The ‘Ten-Minute’ Philosophy

Jim Rohn was convinced that true life changes are driven by one’s personal philosophy. He perceived his whole life’s journey as nothing more than an outcome of his attitudes and beliefs.

This belief is a cornerstone of my philosophy too.

Mastering anything in life requires patience, perseverance and commitment. As Jim Rohn’s story shows, these traits must come from within. You need a solid personal philosophy to distill such qualities within yourself.

I KNOW that daily, sustained action brings results

I know this because I practice this rule in every area of my life. I focus daily on specific actions, committing 10 minutes to them. I track my results, and I see them blossom. I see the results every day in such diverse areas as physical fitness, finances, learning and relationships. I believe that this is a universal law, applicable to absolutely every aspect of life.

If you do something daily and you are not getting the desired results it simply means you are putting at least as much daily and sustainable effort against those results.

Let me give you a practical example. If you exercise 10 minutes a day, the same routine day by day by day, your muscles have to became stronger and your weight must drop, UNLESS you counteract your exercises by introducing more calories to your diet or by lying on the couch for the rest of the day.

The more action taken, the better the results

…up to a point. Take a look at the chart below.

The shape of the curve above is called normal distribution in probability research. In statistics, it is an almost universal truth, much like the number π is in math.

As π can be found in many equations describing the texture of the universe, normal distribution can be used to describe a multitude of measures in our world including a person’s IQ, height or weight to name a few.

According to the Central Limit Theorem, the average of a large number of random variables tends toward normal distribution. In our big and complicated world, nearly everything can represented by a huge amount of data. If you want to know more about the CLT in-depth, check out this easy-to-understand presentation.

I believe normal distribution can be also applied to describe the relationship between effort (which consumes time), and achieved results. Even the smallest amount of invested time brings results.

Real-life example

I consciously use a few minutes of my day on financial planning. My monthly finance tasks I take on – a budget summary, bill-paying, dividing my resources between different assets and so on – take me about 2 hours per month, which works out to roughly four minutes a day. Breaking it down to a daily task has driven incredible results; I save almost five times more money than I did previously!

Don’t overdo

Effort, it seems, follows The Law of Diminishing Returns. For every activity there is a “sweet spot” of effort, a point at which you extract the most value from the time spent.

There are a few explanations for this. In some cases, the point of maximum returns occurs when you reach peak efficiency or when you complete a task thoroughly.

In other instances it may be that you have a period of sustained focus and drive before “hitting a wall” and losing focus or energy. In either case, trying to continue working after you have left the “sweet spot” will result in spinning your wheels and losing efficiency.

So, why is it the Ten-Minute Philosophy? I find that 10 minutes is a nice, easy number. It can even be two minutes and you will still see results if it is two minutes of sustained, daily action (see the chart below). With two minutes of course, the results will be smaller; the compounded effect will take about 50 times longer to materialize than with 10 minutes of daily work.

Every sustained action, no matter how small, will bring results

This truth is the core of my philosophy. This approach will always triumph over the two major obstacles of any lasting change: fear of failure and giving up. Fear of failure stops you before you begin; giving up stops you some time later, but usually happens before the compounding results have become visible.

Every action brings results in the end. As long as you apply sustained energy to something, you can’t fail. You have nothing to fear. You can start working toward your goals without the burden of hesitations and doubts.

If you believe, if you know that every sustained action brings results giving up is out of the question, any incentives for resignation disappear.

Own The Ten-Minute Philosophy

Alright,” you say, “I get the theories, but how are they applicable to my life?” I concur, theorizing doesn’t drive results; what led me to embrace this philosophy wasn’t stories or the preaching of others. It was my own experience.

In order to feel, at a gut level, that this is indeed a universal law that is applicable to you, I ask you to do a quick exercise.

Take a moment to think of any successful area of your life. It can be anything – your marriage, a specific skill, a career, the fact you have never had a car accident, good grades at school, your great relationship with your parents…

The best example for this exercise will be something that you take for granted, but that other people praise you for. So, pick one and think: what makes me successful in this area? What’s the difference between me and the people who praise me for this? Chances are, they are less successful at it. What do I do that they don’t?

I bet you will find some sustained action underlying your success.

If you look, you find examples of how this philosophy has already manifested in your own life. Embrace it and you will see the way it changes your daily actions and in the effect – your life.

Give me your example

I collect 10-minute success stories. It doesn’t have to be exactly 10 minute long activity. It just must follow the logic of The Ten-Minute Philosophy: small, sustainable action which brings results. Share your story in the comments below and I’ll publish it on this blog.

15 thoughts on “The ‘Ten-Minute’ Philosophy

  1. ermmm, you set my mind thinking Michal. Come to think of it , I don’t think I can pinpoint to a specific area in my life that I can call ‘successful’. That doesn’t mean I am a failure all round though. Just that I’m half-baked in most , or three-quarters in some. The three-quater baked would be my marriage and my mlm business. I consider myself a good wife ( well reasonably, because I lack in a few major areas here too). People praise me for this from day one. I believe in making my husband the ‘no one’ in my life, after God and the Prophet. In fact one of my life philosophies is: ‘ whatever my husband says, goes’. Hence, to every decision that he makes , irrespective how illogical it seems to me ,I would take it as the rule….

  2. Hey Michal,

    I thought I’d share two “10-minute success stories”.

    1)
    When I started meditating (2-3 years ago) and power napping (1-1.5 year ago) on a daily basis for around 10 minutes, sometimes multiple times a day, I noticed a big difference. This difference manifested itself in two ways:
    1. Immediately by making me able to work in spurts of intense focus, followed by rest and recuperation.
    2. Making me able to hold my focus more consistently throughout the day. And the meditation helps me to not think about unnecessary and irrelevant stuff — things that have nothing to do with the task at hand.

