Saturday, October 11, 2014

Life-By-Numbers

I read a quick little article the other day that offers advice for obtaining happiness and a better quality of life overall.  You simply need to remember a few key numbers. 

2: Implement a "2-Minute Rule."  If you see something that needs doing and you know it will only take about 2 minutes to do it, just do it.

I can testify to the effectiveness of this rule.  I rarely have a lot of email in my inbox, my office has minimal junk-mail clutter, and my bills are paid when they arrive, not at the end of the month.  The minute I see an email that asks me a quick question, I answer it--even though, on occasion, I don't feel like it or the question might need me to (quickly) look something up.  Same with snail mail: I get it, I sort it, I toss it out.  I don't take it back to my office to "sort through later," because that's how things pile up.  Bills don't usually take that long to check and pay, so they (often) fall under a 2-Minute Rule (but not always).

5: Implement a "5-Minute Rule."  If you don't want to work on something and feel yourself poised to procrastinate indefinitely, commit to working on it for 5 minutes.

Again, this rule works for me.  I often say, "Okay, well, just start it and see what you're going to have to do later."  Or, "Make an outline and a plan, just so you have a sense of direction."  If you can commit to 5 minutes of diligent work, that 5 minutes will often turn into a longer stretch of time (often, but not always).  Sometimes, you'll realize that it's actually a task that can fall under the 2-Minute Rule.

11: If you don't have time to really exercise, just exercise for 11 minutes.  That's the minimum amount of exercise-time per day you can incorporate into your life and still see significant health benefits.

15: Cravings typically last no longer than 15 minutes.  If you crave a food you've told yourself you need to eat less of, give it 15 minutes before indulging.  Or, if it's a habit you're trying to break, commit to doing something else for 15 minutes and see what happens.  You may be able to ignore or wait out the impulse.

20: When stymied, take a 20-minute break.  If you do and then return to what you were struggling with, you may find that the answer is suddenly crystal clear.  Your brain has had time to chemically respond to the stress of the original struggle, so the problem looks intellectually "different" now.

43: This is the maximum number of minutes of daily exercise needed to reap significant health benefits.  So, if you start with 11 (the minimum), you can increase it little by little, knowing that 43 minutes is the target. 

The original July 24, 2014 blog post by Meg Selig in Psychology Today, on which my own post is based, is available here, if you're interested in further reading.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."