A Ten-Minute Trick for Building Long-Term Habits

How To Build a Habit in Ten Minutes Rebecca Spelman

We all have habits we want to build- working out, learning a new language, finally starting that copy of War and Peace that’s been sitting on the bookshelf for years. For me, that habit was creative writing; something I love to do and have done for a long time, but I’d fallen out of the habit and couldn’t manage to get back into it. But how do you actually build that habit? It’s easy to tell yourself you don’t have time or you’re just too busy, but my little trick puts that excuse to shame. After all, who doesn’t have ten minutes to spare?

How it works

All you need to do is set a ten-minute timer and work on your preferred habit until your time is up. Ten dedicated minutes to your habit; no distractions, no interruptions, no procrastination. Set your timer and block the world out until your time’s up. The idea here is not to throw yourself into the task, but to build up the habit of doing it every single day without feeling overwhelmed. Ten minutes is short enough that it (hopefully) won’t feel too daunting, but you’d be surprised by how much you can get done before your time is up. This way, you’re less likely to feel burnt out after a few weeks, and more likely to be up for your task when the time comes in your daily routine.

I chose to work on a short story, something that had been sitting in an unopened Word document for months. I did ten minutes a day for a month, and found that by the end of my stint, I was agitated if I missed my regular ten minute window. This agitation didn’t come from a sense of guilt that I’d skipped something “productive”; it felt more like missing the opportunity to do something fun. And isn’t that the ultimate goal with habits we want to build?

Top tips for a good ten minutes:

  • Decide in advance what you’ll do with your ten minutes; it’s very easy to procrastinate with excessive planning.
  • Be strict with what is actually involved in your habit. For me, that meant my ten minutes were used for writing only. For example, if you want to jog for ten minutes a day, make sure you’ve already warmed up before you start your timer.
  • If you notice you’re about to start procrastinating, check your timer again. Seeing that you only have three minutes left should make it easier to power through until the end.
  • If you can, do your ten minutes at the same time every day. Finding a good spot for your habit within your daily routine will really help you to stick with it.
  • Don’t go over your ten minutes until you’ve built up your habit. Sometimes you naturally want to continue when you’ve gotten into the swing of things, especially when you’re doing something new. However, keeping the timing consistent until the habit is established will mean that you’re more likely to continue long-term, and you’ll spend more time taking part in your hobby overall. Keep your long-term goals in mind!
  • If you find yourself grabbing your phone every few seconds, use the Forest app as your timer. It’ll block all non-essential apps while your timer runs, and grow a little animated tree while you work.

Does it actually work?

In my experience, yes. I went from not writing for weeks at a time to being excited to write every day. It took a bit of time to adjust to the short, concentrated bursts of writing, though. Day 1 began by fighting against procrastination and ended with fighting against the desire to keep going over my time. In the early days, I was dragging my heels when it came to setting my timer, but I always felt good when my time was up. I also found that working on something creative every day meant that ideas were coming to me much more easily than they had before. Ten minutes might not feel like much at the time, but in less than a week I had worked on a short story for an hour, which is something I hadn’t been able to say for months.

If you want to build your own habit, challenge yourself to thirty days of ten-minute stints, just like I did. If you do it, let me know how you get on in the comments!

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