Cupids Health

The One-Minute Struggle | Psychology Today


Fernando Prado, Pixabay, Public Domain

Source: Fernando Prado, Pixabay, Public Domain

The one-minute struggle is a tactic that my clients and I find helpful in time-management and reducing procrastination.

I’ve briefly written about it previously, but yesterday, a client asked me questions about it. Here are my answers to the questions most likely to be germane to you.

But first, what is the one-minute struggle?  When we’re working on a task, we often reach a roadblock. Perhaps it’s when we’re first starting and don’t know how to proceed. Or it could be somewhere along the way. It’s tempting to give up prematurely or to keep struggling until we knock down that roadblock. Of course, every situation is different but it’s helpful to go through life with rules of thumb. My clients and I have found it useful to struggle against a roadblock for only about one minute. If they’ve made progress, they keep at it. If not, they consciously decide whether:

  • to keep going anyway
  • to ask for help
  • to come back to it later with fresh eyes
  • or that the task could be adequately done without knocking down the roadblock.

By limiting your struggle, it’s more likely you’ll get the task done expeditiously and with less pain. That’s valuable not only in itself but, in the future, reduce your tendency to procrastinate Why? We tend to procrastinate unpleasant tasks. So, if we use the one-minute struggle to make tasks more pleasant, we’re less likely to procrastinate.

My client said, “But if I can’t solve it in a minute, while I’m working on the task and even afterward, I’ll be worrying that I haven’t knocked down that roadblock.” My response is that having the stuck-point roll around in your brain while you’re continuing forward is generally wiser than sitting there continuing to struggle with it.

She then asked, “But won’t the one-minute struggle too-often lead to poor-quality work?” True, it increases that possibility, but usually it will be an acceptably modest decrement. Sure, if you spend lots of time struggling over a roadblock, you’ll come up with a better product. But if we spend much much more time on Task A, we’re not spending time on Tasks, B, C, and D, let alone on having fun. What counts is your net productivity and pleasure, and the one-minute-struggle tends to optimize that.

Again, the one-minute struggle is not a rule but a rule of thumb. Consider using it as the default but adapting or dropping it as your situation requires.

It’s comforting to know that when you reach a roadblock, the one-minute struggle offers a potential way to reduce struggling while being effective. In addition, it can help prevent procrastination on that task and future ones.

I read this aloud on YouTube.



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