Getting stuff done with the 20 Second Rule.

Getting stuff done with The 20 Second Rule. If it take you longer than 20 seconds to start your tasks you never seem to complete, this write-up is for you!
There are certain tasks throughout the day that I stumble over. Yet there are those things that I jump right into without barely a though.

Hmmm… why is that?!

I originally thought it was because I just enjoy doing some things more than others. Such as, it’s no effort to jump on my bike each evening, although that expends more energy than many other things I never touch.

But I’m starting to second guess that theory. And after a course session, I feel there’s more to it.

During one of my recent sessions, a musing caught me hook, line and sinker. I LOVE it when you can actually take something home and utilize it right away, know what I mean?

The mention was, The 20 Second Rule.

And it’s really very simple.

Sorting out screws by size... part of Getting stuff done with The 20 Second Rule. If it take you longer than 20 seconds to start your tasks you never seem to complete, this write-up is for you!
Say there’s a task at hand that needs attention. Or even something you just like to do.

If it takes you more than 20 seconds to start it, the chances are much higher that you’re likely not going to do it.

20 seconds to dive in? That’s not very much time!

So I broke it down to test my own ways to see if it made sense… and it did.


When I generally go to build something, it takes forever and a day to line up my tools. That’s because they are generally scattered everywhere.



But first I have to shop for the right ingredients. Let’s just eat out… it’s quicker!


Going out or attending an event

Oh goodness… I REALLY don’t have the right thing to wear to something like that. I purged months ago and never stocked up again. Everything I own has paint on it or is of the torn denim variety. And I hate clothe shopping. Recluse it is. Gulp.


Bike riding

Well let’s see now… time is a little tight as the sun is going down fast… however my water bottle is already in the fridge \ my battery charger and cord and phone/point and shoot camera are in a one-spot easy-grab \ my workout gear is hanging on a hook in my bedroom \ my running shoes are waiting by the front door. I can definitely be out the door in a red hot flash… because I am already PREPARED.


I honestly have always prepared like this after each ride without even thinking, so it’s effortless to get out there again. Who knew that this was an actual thing?

Funny how I focused on the more fun thing…

Bike storage by the front door within easy access... part of Getting stuff done with The 20 Second Rule. If it take you longer than 20 seconds to start your tasks you never seem to complete, this write-up is for you!
This is why I made room for my bike in the entry (strange, I know), so I don’t have to fight it out of junk in the way. It’s why I purchased a quality in-house tire pump that sits beside the bike. (even though I have a large compressor in the garage) And why I have an old sign with nails holding up my bike gear… right beside the bike.

I. Am. Ready. To. Roll. Anytime!

So to be fair, I put the 20 Second Rule theory to the test on a task that wasn’t very much fun at all. 

I’ve been recently trying to hack at cleaning out my garage workshop without a massive time investment spent, and focused on the worktable which really was next.

Trouble is, this wouldn’t be a quick clean. So many moving components needing sorting would take this into hours.

I actually turned around to walk away when I decided… no. That’s really not the answer. I focused a little harder on just ONE task… and that would be sorting out all. those. spilt. screws.

Forcing myself into further action before my mind wandered (to the bike trails), I ran upstairs to see what containers I had so I could sort the screws by size. NOW. Before my bike tires lost air.

I was indeed down the stairs quite possibly 20 seconds (or so) later.

Sorting out screws by size in containers... part of Getting stuff done with The 20 Second Rule. If it take you longer than 20 seconds to start your tasks you never seem to complete, this write-up is for you!

So I started sorting in plastic containers to gitter done.

I was doing it!

Sorting screws by size in mason jars... part of Getting stuff done with The 20 Second Rule. If it take you longer than 20 seconds to start your tasks you never seem to complete, this write-up is for you!
Enhanced pallet wood shelf for tool storage.. part of Getting stuff done with The 20 Second Rule. If it take you longer than 20 seconds to start your tasks you never seem to complete, this write-up is for you!
Enhanced pallet wood tool shelf HERE

Why did I even delay this?!

