The Thirty Minute Rule
Thirty minutes, half an hour, 1800 seconds, is not a long period of time but it can be long enough to help set you on the way to some serious life changing stuff.
Recently I found myself with a task I really didn’t want to do and I kept putting off, day after day. My task was finalizing my book, something I really needed to do. I’d done the bit I loved, the actual writing of it, but was taking almost as long to get it ready for print.
I had a deadline, which always helps, but the nature of the task meant that I couldn’t actually do it all in a mad rush the night before (something I have been known to do!) I needed to let my secretary have the pages well in advance and I needed to have checked with the printers, the cover designer, incorporate the ISBN and so on.
So I applied the thirty-minute rule. I decided that for just thirty minutes every day I would focus on getting it done. And it worked. Some days those thirty minutes seemed to last forever but I ploughed on. Other days I didn’t stop at thirty minutes and carried on for an hour or two feeling smug and virtuous! And I got it finished in time.
It’s a great rule and works for all sorts of things, however deep, or difficult, or light and trivial. Try it! We all have things we don’t like doing, which we’re frightened of, or are anxious about doing, are putting off, or that represent a developmental stretch for us.
For years, I have also used the thirty-minute rule as a way of helping people to manage the really difficult episodes in their lives, as well as a way to motivate myself to get on with both inconsequential and important things!
I first used it when working with individuals who had experienced great trauma in their lives. They would ask, how am I going to survive this? How can I go on? What will my life be like in these new circumstances?
At times of great personal change, our minds can be flooded with possibilities; we overload ourselves with possible scenarios, usually negative ones. We race ahead in our minds to the new life of which we have no experience, like managing as a single person, newly bereaved, a diagnosis of life changing illness, losing our job. It can be overwhelming.
At this point, when life feels out of control, we need to find a way to take back a little control. And we can usually exert a little control over the next thirty minutes of our time. Like driving home safely, getting food in the house, and so on. We are not in a position to make rational big decisions so don’t try. Just focus on the minutiae of life for a while; the big things are going on anyway. Plot your life thirty minutes ahead.
When you can’t see the wood for the trees, just focus on each twig on each tree in front of you; one step at a time, and eventually the path becomes clearer.
On a slightly lighter note, imagine that you are feeling stressed at work. You know you have to take a breather but your mind presents you with all the chaos and endless problems that will ensue if you so much as slacken your grip a little.
But even the most egocentric of us can’t believe that the world will fall apart if we take a thirty-minute break. So try and plan in thirty minutes of each working day when you only focus on you. That means you do have to leave the office and switch off your cell or mobile. (If you don’t know how to turn it off that’s telling you something!) Better still, turn it off and shut it in your desk drawer.
Walk away from the office; don’t look back! Walking itself is really good for you but this has to be totally your time; it doesn’t count if you are walking to a meeting as your mind will be on the meeting. In thirty minutes, you can go back, refreshed and if you can do this for a whole week you will have begun to acquire a habit—a good habit!
Try this with any task you don’t want to do or find difficult to make a start on, like weeding the garden, or reading a tedious report. Here’s a real life example.
A participant on one of my seminars recently was genuinely and seriously overwhelmed by the amount of clutter and filing in her office. She knew what she had to do but it seemed such a huge task that the prospect of ever finishing seemed unlikely, and would mean that she got behind with her real job. It was really cluttering her in every sense of the word and felt like a block on her creativity.
So she tried the thirty-minute rule. In fact, in her case we agreed that she would not do any longer than thirty minutes, even when she wanted to. This helped her make really good use of those thirty minutes and it never got too dull or boring; we all spin things out when we have all the time in the world! And within weeks she had got it under control.
Thirty Minute Dream Catching
How many dreams do you have that you haven’t actually got around to starting? Try the thirty-minute rule with your dream life. Resolve now to spend just thirty minutes a day on pursuing your dream.
For example, if you have a dream of writing a novel, or retiring to the country, break down the first steps into five simple thirty-minute tasks:
Monday: Research areas that have the ‘good places to live’ tag.
Tuesday: Sign on with an online estate agency to see what properties there are in your preferred area. You will get regular updates in your mailbox giving you an idea of what your money will buy.
Wednesday: Apply for a pension forecast to get some idea of how much income you will have on retirement.
Thursday: Make a list of all the reasons why you originally wanted to move to the country. Stop after thirty minutes. If this dream is still has relevancy for you the ideas will flow fast and furiously, and you should be able to list them in half an hour.
Friday: Review your list and cross off anything that no longer holds true. Add any new thoughts.
Each one of those thirty-minute exercises will help you focus on your goal and by taking it a twig at a time, stop it becoming overwhelming. But each thirty-minute block is taking you nearer and nearer to achieving your goal. And you’ll hardly notice that you’re doing it!
By the way, if you are a very visual person, try drawing a tree with several branches and have each of your tasks as leaves. As you complete a leaf/task you can add it to your tree and watch it grow and develop!
Your thirty minutes could be the beginning of a significant life style change!