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Do You Struggle with Procrastination? Try the 1-Minute Rule

Gretchen Rubin

Originally published by Gretchen Rubin on LinkedIn: Do You Struggle with Procrastination? Try the 1-Minute Rule

I discovered an incredibly easy, effective hack—but it must be followed consistently if I want to see results.

It’s very simple: Do, without delay, any task that can be finished in one minute. Hang up my coat, read a letter and toss it, fill in a form, answer an email, note down a citation, pick up my phone messages, file a paper, put the magazines away…and so on.

Because the tasks are so quick, it isn’t too hard to make myself follow the rule—but it has big results. Keeping all those small, nagging tasks under control makes me more serene, less overwhelmed.

It's a Secret of Adulthood: For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More than it should.

Many people have made a point of telling me how helpful they've found the one-minute rule. One friend told me that her apartment went from being a wreck to being quite tidy, without much effort. Another friend said that his productivity had shot up; because he got so many little things got done quickly, he had much more time for the bigger tasks.

One nice thing about the “one-minute rule” is that I don’t have to think about priorities. When I stop to think, “Should I tackle my desk or pay bills?” or “Should I answer emails or run my computer back-up program?” I sometimes end up feeling that whatever I’m doing is the wrong thing.

But with the “one-minute rule,” I do anything that presents itself, right away, as long as I can do it in a minute.

A bunch of trivial tasks, not intimidating when viewed singly, can easily mount up and seem overwhelming. By eliminating them as they crop up, I make myself feel freer, more energetic, and more creative. In less than a minute. (If you want tips to beat clutter in less than five minutes, look here.)

Why does making my bed make me feel like I can start a new chapter of my habits book, Better Than Before? It's not logical, but it's helpful.

Does crossing off those little tasks make you feel better able to face bigger tasks? A friend once told me, "I cleaned out my fridge, and now I know I can switch careers."

To read more about the one-minute rule, check out The Happiness Project, chapter one.

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Gretchen Rubin is the author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, Better Than BeforeThe Happiness Project, and Happier at Home. She writes about happiness and habit-formation at gretchenrubin.com. Follow her here by clicking the yellow FOLLOW button, on Twitter, @gretchenrubin, on Facebook, facebook.com/GretchenRubin. Or listen to her popular podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin.