20 seconds to success (or failure)

Updated: Jun 29

Got a great new idea, set a new goal for yourself, decided to eat better, exercise more, play an instrument, learn a new language? Whatever it is - it’s success or failure could be determined by a mere 20 seconds.

You’ve probably experienced this yourself. You decide to do something - lets say learn to play the guitar. You buy the books, arrange the lessons and now all you have to do is practice. Seems pretty straight forward right? Pull the guitar case from the cupboard, unpack guitar from said case, get your practice book, find your pick, and away you go. Easy peasy.

The next few times are probably the same, except one time since you are walking past the kitchen and right there is the Nespresso coffee machine - all ready to go at the push of a button - too easy. Can’t practice and drink coffee at the same time right - so you may as well sit and watch that quick doco on TV which is also right there, or read that book which is just conveniently sitting on the side table. Now… about that practice - hmmm definitely I’ll do it tomorrow.

Compare this to walking into a room and the guitar, music stand, books, everything - is already there set up and good to go. All you have to do is sit down. Notice the difference. Over time, the additional 20 seconds worth of effort is often enough to derail the noblest of intentions.

Here’s a couple of other examples and the potential 20 second delays

  • starting a healthy eating regime (having to prepare something)

  • exercising (finding your gear and getting ready)

  • studying or writing (getting your space and books / tools etc ready)

So that’s all really interesting (or not) but what do I do with this information?

The first is pretty simple - If there is an area you want to be more productive in or have trouble starting, have a look at what you need to get started and try removing whatever time barriers there may be around this. The classic example is going to sleep in your exercise gear (really only good if exercise was your goal). Think - ‘how can I make starting this activity as easy as possible?’

On the flipside the other angle is looking at non-productive habits or activities that you would like to do less of. For these try introducing 20 seconds worth of delay. Back to the snacking example - try hiding or moving these so they are less accessible and require more than a glancing effort to obtain.

Whatever it is (snacking, TV/youtube watching, online gaming, book reading) if it is getting in the way of something, look for ways to make doing those things just a little more difficult. Combine this with making the stuff you want to achieve easier and you have a two pronged attack on being consistently more personally productive.

Try it out on one or two things and let me know how you get on.

(There’s a fancy technical name for this behaviour, but it would take me at least 20 seconds to find it and that might be enough to stop my creating this post. 😃 )


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