Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Just Do It (for 5 minutes)

A cliche phrase now, but no less important. There are so many things people put off because they can't do it "right:" they don't have the newest equipment, haven't finished all of their preconceived requirements, or there's not enough time. Why do we have this notion that accomplishing something perfectly is the only justification for trying? It's helpful to take a more evolutionary mindset: start with something then improve during your next iteration.

I'm trying to start my cycling training early this year. When I get home, though, I mostly just want to sit on the couch and make up excuses as to why it's not a good idea to get on the trainer. (The rest of me wants a delicious beer.) "It's too cold outside," "I'm too tired," "Riding without hills doesn't help much anyway," I rationalize. In these cases it's helpful to use a "5 minute rule." Just do it for 5 minutes; if I'm still tired, quit. At the end of 5 minutes on the bike I realize it's not too cold, I'm feeling pretty invigorated, and am getting a great workout without hills.

You can't apply the exact 5 minute rule to everything, but the concept extends beyond exercise. Slate wrote an article about toothpaste and one sentence really jumped out at me: "How regularly and how attentively you brush matters far more than what you brush with." What he's saying is "Just do it!" Spend that 10 minutes at Safeway trying to decide what brand of toothpaste to buy and just brush your teeth everyday this week.

My buddy's personal finance site, "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," has a lot of advice about where to invest, the difference between stocks and mutual funds, and all kinds of everyday savings tips. But do you know his most important tip? "Just do it." Start saving something automatically. Do you realize later that your checking account is not earning enough interest? Evolve your saving strategy and invest in a mutual fund. But that second step is a lot easier once you got the first 5 minutes of saving out of the way.

So sit down and spend 5 minutes on your startup even if you don't think it's the "perfect idea." Put on some tennis shoes and go for a 5 minutes jog and see how you feel. Spend 5 minutes writing the first post on that blog you've been meaning to start for 3 years (hmm, or is that just me?). Once you've started you can look back and tweak your process, but get rid of those nonsense rationalizations and just start. What are you spending 5 minutes on?

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