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Life Rules, in Seconds and Minutes

3 seconds: how long it takes to decide if we find someone attractive (and it takes even less time to fall in love!).

5 seconds: How long we have to act on a good habit before our brains try to talk us out of it, according to Mel Robbin. Counting backward (5..4..3..2..1) distracts our brains from killing our healthy impulses and allows us to spring into action, according to Mel. Also, how long we have to rescue food that has fallen on the ground, according to Genghis Khan and Julia Child.

The 1-Minute Rule, courtesy of Gretchen Rubin. To get our lives under control, we should do any task that can be completed in less than 1 minute without delay. Hanging up our coats. Putting a dirty dish in the dishwasher. Putting something back in the drawer instead of on the counter. Answering an easy email. Gretchen says, "Keeping all those small, nagging tasks under control makes me more serene, less overwhelmed."

The 2-Minute Rule is James Clear's formula for starting and keeping a new habit. The rule is, when starting a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to complete. If the goal is to form a running habit, commit to laying out our running clothes each night before bed. Don't start with the overwhelming goal of meditating for 30 minutes a day; instead, shoot for 2 minutes. James says, "The point is to master the habit of showing up."

The 10-Minute Rule allows backbench members of the U.K. parliament to make their case for a new bill in a speech lasting up to 10 minutes, and can also trick our brains into being productive.

1,200 Minutes is all the time it takes to learn a new skill, which feels much more approachable than the 10,000 hours it takes to master a skill (a theory popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, which has since been debunked). Malcolm himself has said that readers misunderstood the 10,000 benchmark, which he intended as more of a metaphor than a hard and fast rule.

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