The 10-Minute Hack That Makes it Much Easier to Pick Up a New Habit

The hardest part of doing most things is just starting. We often remember how challenging of a process we have ahead of ourselves, and that’s what makes it hard. I know when I was writing my book, it seemed like most of my day was spent fighting the agony of getting started. It was hard to ignore just how big of a project it was.

Thankfully, I’ve found a great hack for just this. It’s called the “10-minute hack.”

Each morning after I wake up, as soon as possible—before eating, before showering, before checking email (but not before meditating)—I pick one task, set my iPhone timer for 10 minutes, and work on that one thing non-stop.

How much work can you possibly get done within that timeframe? A surprising amount, really, but that’s not the point.

The point is, you get started.

Sometimes, 10 minutes seems like an eternity. I’m just waiting for it to end so I can eat something or go to the gym. But often—actually, most times—I don’t stop after 10 minutes. 10 minutes turns into 45 minutes, an hour, two hours of non-stop work on one project.

Benefit number one about this hack: Once you get started, the trail has been carved. The rigidity of hesitation gives way to the fluidity of being in a project. Whatever second guesses that had to be quelled to get started are knocked down by the possibilities introduced by being in motion.

This also sets a precedent for the rest of the day. Naturally, I get the urge to check email, make some tea, or scroll through Twitter. But, “I only have to do this for 10 minutes,” I tell myself. The neural pathways that have to be exercised to suppress these urges—in the prefrontal cortex—get stronger.

Which introduces benefit number two: You will feel like a total loser if you can’t work on something for 10 minutes without stopping. Anybody can do that. It’s nearly impossible to fail at this.

The combination of these two motivations is what makes it work.

If I don’t get into the flow, hey, no problem. I did my 10 minutes, and I have permission to do some other things. Maybe I’ll be in the mood to get something done later. And if I do get into the flow—fantastic!

If I’ve gotten two hours of solid work done at the beginning of the day, I feel much better throughout the day. Honestly, that’s probably more work than I would have gotten done futzing around for eight hours.

This technique can be used a number of different ways, and it doesn’t always have to be 10 minutes:

  • Want to start meditating? Set a timer for two minutes. If you can’t meditate for two minutes, being busy isn’t your only problem. If you like meditating, you’ll look forward to longer sessions.
  • Want to start stretching in the morning? Start simple. Sit on the floor and reach your toes. It’s easy because you’re sitting, but since you remember how good it feels to stretch, you just might try some more postures.
  • Starting a workout program? Pick something simple, like 30 minutes of cardio, and commit to do it every day for one week. It’s easy to not make excuses for one week, and once you realize how good you feel, you’ll want to keep going.

What are you going to 10-minute hack? Try it tomorrow and let me know how it goes on Twitter.

This article was originally published on Kadavy.net. It has been republished here with permission.

Photo of person writing in bed courtesy of lechatnoir/Getty Images.

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About Alyse Kalish

Alyse Kalish
As an Associate Editor for The SalesJobInfo, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.

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