How the 1-Minute Rule Can Make Your Life More Serene and Successful in 2023

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Want a clearer mind and more focus? Then always follow this dead-simple rule.

I am going to confess. December just about broke my brain. And not (thankfully) because of any major crisis or terrible trauma. Instead it was a pileup of little things. It was too many loose ends at work, errands to run, presents to buy, emails to send. It got to the point where my to-do list was just paralyzing.

Which is why I am implementing a new rule for 2023. I stumbled across it recently on the social media of author Gretchen Rubin and then scoured the web for more information. It’s called the one-minute rule, it’s dead simple, and I should have signed on to using it years ago. I am hoping it will help save my sanity this year. Maybe it will help you, too.

Quieting the Zeigarnik effect

Here’s a basic explanation of the rule from Rubin: “I must do any task that can be finished in one minute.” Right now, no excuses. And yes, everything. From filing that paper to hanging up that quote to sending that two-word email.

The idea couldn’t be simpler, but consistency is key. The one-minute rule “must be followed consistently if I want to see results. And it does take work,” Rubin emphasizes. But she also promises that the results are worth 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,” she writes.

Personally, I am focusing not so much on a cleaner house (though a girl can always dream), but a clearer brain. Psychologists have a concept called the Zeigarnik effect that explains why uncompleted tasks keep popping back into your consciousness. It turns out that our brains are wired to nag us about pending tasks and obligations. The repetitious reminders only stop when you close out a task by scheduling or completing it.

Which is why folding my socks only takes a minute, but the thought of having to fold my socks haunts me all day. (And also why I often write a to-do list, feel calmer, and then forget about it completely.) Our endless mental reminders of small undone tasks add up to big stress.

The one-minute rule, by pushing you to do more easily completed tasks more quickly, promises to silence many of these reminders, hopefully bringing greater serenity and success. That’s what I’m hoping for 2023 at least.

Good reviews from those who’ve tried it

At least one writer who gave the rule a whirl suggests the one-minute rule really might improve my sanity this year. Nina Bahadur reported on her experiment with the rule for Self, claiming the new approach not only conquered her long-standing loathing of emptying the dishwasher (no small feat), but also made her life “a million times easier.”

She writes, “I realized how harvesting the power of 60 seconds or less to hang up my jacket (or whatever) lessens the likelihood I’ll have to dedicate any serious time to the task down the line. It also frees up mental space and gives me time to focus on whatever I want, whether that’s a big work project or a very important Netflix marathon.”

That sounds pretty good to me, so I’m giving the one-minute rule a try. Maybe it could help you clear your mental clutter and get more done with less angst too.