Gretchen Rubin

Need a simple and effective way to get your life under control? Try the “one-minute rule.”

I’ve realized that I’ve been backsliding on my “one-minute rule.”

This is an incredibly easy, incredibly effective rule—but it must be followed consistently if I want to see results. And it does take work.

It’s very simple: I must do any task that can be finished in one minute. Hang up my coat, read a letter and toss it, fill in a form, answer an email, note down a citation, pick up my phone messages, file a paper, put a dish in the dishwasher, replenish the diaper supply by the changing table, put the magazines away…and so on.

Because the tasks are so quick, it isn’t too hard to make myself follow the rule—but it has big results. Keeping all those small, nagging tasks under control makes me more serene, less overwhelmed.

When people ask me for happiness rules or tips, I often suggest the “one-minute rule,” because it’s very easy to implement. Several people have made a point of telling me how helpful they have found it.

One friend told me that her apartment went from being a wreck to being quite tidy, without much effort on her part. Another friend said that his productivity had shot up; because he got so many little things got done quickly, he had much more time for the bigger tasks.

One nice thing about the “one-minute rule” is that I don’t have to think about priorities. When I stop to think, “Should I tidy up the playroom or pay bills?” or “Should I answer emails or run my computer back-up program?” I sometimes end up feeling that whatever I’m doing is the wrong thing.

But with the “one-minute rule,” I do anything that presents itself, right away, as long as I can do it in a minute.

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I can't resist taking the opportunity to spread the word about a great new book just published by a friend of mine: Melissa Kirsch's The Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything. It's hilarious, profound, and useful--and there aren't many books that can satisfy all of those three adjectives.

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