A simple rule that (surprise) makes time and saves time for you

Updated to Habits, Productivity on January 21, 2021.

I was doing some math the other day and realized something pretty remarkable. I’ll share that discovery in just a minute, but first the problem.

If you have a list of To-Do’s longer than your minutes, you have a problem. It sounds something like this:

“As soon as I get through this project, I’ll feel more organized”, or

“If I just had one free day I could finally get caught up”, or

“Next week will be better. Then I’ll be able to get on top of this workload.”

I’ve got news for you. It ain’t gonna happen.

I know because I’ve had all those conversations and still nothing changed. If your days were packed last week, and they’re full again this week—good chance next week will be more of the same. (You can learn more about how I attack procrastination in this post.)

That’s why my somewhat-simple discovery is so important.


I always promote small wins. Get a chunk of your project done and see progress. Cross tasks off your list and enjoy a sip of dopamine. Success leads to more success, n’est-ce pas?

Success leads to more success, n’est-ce pas?

But I needed a simple way to promote this to my audiences. That’s when I discovered a simple rule (drum roll please):


I know, it’s not as exciting as the secret formula for Coke or how to lose weight by eating carrots, but bear with me—it’s a game changer. (This formula fits in with my Plan Like A Pilot time management model – read about PLAP here).

Roughly speaking, if you do some 10 minute task every work day it’s like committing a full work-week to that goal. The math is boringly simple: 10 minutes a day is 50 minutes a week which is 41 hours a year, or about one work week (you can argue about holidays and work weeks, but you get the point).

TWEET THIS: Small wins matter: 10 mins a day on a project means a full work week toward that goal in a year

That means 10 minutes every day making sales calls, coaching staff, learning Powerpoint, writing your book, stair climbing, or organizing your priorities is like investing a full week in that one result. Holy flying minutes, Batman – that’s huge!

My simple rule also works in reverse.


What if you were to shorten a meeting by 10 minutes, or spend 10 minutes less on: email, looking for files, procrastinating, or waiting in line for a coffee you don’t need. Boom! Bam! Zam! You just got one week in the bank.

You can use your new-found minutes to jump on that phone call you’ve been procrastinating about, or to do nothing. Sometimes a few minutes to put files away, review your Flight Plan, and get clear about what really matters this week is the best investment you can make.

If all you value is ‘doing’, you’re no different than the person with only a hammer who sees everything as a nail. Stop doing, be present, breath, think, and ask yourself “If this was Friday, what absolutely has to happen before the weekend?”

But, not so fast, Robin—there’s a trick to making it happen.


A routine, like checking your email every five minutes, shuffling through tasks (rather than completing a task), or procrastinating on sales calls can be ingrained and hard to change. It’s what neuroscientists call a neural pathway.

Enter a competing routine.

Your old routine (shuffling paper, reorganizing your list, checking email) wastes time, but keeps you busy. A competing routine still keeps you busy, but also moves projects forward, 10 minutes at a time.

It’s like the nail biter who keeps her hands busy when she feels the urge to nibble, or the smoker that chews gum, your competing routine gives you more of what you want.

Here’s how I use a competing routine.

What a 5 minute video where I explain the 10 minute rule and how to use it.


When I’m working from my office, there a couple of times in the day when I can easily fall off course: around 10:30AM after going strong since 5:00AM, shortly after lunch (low blood sugar and the warmth from the afternoon sun), and just before leaving to head home. Three times (at least) when I need to rely on a competing routine to stop from wasting times. (Learn about my slightly-strange morning routine in this post – Why I Joined the Morning Club.)

So, I make small wins. They’re always there on my list, I just need to pick one, do it, and before long I have momentum again. Some small wins include:

  • follow up on a keynote enquiry.
  • book a flight for an upcoming presentation.
  • send query email to media for a future article.
  • open envelopes and file mail.
  • pay a contractor on our SOS team.
  • pick image for my next blog.
  • promote 2-3 blogs that colleagues have posted.
  • check my performance dashboard on (our new favourite tool for seeing everything at a glance).

None of these take more than 10 minutes and all create progress. Like picking up a wheelbarrow – the hardest part is starting that next task and getting the first push in.




So, there you have it: a simple rule that actually saves and creates minutes. And my question is: what will you do today, and every work-day after, to make minutes in your life?

I want to know! Tell me in the comments below (I’ll write back).