In this post, I’ll talk about time management.
How “The 20-Second Rule” Can Add 2 Hours of Productivity
A book that I’ve enjoyed recently is “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor. If you’ve read a lot about personal development, then you won’t find much new stuff. The real value in the book is in the extensive research and scientific proof of how people achieved happiness.
My favorite chapter was the one on productivity, called “The 20-Second Rule.”
The traditional advice on getting more done is to summon up your willpower and fight laziness. The rule flips this on its head by preaching the opposite: be doubtful of your willpower (which is limited), and harness the vastly more powerful force of laziness.
The author Shawn Achor gives the example of how he wanted to learn to play the guitar. Like with many of us, most nights he’d end up watching TV while his guitar languished in his closet.
Enter “The 20-Second Rule.” What it means is to make the bad habit take 20 seconds longer to do, and make the good habit easier to do. Thereby, our laziness is channeled into doing something positive. Re-arrange things so the path of least resistance is a productive activity.
In accordance with that, Achor took out the batteries from his remote control and hid them in a drawer exactly 20 seconds away (he actually used a stopwatch to get the timing right). Then he bought a $2 guitar stand and put his guitar right next to the couch.
Of course, the first few days he’d forgotten what he’d done and then curse when his remote didn’t work. But he’d pick up the guitar, since it was within easy reach. Soon, he was playing guitar regularly.
The thing I like about this is Achor only had to summon the willpower once: to take out the batteries. When you draw on that willpower frequently, it runs out, as anyone who’s broken a New Year’s resolution knows.
You can think of how to apply “The 20-Second Rule” to your life. Put in barriers to make the bad habits more difficult. On the flip side, look at how you can make work easier to do. An extreme example is in “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” where the main character freezes her credit card in a block of ice so she can rein in her out-of-control spending.
In my case, I want to make more videos. Setting up and taking down the equipment was a hassle, so I took over a room and let that be a permanent studio. The camera, tripod and lights just stay standing.
Another aspect was getting ready for production. I’d have to remember to do everything, like setting the white balance and making sure the microphone was fully plugged in. Small things that can ruin a video if they’re forgotten. Finally, I wrote up a pre-production checklist, so I didn’t have to think. Now I’ve created other checklists for screenwriting, editing and uploading. I can work a lot faster, since I don’t have to remember everything.
If this sounds like creating a routine, that’s exactly right. While a routine can seem restrictive, it actually doesn’t feel that way. A routine can free us from sweating the small stuff, so we can concentrate on the big things like strategy and content.