The One Minute Rule

I first learned about the one minute rule while listening to the first episode of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. Since implementing the one minute rule into my life it turns out that I usually spend more time thinking about a simple task than it takes to actually do it the first time I think of it.

What is the one-minute rule?

The one minute rule is a simple strategy: If something will take you one minute or less to complete, you should do it without delay.

Happiness expert and author Gretchen Rubin came up with the idea. She committed to doing anything that could be completed in a minute or less. Noticing that doing a little bit each day could add up to make quite a difference in the long run. Her house became tidier. She knew where to find things because they had been put away. And she spent less time cleaning, tidying and organising.

Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. Do it now, or decide when you’ll do it.

― Gretchen Rubin, Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make More Room for Happiness

Why does the one minute rule work?

If something will only take one minute to do, you should probably do it straight away.

This works so well because it works well for time management. By finishing off daily tasks completely, like putting something away when you are finished with it, you close the loop in your brain. The Zeigarnik effect is when you remember things better if you haven’t finished them yet. So if you start a puzzle but don’t finish it, your brain will remember that you still need to finish it and you’ll think about it more. But if you finish the puzzle, your brain doesn’t need to remember it anymore.

I also like to think of it as a gateway habit. By using this simple rule, you can start a new habit that builds on the small things. And small tasks can add up quickly.

The best part of adopting the one-minute rule:

Your home will be tidier because you have put things away as you go.

Your home will be more organised because you have put things away as you go.

You will know where to find things because they were put away.

You will spend less time looking for things because they were put away.

Having a pristine house is not the ultimate goal here. It’s just spending a little time every single day can make a huge impact on a happier life.

What can I do in one minute?

In short, you can do easy things in a minute or less. They are the little things that take up mental space. They aren’t necessarily important things, but can really add up.

  • Put your shoes away when you take them off
  • If you have a task that can be done in a minute or less, do it without delay
  • If you don’t read your junk mail, put it straight into the recycle bin
  • Wipe down the kitchen counter
  • Put your dishes into the dishwasher when you are finished
  • Make your bed, even if you just pull the cover over it
  • Remove your lunch container from your bag when you get home. If it’s dirty, wash it. If it’s clean, put it away
  • Put the scissors back where they belong when you are finished with them
  • When the dirty nappy bag is full, put it in the outside bin
  • Clear the kitchen table after each meal
  • When you check your emails, delete or file the new emails
  • Put your dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Take out the trash or rubbish when you notice that it’s full
  • Replace the toilet roll when you use the last of the toilet paper
  • Clean dishes after they have been used
  • Wipe down the bathroom counters after shaving
  • Refill your water bottle after you take the last sip
  • Collect all the coffee mugs from around the house to be washed
  • Put the pile of dishes into the dishwasher
  • Add important tasks to your to-do list
  • Stretches
  • Refill the paper in the printer
  • Send a quick email
  • A breathing exercise

But I’ve been adding something else to the one minute rule to make cleaning up a breeze. When I am putting something away in another room, I will look around for something else to take with me. So rather than spending one minute putting away one thing, I spend one minute putting away two or more things without much effort. It’s the same amount of effort in much less time.

So if you’ve got something that needs to be done, and it will only take a minute or less, just get it done.

How else can I use the one minute rule?

The one minute rule is a concept related to the idea of atomic habits, which is the idea that small, consistent changes in behaviour can lead to big improvements over time. The one minute rule is a simple principle that states that if a task can be completed in one minute or less, you should do it immediately. This is because small, easy tasks can build momentum and make it easier to do larger, more difficult tasks later on.

The one minute rule can be applied to many different areas of life, like work, health, and personal development. For example, if you want to start exercising more, you could set a goal to do one minute of exercise each day. As this becomes easier, you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend exercising. Similarly, if you want to start reading more, you could set a goal to read one page of a book each day.

By breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks, and by using the one minute rule to take action right away, you can make it more likely that you’ll achieve your goals and develop lasting habits.

It’s important to note that the one-minute rule is not a magic wand that can solve all your problems, but it can help you to make progress on a more consistent basis.

What about a two-minute rule?

Some little tasks turn out to be two-minute tasks. But don’t let that stop you. You can use the 1-minute rule and turn it into any minute rule.

If something is going to take an extra minute, you’ve just moved to the two-minute rule.

Say you see a pile of shoes at the front door when you take yours off after coming home from work. It could take you two minutes or more of reminding and asking (nagging) everyone else in the house to put their shoes away. But it might only take you two minutes to put them all away.

Why not turn your to-do list into a power hour filled with simple tasks that fall into the one-minute rule category?


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