Just a Minute!

If anyone did a digital autopsy of me, they would discover that I enjoy watching some pretty mindless stuff, mostly as part of my self care plan around daily humour (think of it as Vitamin V – as in VARIEs).  But what they would also discover is my love affair with reading articles about “efficiency” and “time management.”  One would think as a card-carrying OC, I have likely mastered both.  And yet, as a card-carrying OC, I always think it could be better!

A recent article I read spoke to something called the “one-minute rule.”  Essentially, if a task takes less than one minute, you should do it.  Think of things like hanging your coat in the closet and not over the chair.  Or other glamorous tasks such as wiping out the sink after the dishes are done.  Or, if my mother had her druthers, bringing something up the stairs if you were going up them anyway (sorry for my teen years, Mom!). For some reason, I cannot get this one-minute life “hack” out of my mind and found myself thinking this was the best- and worst- advice ever.  Let me expand. (This blog should take less than one minute, just saying…)

Prior to learning about RO DBT, my clinical training and skills emphasized helping people improve their capacity, and this often included implicit and explicit messages around being effective, making good use of time and generally being productive.  For folks who are emotionally under regulated, this makes a lot of sense.  And yet as we know, you can have “too much of a good thing” in the area of efficiency and this is where a lot of our OC clients (and therapists, wink-wink) struggle.  We don’t struggle to work; we struggle to stop working.  We don’t struggle to be effective; we are sometimes too effective (for a good read on this, see Heidi Petracco’s awesome blog). I was hanging out with a colleague years ago who asked if I had a bumper sticker explaining OC, what would it say?  Off the cuff, I said “my schedule is more important than my relationships.”  Ouch, it stung to say that out loud for two reasons.  One, it described me (and her, I later learned) and two, it did not fit with my valued-goals regarding relationships or work-life, oops, life-work balance.  Let’s take a short quiz to see if you have shared the same discrepancy:

  1. I am often irritated if plans change last minute Yes/No
  2. My to-do list is very important to me Yes/No
  3. I often believe I work harder than others Yes/No
  4. If I am feeling self conscious/anxious, I do more things, not less Yes/No
  5. I will sacrifice relationship time to be more productive Yes/No
  6. I often feel there is always something more to be done Yes/No
  7. I believe the opposite to efficient is lazy Yes/No

Ok, so the quiz is not empirically supported, and may or may not be based on my own life, so don’t go unleashing it on your clients, friends or family!  However, if we take some of the beliefs above and then throw in the one-minute rule, well, it is kind of a recipe for disaster.  I tried the one-minute rule for one day and here is the problem.  I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off in some weird competition with myself to get all one-minute tasks done.  Carry the laundry basket to the bedroom.  Check! Oh dear, while in the bedroom, see that the dresser needs a dusting.  Check! Hmm, meant to donate those t-shirts. Check! Put that bag in the trunk. Check! Take the garbage bag out of car. Check!  Book a car tune up. Check! You get the idea.  I am certain that the one-minute rule was to create more time, not less, but my OC brain can take anything and make it a “rule.”  Oh, and then I have some resentment that nobody else in my house is following the one-minute rule, I mean, idea.

The bottom line is that OC folks don’t need to get more efficient. We need to chill out.  I personally need one-minute exercises in non-efficiency! After all, there are only so many minutes we are blessed with on earth.  And wouldn’t it be wonderful if those minutes were spent living by our valued-goals and not our to-do lists? So, with that in mind, I am going to do my daily humour dose – definitely a one-minute task I can get behind! And if your algorithm has lots of dog videos in it like mine, I highly recommend Googling Cruft’s agility fails for a good belly laugh.

About the author: J. Nicole Little, PhD, RCC

Nicole is a therapist specializing in eating disorders and other conditions of overcontrol in Victoria, B.C., Canada. She is passionate about RO DBT, animal assisted therapy and creating through writing and collage.  She remains in remedial Flexible Mind VARIEs but her family loves her anyway.