Suffer…for Fifteen Minutes.

2011 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2011 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2011 a happier year — and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge — welcome! This month’s theme is Time. Last week’s resolution was to Re-evaluate your mantras. Did you try that resolution? Did it boost your happiness?

This week’s resolution is to Suffer for fifteen minutes.

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
Do you have trouble sticking to your resolutions? Turns out it really does matter.
Get rid of things that don’t work.
Photographs make me happy, but they’re also making me miserable.
(Notice that this post was from three years ago.)

Have you ever had a similar experience — having a task so huge and daunting that you just couldn’t bear to begin it? What strategy did you use finally to tackle it? And am I the only one who has been haunted by my gigantic archives of digital photos?


If you’re new, here’s information on the 2011 Happiness Challenge. It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For the Challenge, each week I’ll post a video suggesting a resolution for you to consider. For more ideas for resolutions to try, check out the archives of videos here.


* I loved seeing this video — after a fan yells out “I learned to play guitar on that song!” Paul Simon asks her to come up on stage to play it. Look at her hands shake when she’s first up there! And then she plays so well.

That video make me very happy, and it also reminded me of one of my all-time favorite videos: Funny or Die’s video of Jewel singing karaoke in disguise.


* Please subscribe to my YouTube Channel. To get the weekly video by email, right in your email in-box, you can:
— On the GretchenRubin channel page, after you subscribe, click “Edit Subscription” and check the box, “Email me for new uploads.” Or…
— Go to your main drop-down box, click “Subscriptions,” find the GretchenRubin channel, click “Edit Subscriptions,” and check “Email me for new uploads” there.


To get the audio podcast of the video:
— Log in to iTunes
— Go to “Podcasts”
— Search for “The Happiness Project.” Free, of course.


  • Valerie

    Love this! My goal for the month of May is to do 1 thing every day, be it something on my to-do list, dealing with a pile (they’re everywhere in my house) or 30 minutes of organizing something. It’s amazing what we can accomplish in 15 or 30 minutes if we just put our minds to it!

  • Razinah

     Brilliant. Simple. Love it.

  • Edelgade

     What a coincidence! Just found this through LifeRemix:

  • Mary Stewart

    This is such a good idea, I can’t believe I’ve never done it before. Sure I’ve set a timer and done an unpleasant task for 15 minutes, but actually saying to yourself ‘I’m going to suffer for 15 minutes’ puts you in a totally different mindset.

    Rather than thinking that I should be enjoying it, or even pleased with the outcome, it gives me the freedom to think ‘this is rubbish and I don’t want to do it, but that’s ok because it’s Suffer Time.’

    • gretchenrubin

      Somehow telling myself I was going to “suffer” helped put me in the right
      frame of mind. It never ended up being as unpleasant as I expected.

      • Mary Stewart

        that’s absolutely right, it’s never as unpleasant as I imagine it will be!

  •  Loved this post Gretchen! Great video.

    Singha Roy

    Facebook fan page –

  • jenny_o

    The single most effective thing I did to get started on my “big job” was to WRITE DOWN the steps I needed to take to get started. I made those steps very, very small. I did the analysis on paper, so that when I had a small amount of time free I knew exactly what the first action was, and after that was done, I knew what the next one was, etc. For the first few steps, which were the hardest, I visualized actually doing each one in turn, based on my list. And after those first steps were accomplished, it got easier because I could see progress.

    I think your suggestion to “suffer for 15 minutes” is a good antidote to the attitude that one must “feel” like doing a task in order to do it. It would be nice to “feel” like doing it, but it is not usually realistic and it’s definitely not necessary.

    • gretchenrubin

      So true! This is particularly true, in my experience about exercise or any
      kind of creative endeavor. People think they should feel like going for a
      run or a bike ride, or feel moved with a creative spirit. Funny thing is,
      once you’re running, you feel like going for a run (often, not always!) and
      creativity flows once you’ve started working.

  • Great suggestion. The hardest part of any task is often just getting started.

    Interesting quote at the end. For me: Every day = burnout

  •  I’ve been doing this since January, and it’s amazing what I’ve completed! Great suggestion.

  • The Red Angel

    What an ironic resolution for a Happiness Project, but at the same time it is brilliant. Actually getting things (like chores, errands, projects) done instead of procrastinating really lifts the burden off of your chest and you feel ten times better afterwards. 


  • AC

    Watched this weeks resolution this morning and immediately knew what project has been nagging on me. Can’t wait to try this and reap the rewards of getting it done! Thanks.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m getting a vicarious buzz just from hearing that! good luck!

  • Totally agree with this, if you just force yourself to do a little bit sometimes you even find yourself building momentum and doing more than you expected. It also works with exercise, I find if I just make myself put my gym clothes on it gets me out the door to do some!!! I always find planning to reward myself after doing something I don’t want to do helps as well!

  • sjerik

    Ugh, no writeup just a video. I have zero patience to watch videos instead of just reading. Thanks for nothing. 🙂

    • Dtoxz

      Because watching a video takes so much longer than reading. Some people just can’t be satisfied.

      • Rain

        Harder to do when you’re at work.

      • sjerik

        +1 Dtoxz. All I wanted was a 2 sentence snippit (since that’s all this is). So here it goes: “Suffer for 15 minutes by doing unpleasant chores or tasks for only 15 minutes then cutting them off with a timer.” Ok 1 sentence.

      • RebeccaSparks

        I would really like to have a write up, or at least closed captioning on the video for the hearing impaired (or for those who, for whatever reason can’t turn the audio on). However, it’s Gretchen Rubin’s blog and she can do what she wants. I think it would be better to ask for such a thing than just saying something rude with a smiley face.

        (Sorry for posting on such an old comment).

    • Anon

      sjerik, it’s funny that you wasted the time to actually post about saving time when your comment really doesn’t matter to anyone but you. Why waste the time? Were those sentences short enough for you?

    • RonStrilaeff

      I agree, I don’t want to risk 15 minutes of my time to watch a video that may or may not tell me what “suffer for 15 minutes: means in this context. Please give me the executive brief in 25 words or less so I can decide if I’m interested enough to continue. This is not useful content, it’s a marketing ploy, I’ve been duped! 🙂

  • Dadicator

    Smart and Attractive… Man I love that Combination

  • Committing to 15 minutes makes brain sense! Here’s how:

  • Suzanne

    Yay! Thank you.

  • Caroline

    I just discovered your site, your project. Wow. This is cleaver. I’ll be back. Can’t wait to hear next weeks.

  • Thank you! Putting in my 15 now! (it will probably become an hour because I will get into it!)

  • You are so fantastic. I love this challenge. I always leave tasks “unread” in my email mailbox or on sticky note after sticky note when they are just too DAUNTING. I’m so about this 15 minutes business. 😉

  • Mile by mile, life is a trail. Inch by inch, life is a cinch! Good words to live by.

  • donna

    what a great act of generosity by Paul to let her just take the stage and stand by soaking in the sheer joy of the moment.

  • Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your blog. You have some really good posts and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an email if interested. Regards!

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