The 20 Second Rule

Last night, I fell victim to the “20 Second Rule”. I wanted to get a story written, but I had packed up my laptop. It would’ve taken me less than a minute to get it out and set up my office for work. But I procrastinated and ended up doing nothing. But why?

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage book series, coined this phrase to describe how even a small delay, or effort, can derail us from executing on our plans. In Achor’s example, he noticed that he didn’t practice playing the guitar, something he really wanted to do, because it took a few minutes of prep time before he could begin practicing. Through a series of experiments, he found that getting his prep time below 20 seconds completely changed how often he practiced. In my case, I could’ve had my laptop going quickly, and my article written. But I delayed the action because of the short period of time to get started.

This same principle is in full play when trying to create new habits. The quicker our new action is to execute, the more likely it will be accomplished. For example, we purchased a cordless stick vacuum last year. It’s mounted on the wall inside our garage, right outside the door. I tell you for a fact, that our floors are vacuumed more often that when I had to find the upright and plug it in. It’s simple and quick to grab the vacuum and get to work. So if you’re trying to establish a new habit, remember to make it as simple as possible.

Possibly even more powerful, is when the 20 Second Rule is used in reverse. It turns out that if we place just a short delay before an unwanted behavior, it can really help stop the behavior from occurring. One of the most notable examples of this, is leaving only enough funds for anticipated expenses in a bank account linked to a debit card, and placing the rest in a savings account. Yes, we live in the days of online banking and mobile apps. Yes, money can be transferred immediately between accounts. But, many people find that the time an energy  necessary to move funds, is enough to stop them from making an unnecessary purchase.

So, if you’re trying to step into some new habits, or step away from some old ones, give the 20 Second Rule a try. I’d love to hear in stories on how it worked for you.

In my next article, on my “4 R Document Rule”, you’ll see why this story had to come first!

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

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