A few years back, as my friend Nick will attest, I was a pretty bad roommate. My most obvious and egregious faux pas was letting the dishes pile up in the sink.
I used to make the excuse that I didn’t have enough time, especially in the morning, to do anything else with the dishes. The truth was, I only needed to wake up 5 minutes earlier, or make my morning routine 5 minutes more efficient, in order to find the time and solve this problem.
I also fell victim to the after work laziness. After dinner, the couch would call out to me. How could I do the dishes then? I worked hard during the day, and earned the right to sit on the couch after dinner.
Flash forward a few years and I discovered the writer Gretchen Rubin, and her podcast, “Happier”.
In her very first episode back in 2015, she introduced a concept — one that is certainly worthy of being introduced in her first ever episode and that subsequently would go on to change my life:
The One-Minute Rule.
If you have a task that can be done in one minute, do it without delay.
Gretchen goes on to explain that the one-minute rule can make significant difference, physically and emotionally, as outer order contributes to inner calm.
Moreover, a growing list of completed tasks — and the environmental impact from a cleaner, clutter free house for example — begets more productivity.
Now, I do the dishes immediately after I eat. I unpack my suitcase immediately upon arrival home from a trip. I don’t get into bed at night until I’m completely ready to not get out of it until the morning.
And as a result, I’ve experienced the physical and emotional benefits Gretchen discussed.
However, it was only after I started to extrapolate the one-minute rule outside of home, and into my work environment, that I really started to experience the dividends.
We can look to the physical world — and Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion — to better understand how the one-minute rule gets its power.
the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force.
an influence on a body or system, producing or tending to produce a change in movement or in shape or other effects.
In everyday English, inertia is a tendency to do nothing and remain unchanged. Force, on the other hand, is an interaction that will change the motion of an object.
According to Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object remains at rest or continues to move at constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.
When we sit down on the couch after eating dinner — and before washing the dishes — we are creating a high amount of inertia. It requires a high degree of force to get us off the couch and to do the dishes.
Whereas, if we apply the one-minute rule — and do the dishes immediately after eating and before sitting on the couch — it takes significantly less force and energy to complete the task, and we avoid inertia.
When we are already moving, it takes less and less energy to move faster.
The extreme power of the one-minute rule is that not only does it prevent inertia and create momentum, but it also helps avoid decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is when one experiences a deteriorating quality of decisions after a long session or high frequency of decision making.
I make the same thing for lunch every day to avoid decision fatigue. Steve Jobs wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans and new balance sneakers for the same reason.
We can apply the one-minute rule, not only to actions, but to decisions —provided they can be made with little information and/or are reversible — to avoid decision fatigue, as well.
When I am answering emails, if I have to submit a payment, for example, I do it right then and there — to avoid having to remember to do it or having to go back and do it later.
If I’m making social plans I try to take one-minute to suggest a time, place and activity, so I can move onto the next thing to do or confirm.
When I’m sitting down at my computer to start my next blog post, I take one-minute to decide what to write — amongst all of the topics I have written down to choose from — and allow myself to start.
Doing so creates momentum for myself, and saves my energy for the task at hand.
Thanks to Gretchen Rubin — and the one-minute rule — I’m now a much tidier and productive person!