Ever notice how starting an avoided task – is the harder than doing the task itself?
I realized something about that today. Something more concrete – and quantifiable. It dawned on me that whenever I’m prepping to do almost anything I don’t wanna do (from creating to cleaning), there’s a reason for that avoidance. It’s not just laziness. It’s the pain of exercising the muscle of change – almost like a segue window I have to slowly shimmy open and then jump through in order to flail from one life-mode into the next. But I realized, there’s also usually a time limit before I settle into the new task at hand. And I feel like it’s in the area of about ten minutes. Don’t quote me, because this isn’t a scientifically verified thing, but I have observed it in others too. The ten minute mark. It seems that’s the time I see people start to get productive at work, let their hair down after entering a party, or warm up their volleyball muscle memory enough to kick ass in a match. Is this a “thing”? I dunno. But here are a few that I’ve found definitely apply for me.
And they may just apply to you, too:
1. WRITING, ART, CREATING IN GENERAL
Much like sleep, creativity takes a bit of cracking-through the autopilot to get to that magic mode.
Every single day that I sit down to write, I think, “Oh god. This is the day. I don’t know how to ENGLISH ANYMORE.” And every single day, I remember what was once told to me when I asked a fellow writer for advice: “Just write. Don’t think about it.” Simple direction. Hard to follow when your hands are afraid to even approach the laptop keys. Yet, I start by just typing – about anything – and leaving my judgey brain outta it. What comes out initially obviously reads like my stream-of-consciousness knocked up a Dick & Jane book and I’m the surrogate mother delivering their uninspired love child through my fingertips.
But within a sixth of an hour, I’m linking up Nietzsche and Jesus quotes.
This section will be skipped by non-meditators.
Ever wonder why?
Because doing nothing is hard as shit. When your brain is going a million miles a second, pressing the brakes is painful, and stopping the whole car feels like you’ll go careening out the windshield. You’re not wrong. That’s why it takes a good ten minutes to get calm enough to sort out your thoughts and tension. You close your eyes. You breathe deep. You feel where you’re tensing up (shoulders, neck, and jaw usually for me). You actively contract those tense areas as you inhale – then breathe out and totally relax them. Calming your tense bits of body is the only way to get tranquil enough to breathe calmly (and thus be calm enough to meditate). Nobody sits down from a state of crazy and opens up some multi-dimensional third eye right after closing the two ones sitting on their face. This is why people say “meditate for 20 minutes”. You’re not, really. Half of it is getting relaxed enough to meditate. The other half is the actual meditating. Or, as it applies to what I’m trying to say here: Ten minutes to get calm. Ten minutes to be calm.
See a pattern?
I hate yoga – when I first roll out my mat.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. There’s nothing I want to do less to this pain filled, tight muscled frame, twisted with misery first thing every morning than stretch into these goddamned sun salutations. I don’t wanna move. And I don’t wanna breathe deeply. I want what I want – immediate relief from this pain. About ten minutes in, when I’m on my fourth or fifth downward dog and I’ve just heard my hip and shoulder pop back into place, I’m starting to remember why I love yoga. By the time I roll back up my mat, I’m a superhero, ready to eff life in the face. It’s much like meditating, but harder (espesh if you’ve got an injury).
And, as ever, that makes it more validating on the other side.
I also hate running – when I first hit the trail.
(There are exactly zero better metaphors for surviving the ten minute mark of my run than this gif)
That’d probably be more of a surprise than me hating yoga at the outset – me hating anything about running.
But yes. Every time I go, my first thought’s “Oh shit. I ain’t going any further than 20 minutes today.” And sometimes (infrequently) that’s not a lie. But on days my inner hippie can bust through my brain’s door like Kramer and say, “Naah man… just be present… Just breathe deep, and-…” Well, those are the days I usually end up just enjoying it, blazing through that ten minutes (and the trail), and above all – loving running more than anything else in the world by the time I’m heading back. For me, I use landmarks – every time, without fail, I know that reaching a certain signpost means I’ve been going for roughly ten minutes. And – nearly every time – I always feel significantly better by the time I get to that point. That’s when I don’t wanna quit anymore. As for you non-naturey gym-rats (who also don’t like to clock-watch), a good playlist sometimes helps serve as a gauge (i.e. three to four songs into your playlist should be around ten minutes).