I know the answer. Ultimately I was waiting to purchase mason jars like those on this pallet shelf. Time to get them on my shopping list because this would have been done weeks ago if I had.

More transpired too.

The shop vac wasn’t put away from the last round (ding ding ding 20 seconds folks!) so it was easy to just flick it on to use.

I never normally do this. It’s always in pieces all over the place… <—– HMMMMMMMMMMMMM 

p.s. I’m never putting that thing away again!

A tidy pallet wood repurposed workshop space for tool storage.. part of Getting stuff done with The 20 Second Rule. If it take you longer than 20 seconds to start your tasks you never seem to complete, this write-up is for you!
Workshop tour

Not everything got cleaned up that day, but it WILL look like the above picture if I keep stabbing at this 20 Second Rule thing I think!

And now I want to build…

Soooo….. I challenge you to think of ONE thing you really want to get done, but prepare for it ahead of time. See if it actually helps!

What’s that ONE THING for you? I’d love to hear!

You can read more of my crazy little Therapy 101 tips HERE

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Categories: Inspiration, Junk Drawer, Personal
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33 thoughts on “Getting stuff done with the 20 Second Rule.

  1. Love this idea, Donna! I have some small to dos that I routinely ignore.

    I also struggle with dinner. What to make, finally deciding on something only to find I am out of one or two ingrediants, etc. This resulted in numerous weekly trips to the market. A big time waster. Recently, I started sitting down on Sunday afternoons and making a menu plan for the week, at the same time I glance through the refrigerator and pantry then make a shopping list. The bonus has been fewer trips to the market which resulted in a lower gas and food bill in addition to at least an hour or two more free time each week.

    • I am a teacher, mom, and wife and I struggled with so many decisions in a day dinner was the last thing I wanted to decide each night. So, I started having theme nights to take at least a little thinking out of the equation. Monday is pasta, Tuesday tacos, Wednesday anything, Thursday leftovers, Friday pizza, Saturday we eat out and Sunday is meat (chicken, meatloaf, hamburgers, hot dogs). There are so many options for each day. Sorry if you are vegetarian or vegan. It is just and idea to narrow down the decisions. It helps with the Sunday night planning that you mentioned.

      • Great idea to meal plan a week ahead Jen! If I plan the same day that’s generally very accomplished for me. LOL I generally only think about it when I get hungry! Not a good plan at all. I’ll try your method this weekend and see if I can’t get better at this cooking stuff!

  2. A few days ago I painted my kitchen backsplash with chalk paint until I decide what I REALLY want to do with it! I need to put some wax on it because it is getting a few places on it that I don’t want. Will get in there this morning and get ‘er done!!

  3. Often “time” is the key.

    As a homeschooling mother we heard about a “ten minute tidy” which worked well for us. Being busy all day with schoolwork and the running of a home, sometimes the house would suffer. In the midst of it all I would announce a “ten minute tidy” and we would all hustle around the house, picking up, putting away, doing a quick vac job on the floors, wiping counters, clearing surfaces. It is amazing how much can get done in ten minutes when a hustle is on. Then, no matter where we were, we went back to our regular task at hand. It was fun and rewarding. Our home was the center of our lives.

    Having purged an area, room, or house of unused items makes putting things away easy. Having your work space so well organized, with shelves and racks, a place for what you regularly use, makes your efforts fruitful. Rewarding. And will help when the creative juices begin to kick in. I love that your work area is rustic and artistic. It reflects your art. Nice.

  4. I already did my “want to get done” earlier this year. We bought heavy duty shelving for the basement. I have a LOT of Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day decorations and they were spread out all over the basement. Everything is now organized and in a container that is marked with a label. Now when I find something for a certain Holiday I can just go downstairs and put it in the correct container. It feels so good walking downstairs to be so organized. Next is my closet.

