10-Minute Rule

The 10–minute rule, as the name reflects, is a simple rule based on a time-limiting formula to give in to distractions.

This technique is popular among productivity enthusiasts to avoid distractions and increase productivity.

The Rule works because it aligns with human psychology and is based on acceptance rather than contempt of one’s vices at work, i.e., distractions.

What is it?

The 10-minute Rule was created by Nir Eyal, the renowned author of two bestselling books, Hooked and Indistractable.

He learned this practice when studying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and came up with his idea of implementing it.

The Rule asserts that you should wait for 10 minutes before submitting to an urge, i.e., distraction.

His idea proves to be successful for many, and he suggests increasing this time to 15, 20, and more minutes overtime to elongate your periods of focus at work.

Why does it work?

  • Avoids distraction
  • Increases focus
  • Aligns with human psychology
  • Helps focus on positive thoughts instead of giving in to negative emotions
  • Prevents frustration and anxiety

How does it work?

  1. Accept a distraction, not cut it out: The 10-minute Rule is not more than a monologue where you have to tell your brain that you will do something it is urging for after 10 minutes. This simple acceptance will put your brain at ease, and you will be able to focus on your work for a little longer.
  2. Win Your Internal Triggers: Checking your emails or social media, watching a movie, listening to a song, talking to a friend, etc.; these are all the external triggers that distract us and lose our focus. However, Nir says that the most discomforting triggers are internal, such as an uncomfortable emotional state. Hence, if you try to resist a temptation, your brain gets into a negative emotion of resistance, loss, and remorse. Whereas the 10-minute Rule is a simple command method that lures the brain into believing that you will do that eventually, and after 10 minutes, usually the urge is already minimized.
  3. Command Your Brain: Nir says that any urge to do something is never static. It is in waves. So when the crest passes after ten minutes, it is most likely that you will not go for that urge, or if you do, you will not linger on it for long.
  4. Plan Your Time-out: When you plan enjoyment or a distraction, it is not a waste of time, but a healthy, positive time-out is necessary for relaxation and active brain function.

10-Minute Rule in action

Savannah, a college student, was just another Gen Z girl with several social media notifications following her, hundreds of virtual friends, plenty of subscriptions and signups, and a knack for binge-watching Netflix.

Her social life was now taking a toll on her studies, and her exams were just around the corner.

In the past, she tried disconnecting from her friends on social media, put her phone on silent while studying, and even deactivated a few accounts, but it left her in resentment.

She was back to her mobile and other devices sooner than planned.

Now, growing despair and exasperation were making her feel demotivated.

Samantha made a study plan for herself and vowed to stay committed to it. As she sat down the next day on her study table, her phone started buzzing with notifications streaming in. but this time, she did not try to resist the temptation to check her phone.

She told herself that it wouldn’t harm her if she would check her phone after 10 minutes or so and she could study for ten more minutes.

After 10 minutes, she felt she needed ten more minutes to finish the questions at hand, and hence she spent 30 minutes more on her work before actually checking her phone.

This made her realize how simple acceptance of giving in later to an urge and not contempt had helped her work more than she thought.

The 10-minute Rule is all about doing something with intent, whether work or leisure, to keep your time in your control.

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