Sure, my dudes. You’d be good to go in five, but…
If you build up… she will come. Patience is a virtue. Do unto others and all that.
Pretty self-explanatory, really.
(*Note, gentlemen, ten minutes is not a climax maximum time limit…)
6. TRYING TO GET INTO A SHOW/MOVIE
I don’t watch T.V. often, but when I do…
…I’m bored most of the time.
So, I’ve noticed – if I’m watching a film, ten minutes is just about the time I make my decision to either abandon ship or go down with my own drowning brain. By then, I’m either vexed by bad acting, cliché direction it seems to be headed, or “meh” level cinematography or soundtrack. It’s just enough time to see if this is going to be another 90 minute gag reel of Hollywood’s terrible, repetitive, thrashing brain cunnilingus – or more of an entertainment 69 where I can get involved too. Something like “Eternal Sunshine” or “Upstream Color” – where, sure, I’m entertained. But I’m engaged 100% too – 16% of an hour into it.
As for shows: sometimes, I’ll give in and waste my time on a series because a friend’s suggested it.
Sometimes this is a mistake. Sometimes it’s wonderful. For example, the most optimal of these tend to be smart cartoons because it’s a perfectly artistic way for the creators to say what they wanna say without it being too taboo. While “Family Guy” certainly fits in there, I’ve grown weary of it after too many seasons. New faves are those like Adventuretime and another most recent favorite – the 90’s cartoon series of Batman (timeless not only because it’s iconic, but because historically-recurring themes like terrorism, corruption, corporations, scandals, etc. are built into it). These are easier because they’re succinct without sacrificing quality. The “ten minute” equivalent to watching a show, I would say, would be the three episode mark. That’s just enough time to get a little character development under your belt and see if they’re saying anything interesting about the world that you can take away.
7. GETTING INTO A BOOK
Granted, some authors are great at grabbing your attention stat. The book I’m reading right now is like that – a sniper recounting his first and only time having to kill a woman (a suicide bomber about to kill herself, her child, and the sniper’s buddies who were there). Intense! Didn’t even need two minutes to get into that one, and the rest of the autobio’s been like that too. However, if I made that my rule for all the books I’ve read, then my library would be about as full as the cast of Jersey Shore’s (I haven’t fact checked but they had no library in their house, right? No one built that in as a sarcastic touch?) Thus, ten minutes (or 50 to 100 pages in, depending on how dry it is) has proven to be a good way of sifting through the muddier stuff to get the flakes of gold. If you haven’t gotten a head wettie by that point, I say, put it down. Unless it’s mandatory reading. Or you’re trying to impress someone by finishing Ulysses so you can brag about it. Which literally everyone who’s ever read Ulysses will do. In fact, I bet it’ll come up the first time you meet them.
In far fewer than ten minutes.
8. SOCIALIZING/MAKING CONVERSATION
This is especially good for the socially anxious to remember. I watched a psychology documentary a month or two ago on socializing, and how our brains have to totally shift network-gears when we’re meeting or being around new or we-don’t-see-eachother-often people. Much like everything else on this list, that means it takes time for you to acclimate and your body’s physiology to get used to being around new peeps when you’re mingling. Much like diving into the water, the best thing is to just let yourself feel weird, insecure, or nervous. The trick is to not attach to those feelings. Instead, spend the next ten minutes asking people about what they’re working on for work or a hobby or follow up on what you already know about them. Even if you’re not interested. If your focus is off you, those insecure feelings will start to fade away slowly until… Boom. It’s been ten minutes, suddenly self-awareness resumes, and you realize you’re in a crowded room with at least one other person who A.) likes you for acting interested, and B.) might suddenly have become genuinely interesting (even if only because they like you. For acting interested).
Protip: this works best if you’re not holding your cellphone.
Finally, a concession:
The only thing I’ve found this fails to apply to (so far) is… eating. Don’t commit to a nasty snack. Life’s too short for horrible boredom induced tongue punishment and your meal almost never improves as you go along. (Unless you’re in need of a really thorough detox because you eat too much processed crap and dairy and it’s ruined your taste buds). So, yeah, with that, I say: Lust at first bite, or bust.
Other than that, I say: give stuff time – but don’t time yourself while you do.
Just don’t call it quits before ten minutes in.