  5. You are spot on! Sometimes I find it hard to engage that idea but I am getting better at it. I am usually a very organized person but I have decided to purge all drawers, closets, all storage areas this year. I am preparing for a garage sale and set a date of later in August. Weekly, I have forced myself to tackle one corner or section of a closet; taking out what is not needed or will ever be used and pricing it and stacking it in our guest bedroom, ready to be carried to the garage. I started the process in June when we had our master bathroom re-tiled. I had to move stuff out of the way and realized we have way too much stuff! It is working…I use the stick/carrot thought process for me. I love to make cards, watercolor, craft; so, I have to clear 2-3 areas a week or otherwise I can’t play. (kind of like your bike ride). I am also learning to break down the tasks and not “have to tackle” the whole job at once. Steady progress is rewarding.
    Because I am OCD also…I write down a loose list of how to get to the end result, crossing off items as I go. That also keeps me moving in the right direction.

  6. I have a saying that fits ALL KINDS OF SITUATIONS! It is “The night before determines the morning after”. It goes along with what you are saying perfectly. Whether it’s drinking too much or overeating too much sugar or not paying bills when they come in- or decluttering, it fits!! Love your posts Donna !

  7. I have a fabulous upstairs laundry room that used to be a kitchen, (long story, old house remodel) and it is my office, sewing room, junk room, collection room etc…
    Every time I get started something has to be moved into it from another room. It gets organized into manageable chaos, and then it implodes again.

    I’m going to try the 20 second rule, starting today. Maybe be better prepared.

  8. Thanks for the article. I reminds me why I stop and start so many projects. I kept looking at baseboard in my newly renovated (former porch, then laundry room then junk room when we bought the house) purposeful Butler’s Pantry. I needs to be nailed but that would mean I need to go into my workshop and figure out which drawer I put the nailer in. I just ordered peg board hooks for my newly installed peg board and hoping that the “I can see it, I can get it done” theory will get me moving on these small tasks in 20 seconds. I enjoy reading your posts.

    • Your nailer comment made me smile Mary Beth. I haven’t known where my nail gun was for months… just found it when I cleaned up the workshop… sheeesh! Now to put it beside my undone moulding… and forget it’s there? haha

  9. Sweet Donna, one more time just what I needed to hear (read). I have trouble starting. Cooking. Organizing. Cleaning. Fun art projects. Starting is hard for me. Thanks for the insight into what’s going on in the brain! I’m going to apply this concept and get my paints out and ready so I can finish a project I have been looking at for 4 weeks :/
    Loved all the helpful comments!

  10. Hey Donna! Very helpful post! I know we went through your garage / cleanup with you a long time back…very comforting to know you are still human,and have to do some again!? Years ago I heard about the 10 minute rule….a closet..a drawer..a pantry…whatever…give ourselves 10 minutes on a task..and do it as fast as you can. See how much you can get done in 10 minutes. It is amazing! And if you want to time yourself and make yourself stop…do it. Race yourself! I was amazed…sometimes I kept on going…because I was working fast and did not second guess myself thinking. Thinking is what slows us down. But I was amazed at how much one can get done in 10 minutes,and feel really good about it. Good post..biker lady! Now you have earned biking and photo time! ???????????and we need more kitty pictures??. How are the kids doing?? Huggers..bernice

    • That is a good idea Bernice! Like you say, at the very least, even if you don’t finish, you’re plugged in to keep going. My biggest downfall is starting. I’m slowly starting to set up things in advance so I am more likely to get to them. It appears to be helping!

      You’re right… I’m overdue for a kitty post. I’ll maybe snap with my phone and see what I can come up with. They move around too quickly for my indoor sllloowwww shutter ways. haha

  11. My motivator is my kitchen timer. I set it for 15 minutes and make myself start on something I don’t want to do. When the timer goes off I can stop and do something I want to do. Usually I keep going until I’m finished. I also use it in the morning and evening to do a quick pickup around the house.

    • I LOVE the quick pickup time thing in the evenings! It really gets rid of the floor nests and makes you very intentional they are even there! Vacuuming all the floors each night (of cat hair!) makes it a vital step anyway!

