Life Hack: Tool of 10
I live with slobs. Don’t get me wrong, these are my people, my tribe, and I love them more than anything. But boy are they messy! And messes overwhelm me. To be fair, I make plenty of messes of my own. Fortunately, I’ve developed a strategy to help me master the messes, both mine and theirs. I call it the Tool of 10. The Tool of 10 is a “chunking strategy,” similar to the Power Hour or the Pomodoro technique. It involves short periods of strenuous effort, like interval training in exercise, that trick your mind into accomplishing more and approaching a state of flow.
We’ve applied this principle in our family since our children were very little, in the form of a 10-Minute-Family-Cleanup. The concept was simple: we’d set a timer for 10 minutes and everyone would go full speed until that timer beeped. No one likes a slacker when there’s work to be shared, so the sibling pressure kept everyone engaged and on track. We tried to do this at least once a day, usually in the evening before we went to bed so that we didn’t have to wake up to chaos first thing in the morning. We employed the 10-Minute-Cleanup A LOT when we learned that visitors were coming last minute. My kids hated it at first, but eventually they recognized that “many hands make light work” in a short time and that 10-Minute Cleanup was an easy and effective way to get things done.
I use the Rule of 10 for myself too. Sometimes, instead of setting a timer, I challenge myself to pick up and put away 10 things in EACH room I walk into. This turns dreaded tasks into a mind-game, a form of self-competition with my less motivated half. It’s seriously amazing how quickly I can touch 10 things and put them in their place!
This morning, it was the dishwasher. We ran it last night so when I went into the kitchen for the first time, it was clean and full. This induced some mild anxiety in my mind. I knew that if the dishwasher didn’t get unloaded, the dirty dishes would pile up and create even greater stress. With everything on my agenda for the day, I couldn’t afford any extra stress! So, I told myself I would put 10 things from the dishwasher away at a time on each trip through the kitchen, knowing that after a couple trips through, the task would be done! Ironically, after putting away my first ten items, I couldn’t stop. Maybe the task became less overwhelming or maybe it was physics (an “object in motion stays in motion”), but whatever it was, I was on a roll, and in a matter of minutes, the clean dishwasher was emptied and the dirty dishes were loaded. My work there was done (spoken like a true superhero)!
I use the Tool of 10 daily in my business. With a list of small, but important, tasks before me, I set a timer challenging myself to work on that list with vigorous effort for 10 uninterrupted minutes. I may not get all the tasks done within that time, but if I don’t, I can always carve out another 10-minute period later in the day to tackle the rest.
I also use the Tool of 10 in an inverted fashion by making a list of 10 things I want/need to get done that day. These should be small manageable and accomplishable things like unloading the dishwasher, changing the laundry, replying to specific emails, making specific calls, etc. (Can you tell I work from home?). Then I challenge myself to see how quickly I can power through that list of 10. Nothing feels better than crossing off an entire list. It’s both energizing and empowering. It gets me raring to go and I often end up moving on to tackle bigger and better things in my world. And it’s all because of a simple life hack: The Tool of 10.
Let’s face it, life is crazy 99.9 % of the time. But no matter which area of my life is churning in chaos at the moment, the Tool of 10 helps me master it by breaking things down into manageable chunks.