Use the 10-10-10 Rule to Decide How and Where to Spend Your Time

published Dec 19, 2017
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Try as we might to compartmentalize our time and be fully present in each of our life roles, in our increasingly fluid world, overlaps happen. And multi-tasking doesn’t work when you have to choose between physically being in two places at once or spending your time on one thing to the exclusion of another. When juggling career, home life, social obligations, and parenting, there’s a helpful perspective that untangles the mental turmoil of being torn in various directions and sets you, assuredly, down the road that makes “all the difference.”

It’s called the 10-10-10 Rule and, used habitually, can help create a collection of small decisions that add up to a life lived intentionally.

The premise, created by Suzy Welch, is this: Consider your decision and weigh how each of your possible choices will have an effect in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years (which really means right now, in the foreseeable future, and in the distant future).

Perceiving your options through this lens allows you to step out of the pressure of immediate demands and choose what has the most lasting positive impact on your life’s priorities. These decisions can be big or small.

Here’s how the 10-10-10 Rule helped me the other day:

We had just finished two of our children’s piano recitals and were headed to a birthday party we were going to be late for. I had an item on hold at a store near where the piano recitals had been held and ran in with my son to go pick it up. As we took our place in line, I saw a display of really decently priced cashmere sweaters — exactly what I’d been wanting to buy for my mom!

The line was long and my son was antsy about missing the pinata at the party. I vacillated. If my son missed the pinata he’d be disappointed and might remind me about how we’d spent “so long” in line. On the other hand, if I waited in line and got my item and the sweater, I wouldn’t have to go back to the store again later — and at this time of year, anything that simplifies my days is welcome.

In ten years (or, the more distant and vague future), I’d know that I got my mom the perfect gift to keep her warm and my son would almost certainly not remember the one of many pinatas he didn’t get to whack. Moreover, he’d have a mini-lesson in sacrificing a small pleasure for the good of someone else.

So I made a decision and the competing voices in my head were hushed. We waited in line, I got to cross something off my list, and we didn’t miss the pinata after all.

Of course, one rule isn’t going to solve all of life’s dilemmas. But I for one am thankful to have this tool in my mental repertoire of views that help me live, especially in the daily things, according to what’s most important.