  12. Oh, gosh, where to begin?? I need to clean out my office and files which have been in disarray for….well, for years, to be honest. Where to start? I guess I just have to start with ONE of the surfaces that is covered with you name it: papers, projects, trash ( not much of that), gifts, keepsakes….on and on. Or maybe I have to just take one half of one surface to begin. Hmmn, it’s worth a try. The hard part is figuring out where to put the stuff I want to clear away. I guess maybe that would be something to do before tackling the clearing job. Find or create a storage place for the various types of things that are cluttering the surfaces. Maybe categorize them first.

    Oh, boy, that sounds like a lot of work! I think I’ve just failed the test! Perhaps I should just go to bed and think about it in the morning when I’m “fresh”. Yes, I think I’ll do that. Bye for now!

  13. Hi Donna! Great idea- -the twenty second rule. Something to try also is timing a task. Need to do dishes- set timer on oven for ten minutes and see what you can accomplish. Apply to other tasks. Thanks so much for your post. It is a reminder of something I’ve done before and it works.Now to put it back in practice.

    • Oh interesting! Timing stuff tends to shut me down because I get rattled! haha Glad it works for you! Now setting a timer to remind me to do something… something I need to do more often!

  14. Donna, I don’t know what is happening in your life right now but I get the drift. I think you have all this goodness and talent. You have actually done a blog not just dreamed about it. Already way ahead of so many people. The Donna we see is not the same one you see in your “donna” mirror. I wish we could show you the one we see so that you knew how awesome we all think you are.
    Along those lines you had a post from the guy that got you started. I kept it for a long time but my old computer died and it was lost. I hope you know the one. About seeing yourself and believing in your self. Could you run it again? I would love to have it again and maybe you need to see the great advice you gave and got. Keep moving forward…no grit, no pearl. Thanks!!

    • Oh wow Sally… your words are rather mind blowing! You are incredibly kind and thanks for those gentle support pushes I need every so often!

      I still remember my friend’s every word on so many accounts and have written so many references so I’m not sure which story you are referring to. Was it the story about the online contest I was in and I was wanting to pull out so badly? (I couldn’t find that one)

      Or was it my life story? That’s at:

      Or I could write a new one… hmmm…

  15. this is a good one!

    I don’t work well in chaos…my hubby does…I don’t! I love ideas to keep motivated and to get work done, house cleaning or cooking!

    painting is not my fav…but I have a few house projects on the go! I learned how to care for my brushes so I can just paint a little at a time.

    • Oh I wish I could work through chaos! It’s like a water drain for creativity… not a good mix. Although I seem to work through pain ok. When my mom passed away, that was the week I painted my stairs that started all my DIY signmaking… who knew?!

  16. OK, I like that.

    And here is the opposite of that rule…how to know when you need to stop working on a task.

    It is this: STOP when your head pops up….

    Yes, it’s that simple. The deal is, that your mind is working unconsciously behind the task you are doing. When your mental energy starts to flag, the mind unconsciously looks up for relief.
    If you do not stop then and continue to motor on, you will start to get frustrated, make mistakes and break things.

    This I have learned after decades of experience on projects gone wrong. For me, that time segment is usually around 45 minutes. I take a quick one-minute break and then restart. No more tears.

  17. As the mother of 6 I totally get the importance of the 20 second rule!there are only so many hours in a day…I also found much time in every category of life if I took the time to put things away when I was done using them ?…
    You go girl!sounds like you are on a roll
    Totally enjoy your blog

  18. Love this post, so…. is the 20 second rule mean that I should give what’s ever task I set to do, at least 20 seconds of my time? Which will then lead me to finishing the task?? Yes???
    Thank you! You are an inspiration!

    • Hey Lori! I think the premise for this one is preparing for a task beforehand. It’s been noted that if it takes one less than 20 seconds to get to the task at hand, they will actually do it.

      ie: if you lay out your tools the night before, you are more likely to work on a DIY project if you can get to worth within 20 seconds, vs. gathering up all your supplies for 1 hour prior. The 1 hour mind set may trigger you into something easier to do instead.

      I find jumping on my bike effortless because my water bottle is already in the fridge and my bike supplies are beside my bike. I truly can be out the door in about a minute! This makes the task very inviting.

      Hope that makes sense!

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