The 10-Minute Hack

February 28 2012 – 06:13pm

The hardest part of doing most things is just starting. We often think about how big of a project we have ahead of ourselves, and that’s what makes it hard to start. I know when I was writing my book, it seemed like most of my day was spent fighting the agony of just getting started. It was hard to ignore just how big of a project it was.

Thankfully, I’ve found a great hack for getting started. It’s called The 10-Minute Hack.

Each day, after I wake up, as soon as is possible – before eating, before showering, before checking email, (but not before meditating) – I pick one task, set my iPhone timer for 10 minutes, and work on that one thing non-stop.

How much work can you possibly get done within 10 minutes? A surprising amount, really, but that’s not the point.

The point is, you get started.

Sometimes, the 10 minutes seems like an eternity. I’m just waiting for it to end so I can eat something or go to the gym.

But often – actually, usually – I don’t stop after 10 minutes. 10 minutes turns into 45 minutes, an hour – two hours – of non-stop work on one project.

The Beauty of Ten Minutes

Beautiful item number one about The 10-Minute Hack: once you get started, the trail has been carved. The rigidity of hesitation gives way to the fluidity of being in a project. Whatever second-guesses that had to be quelled to get started are knocked down by the possibilities introduced by being in motion.

This also sets a precedent for the rest of the day. Naturally, I get the urge to check email, to make some tea, or to check Twitter. But “I only have to do this for 10 minutes” I tell myself. The neural pathways that have to be exercised to suppress these urges – probably in the prefrontal cortex – get stronger.

Which introduces beautiful item number two about The 10-Minute Hack: you will feel like a total loser if you can’t work on something for 10 minutes without stopping. Anybody can do that. It’s nearly impossible to fail at this.

Motivational Judo

And just after beautiful item number two takes effect, beautiful item number one is exercised. This motivational Judo is what makes The 10-Minute Hack work

If I don’t get into the flow, hey, no problem. I did my 10 minutes, and I have permission to do some other things. Maybe I’ll be in the mood to get something done later.

If I do get into the flow – fantastic! If I’ve gotten 2 hours of solid work done at the beginning of the day, I feel much better throughout the day. Honestly, that’s probably more work than I would have gotten done futzing around for 8 hours.

This technique can be used a number of different ways, and it doesn’t always have to be 10 minutes:

What are you going to 10-Minute Hack? Try it tomorrow and report back here, or on Twitter.

P.S. I’m teaming up with some all-stars to make something that will help you manage your mind. Stay tuned. You’ll learn about it in early 2014.

This post is filed under Best-of, Productivity.