
Lego mess

Whether it's one room of your house or your whole life that's a mess, you may have noticed that logic and emotions sometimes disagree on the best approach.

Logic:  "Just get off your ass and DEAL WITH IT and you will feel so much better!"

Emotion: "You're right, logic, that's exactly what I should do! But f--k off willya, I just don't want to!"

There is a a simple trick, that you already know, that is incredibly helpful in fixing this problem.

However... there are tricks to the trick! Which is probably why you are not using it nearly as often as you should.

Note: this post is mainly a reminder to myself, because I forget all the time. Or I remember in some areas of life and blow it off in others.  But feel free to eavesdrop if you could use reminding as well.

The simple trick:  Set aside TEN MINUTES to deal with an unwanted task or activity even if ten minutes isn't enough time to do anything remotely useful. Getting started is 98% of the battle.

The Tricks to the Trick:



1.  Don't sleep on it.


(photo: dgarkauskas)

Do your 10 minutes ASAP, right after you read this post if possible, or later today. You may think that today is a bad day and tomorrow is going to be much better!

It won't be.

Not only will sneaky slithery distractions wriggle in and insert themselves between you and your Ten Minutes, but you will also have forgotten completely about this post by then.

We're talking ten minutes.  Leave the dirty dishes in the sink if you gotta and "forget" to floss, we won't tell anyone.

But what if you aren't ready yet or can't physically tackle The Thing because of practical or logistical issues? Well, that doesn't let you off the hook because...

2.  You don't have to do The Thing yet. Just thinking about The Thing for 10 minutes counts.

During ten minutes of think-time you can do some of these:

a. Figure out how/when/where you're going to take the first step and put it in your calendar.

b. Fantasize about how nice things will be when you have done The Thing. Make it really appealing in your mind, the more insanely detailed the better.

c. Visualize some of the steps you will take and picture yourself actually doing them successfully.

d. Predict possible obstacles to Doing the Thing and plan how you might work around them.

e. Consider writing some stuff down during this ten minutes, even if you never look at it again. It can help keep you focused and make you look a bit less psychotic while staring off into the stratosphere thinking Thing Thoughts.

3.  Make it as Easy as Possible

If you're actually tackling The Thing, start with the smallest, least horrific aspect you can find. It may feel like cheating but you need to build momentum and feel well underway before facing the truly hateful parts.

4.  Lower Your Standards.

Curb your perfectionism. You cannot be perfect at anything in 10 minutes. Beginnings are about embracing all the crapitude you can generate and being proud of yourself for starting.

Remember, taking a thing you have worked on for a long time that is nearly perfect and getting it even more awesome--that's the fun part! You will enjoy it later; at the beginning it just gets in your way.

5.  No, Seriously, Even Lower...

Some tasks you may apply yourself to for 10 minutes and get NOTHING accomplished.


You may be tackling a creative project and come up with no ideas. You may be searching for something and not find it.  You may do something that you end up undoing because it's all wrong.

This is fine.  You get full credit because you are training your brain to get used to starting things that suck.  This is far more important in the long run than any particular Thing that does or does not get done.

6.  Honor the Limit

Are you going to keep going more than 10 minutes?  Probably! Which is excellent news. That's why the trick works so well. Once you get immersed in an odious, scary, or boring activity, often it doesn't suck nearly as much as you thought it would.

But sometimes ten minutes is not magical.  If you feel like you'd rather chop off a toe or make out with Donald Trump than continue?

Donald Trump announcing latest David Blaine feat 3-alt


Then STOP IT!  You need to trust yourself when you say you only have to do 10 minutes. Because, guess what? You will be asking yourself to do 10 minutes again. And again. And again.

7.  Make sure next time happens

As you feel yourself wind down, see if there are things you could do to make it easier to approach the task the next time. For one, you can plan the next go-round, either by figuring out a good time or a situational trigger.

Are there things you need to gather from around the house that you could pre-collect? Or visual cues you can plant that would motivate/remind you? Is there something nifty you could order online in a few minutes that would make The Thing more pleasant and efficient?  Is there someone in your life who might encourage you or even collaborate with you to keep the momentum going?

8. Apply Liberally

The 10 minute trick doesn't work for every situation, alas.  You could use it while planning a wedding, for example, but trying it for the wedding itself?  You may need to hang in there a little longer.


But it's amazing how many healthy lifestyle changes or personal development quests can be attacked more easily by allowing yourself a "10 minutes and then I can bail" approach. And this would be a great place to list a bunch of examples... but I'm WAY over 10 minutes already so see ya later!

Do you folks ever use the Ten Minute trick?

[Unless otherwise noted, photos are via wikipedia and wikimedia commons.]

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