The One-Minute Rule Crushes To-Do Lists

By on November 18, 2020

The one-minute rule, originally described by author Gretchen Rubin, is a simple maxim that can give you more free time and shorten your to-do list.

Feeling successful and competent is often a simple matter of having answered all your emails and done the dishes. It sounds a little absurd, but it’s hard to feel like Tony Stark when you’re living among your own filth – which in turn impacts your motivation and energy levels.

So the answer is simple right? Do the damn dishes!

The problem is that this is much more difficult than it sounds if you are a busy business owner or professional. It gets more tricky still if you’re also a parent.

One minute rule

This is why finding systems and strategies to stay on top of things and avoid overwhelm can be so powerful. It’s why I swear by a trick I call the “Net Profit” system. You can check that out in this older post.

It’s also why I love another, pre-existing, trick. That is: the one-minute rule.

What is the One-Minute Rule?

So, just what is the one-minute rule?

The one-minute rule is simple: any task that would take one minute or less should be completed immediately.

You’ve just finished dinner and taken your plates into the kitchen. Do you:

A) Leave them where they are and sort them out later

B) Place them straight in the dishwasher

Seeing as B takes less than one minute, that is your answer!

Any task that would take one minute or less should be completed immediately.

Likewise, the one-minute rule dictates that you should answer that nagging email that just requires a quick “okay!”

You also open your post as it arrives. You respond to texts. And you rename files on your computer that you will need to find later.

Why Is This So Powerful

The reason this is so powerful is probably obvious: by continuously completing small jobs like these on time, you prevent them from building up and becoming unmanageable.

To do list

You are never greeted by a huge pile of dirty dishes that will take 30 minutes minimum to sort through. Nor do you have to live amongst that level of clutter and untidiness that can cause a constant, nagging sense of low-level stress.

Our environment has a HUGE impact on our mood.

The one-minute rule ensures that tasks remain easy to accomplish and never build up to overwhelming levels.

Tasks remain easy to accomplish and never build up to overwhelming levels.

What’s more, is that by removing those small nagging frustrations early on, you can reduce the amount of clutter in your head.

When you have 100 things to do it gets difficult to focus on bigger projects. This can rob you of energy and leave you feeling pulled in multiple directions. Simply by crossing those smaller items off your list, you give yourself more space to focus on the bigger and tougher tasks.

See also: Upgrade Your Productivity: Top Productivity Hacks

Quite often, we find ourselves putting off tasks because they are in some way emotionally charged. This is especially true when it comes to answering emails or messages – when needing to turn down an invitation for example. (Not that many of us are getting many invitations at the time of writing!)

This emotional stress plays on our minds and only gets worse with time. So learn to tick items like this of your list as soon as they crop up, and you’ll spare yourself the headache down the line.


I’m not going to lie and claim that I’m perfect at this! I often fall off the “one minute rule” wagon. But when I am following this advice, I find that I feel generally less stressed and much more productive. By reducing the time I spend washing dishes and removing the emotional fatigue that comes from 100 unanswered emails, I’m better able to direct my time and energy towards things that matter.

Productivity One Minute Rule

Press ups and playing Sonic Mania.

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

One Comment

  1. Anne Grundy says:

    I love this idea! Definitely can see how this would help an everyday person who works a lot. I’ve been using this in my own life since your last post about this subject! I find it interesting like your other work!

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