    2)
    I started writing down my “daily lessons” every night since maybe 6 months ago. That takes even less than 10 minutes, usually around 5 minutes. But it’s a really good habit because it forces me to think about what I’ve learned every day. I firmly believe that if you’re able to accumulate many of these small positive habits, it’ll add up to big things.

  3. Hey Michal, great article!

    I agree 100%. I fill my day with small time frames of productivity in all the different areas of my life. The strategy benefits you in many ways.

    First, you gain discipline through daily action. Discipine is the cornerstone of any successful person and it is a must-have skill.

    Secondly, it trains your focus intensely. When working in small windows, you don’t have any choice on whether or not to focus because the time frame is so small. I found when I started with hour windows, that it was filled with distractions. Which brings me to my third point….

    Third, it builds momentum. I love the idea of the 10-minute philosophy and while you can get so much done the real power is in the momentum. Some days you’ll be swept away and accomplish so much more than a standard 10-minute session. Not only that, but you can start to expand your windows a little at a time to fill more of your day and increase your results.

    I use the strategy in almost everything I do, in practicing art, in writing, in reading. Success doesn’t have to be a full time job, it just takes daily action.

  4. I can’t really call any of these success stories.

    The reason why I got so good at the flute is because I used to play every single day. Whether it was deliberate practice or not is another story. But I made sure I played every day without fail. I’ve also just started a new habit of doing 80 push ups and 200 crunches a day. Been doing this for about a month or so and I think I’m seeing some results.

    I have one more point to add as a pianist. While it is no doubt you will improve from practising the piano daily, if not done right you will either,
    1. hurt yourself
    2. take too long to improve. By this, I mean something like training your pinky to become as strong as your index finger in order to execute. That will never happen in your lifetime.

    Hope that makes sense!

    • I agree with your disclaimers Jeremy. I think they are accordance with my remark that you get the results, if you won’t put simultaneously effort against your goal.
      Would you define ‘so good’? Practicing for 8 years you are prbably at master level, aren’t you?

      • Heh, I can’t define it! But I was sure better than anyone around me who weren’t serious enough about it to play every day! People just knew I was good and respected me for that.

        Can’t say I’m at “master” level. That’s a bit like saying I should be doing tours and auditioning for the Berlin Phil.

        By the way, I’m terrible at it now, haha.

  5. Hi Michal!

    My 10 minute (or rather, 20 minute) success story is having a task list, that I prepare every night (before going to sleep). This way I know exactly the right tasks I should be doing.

    It has made a dramatic effect in my productivity when I compare it to my previous life (living without a task list).

    If I fail to set a plan for the next day, I feel like being helpless and a bit awkward to go to sleep (which just proves that this habit is deep inside me).

    Cheers,
    Timo

  6. Pingback: Not Enough Time? Try this | Your Life Unboxed

  7. Hi Michal,

    Great site! Thank you for drawing my attention to it. You have some great resources here (especially as I’ve started writing a book).

    As for your 10 Minute philosophy, I absolutely agree. I have lost 13 kilograms in the last year by making minor changes and applying them consistently, day by day. If I lapsed on my mindset I didn’t beat myself up about it, I just started the next day off fresh and positive.

    Specifically, I knew I was retaining water and I’d always struggled to make myself drink it. So I decided that I would start every day with a 600ml bottle of water (or 2 glasses). It didn’t take long and it easily became a habit, and by starting my day hydrated it encouraged me to remain hydrated throughout the day because I knew how good it felt.

    I also knew I needed to add extra vegetables into my diet so I decided to start having vegetables at breakfast. It was a little bit strange at first but it wasn’t particularly hard. By doing so it became a habit and it added in at least 2-3 extra serves of veggies to my diet. It also meant that the amount of refined carbs (cereals and breads specifically) I ate decreased.

    Over time I made many more small easy changes, swapping seed oils for coconut oils, regular grains for whole grains, juice for water and many more. By adding/swapping things one at a time it was easy. It took hardly any extra time to do each day. And by doing it consistently over the last year, like I said, I have lost 13 kilograms and have changed my lifestyle.

    I love the philosophy of gradually changing your mindset and making good habits. I believe this is what works, this is what makes people successful. This philosophy will win over any “diet” or extreme challenge – any time.

    Keep up the great work.

    Skye

  8. I don’t have a suitable example of ten-minute philosophy as of now. I’m highly inconsistent so this post surely hits the spot.

    If I can declare one of my habits that follows the ten-minute philosophy, then that would be my action of thinking. I can’t really stop myself from thinking about something deep every day. It had shaped me into someone who’s able to synthesize experiences better but it also caused me to become a little bit bitter about my life. When I see something that no one does, it hurts on my conscience if I don’t try to do something about that ignorance. That’s why I strive to improve myself in life and focus on action – I want to help others be aware about their life and do something great out of it.

  9. As I was trying to think of a 10 minute success I’ve had, I thought of my scripture study. A few years ago I had a hard time bringing myself to even open the scriptures. I think I actually started with just one or two minutes a day. Over time it got easier and eventually increased to 10 – 15 minutes a day. I’ve now grown to love reading the scriptures. The 10 minute philosophy applied here didn’t just help me create a good habit, it also helped bring me closer to God. If I ever get busy and forget reading, even just for one day, I feel a difference. I don’t feel as peaceful, calm, or loving. I guess that’s the whole reason for establishing good habits. We gain a lot of benefit if we consistently do them each day. The cool thing is, we just start with baby steps too, such as the 10 minute philosophy. Then we can continue to build a step at a time. I had never really thought about starting new goals in 10 minute increments, but I love it! I plan to use this philosophy a lot more while establishing some other good, healthy habits in my life. Thank you Michal Stawicki!

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