Saturday, March 5, 2011

The 15-Minute Rule Revisited

A long time ago, I did a post about what I call the 15-minute rule.  On days when I don't really feel like riding or working with a horse, but the weather and footing conditions are OK, I try to get out there and do something - anything - for at least 15 minutes.  You'd be surprised how much you can get done in 15 minutes, and sometimes if I just work for 15 minutes that breaks the ice and and I can continue on to do more.  That's the basic version of the 15-minute rule as applied to horses.

I use variations of this rule in other contexts, often not horse-related.  If I have a task to do that I really don't want to do, I use the 15-minute rule.  Let's say I need to work on my tax return (ugh) - I'll plan to do it for 15 minutes and then, if I'm still hating it, give myself permission to wrap up for that day and do some more another day.  Sometimes once I get going I can keep going, but I don't have to unless I feel like it.

Sometimes I use it as a challenge - say for speed - let's say I need to walk out the door to go somewhere in 20 minutes - I'll use 15 minutes of that to see how much I can get done before I have to leave - say, unloading the dishwasher, folding clothes, straightening the house, paying some bills, you name it.

If I'm having a particularly busy day with little time for fun, I try to give myself 15-minute intervals to do something I enjoy as a break - say, having a nice cup of tea or reading a book.  It can make an otherwise difficult, too-busy day a bit more pleasant.

I use the 15-minute rule when I'm trying to establish a new, good habit. Often, if I can start out with a new habit for just 15 minutes at a regular time of day, the good habit will take hold and be easier to expand - in fact it'll often expand to take more time on its own.

I also use the 15-minute rule to deal with temptations.  Let's say there's a piece of cake in the refrigerator that I want to eat.  Instead of just reaching for the cake, I just sit quietly for 15 minutes and allow myself to feel whatever it is that I'm feeling about the cake - hunger, restlessness, boredom, anxiety, whatever it may be - without guilt and without judging.  Sometimes the desire to eat the cake goes away - allowing myself to feel whatever it is that I'm feeling does the trick.  Sometimes it doesn't and I just go ahead and eat the cake after 15 minutes.  And when I do eat the cake, I try to pay attention to it and really enjoy it - no reading, watching TV, etc.  For me the trick is no guilt trips and allowing myself to appreciate the experience.

Just some thoughts for a cold, windy Saturday morning in March.

21 comments:

  1. I like it! What a great idea. I think I'll try it out. Unfortunately, I don't think it will work for me on my really busy days when I babysit the grandkids, there's no 15 minute rule when they're running around or need something.But it will be a good thing to try when the Hagen Das is calling my name.

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  2. I need to use the 15 minute trick for food temptations more often.

    I use it most for spending temptations, taking at least 15 minutes to think about making purchases to determine if I really need it.

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  3. Perfect - and I just posted about tricks I use too.

    I like to break tasks or pleasures into time units. (I don't think I could wait 15 minutes for the cake though! I would think about it so much that I might end up having 2 pieces!)

    I have noticed that going to the barn in the winter is so hard because of all the clothes I have to put on. That takes me 15 minutes just to layer up. I get cranky and mad on the drive over because I am so bundled that I can't bend right. Once I am there though, my hesitation and annoyance fads when I see their faces!

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  4. Have to smile a bit at Juliette's response above. I was just whining to myself about the bulky winter clothes yesterday, only to get up this morning having to strip off all but one layer because it was so darn warm here in NJ. Took all the sheets and blankets off the Boys...

    I love the 15 minute rule and I intend to start applying it to household chores. I was working on the "get at least one thing done a day" rule, but I like yours better.

    Thanks for the tip.

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  5. This is one of the best tricks I've learned in terms of human motivation and limiting procrastination. Good post, it's always good to be reminded of useful techniques.

    I used to do this with studying or working on my thesis all the time - just make myself do a set amount of time (usually 30min for me, I did have to complete the degree after all!) then I'd have "permission" to move on to something else for awhile. More often than not, I would end up working happily for much longer.

    It's harder for me to do with horses/riding because it's a 30min drive to the barn. It's kind of all or nothing, no way to make the commitment shorter. I should look for ways to make the drive more interesting!

    Juliette - I have a hard time picturing you grumpy :)

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  6. Perfect post for me to read as I am on the computer instead of dealing with household chores... setting timer now ;)

    Thanks for the great post Kate - I'm taking it to heart :)

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  7. I love your 15-minute rule. I agree with the comments above, it does take about fifteen minutes to get ready to go out to the horses. I'll be so glad when that's not the case anymore.

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  8. that is the best advice I've read in a long time! I'll have to give it a go: cleaning, taxes, horses, yes, yes, yes!

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  9. Neat. I do that with some things such as getting the dishes washed when I have just a few minutes, but never with that kind of structure. I'll keep that in mind as I'm about to go out to trim some bushes which I hate.

    Thanks for the idea.

    Dan

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  10. I absolutely love this. Particularly since I have a terrible time with...well...time.

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  11. Great thoughts. :) I much enjoy these small quips.

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  12. Sounds like a good plan. Ok, now for my 15 minutes of tax returns.

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  13. I like the 15 minute rule. I do something similar, although its cause my computer has no fan and overheats after about 15-25 minutes and so I am on for the 15 minutes then i make myself spend about 45 min to an hour doing something else, amazing how much you can do in a lot of short time periods.

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  14. Yep I am going to give it a go! Sounds like a good way to try and get motivated!

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  15. That's a terrific idea, although I'm not entirely sure I could hold out for 15 minutes against a piece of cake ;o)

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  16. Ooh, I like this, too! I will definitely try this one out. Thanks!

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  17. Thank you for this post. I love it and hope to adopt it - I need to think about that for 15 minutes! ;-)

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  18. Hey, I like this idea! I'm gonna try it myself!

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  19. Kate, thank you for your comment on our Clifford. I appreciate it very much.

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  20. Those are really great thoughts. I'll have to try that. Thanks for sharing.

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