The One Percent Challenge

Do you have a skill you’d like to learn but feel that you don’t have enough time to do so?  Maybe a hobby or activity you want to pick up but are not sure when you can fit it all in?  Can’t seem to make time for self improvement?

If this sounds familiar I’d like you to take the One Percent Challenge.

Solve for X:

24hrs = 100%
15min     X

Through the power of logic and math we see that fifteen minutes is equal to exactly one percent of each twenty-four hour period.

The challenge therefore is to dedicate yourself to the new skill you wish to learn for just one percent of your day; a small investment of time that can be performed at almost any point.  It is a tiny chunk that is just the right size to fit into any of your daily transitions; in the car, during lunch break, at coffee time, right when you wake up, before bed.

Think that this isn’t enough time to complete anything substantial?  Let’s go back to the math.

Compound Interest

15min / day x 7 days = 1hr 45min / week

15min / day x 30 days = 7hrs 30min / month

15min / day x 365 days = 91hrs 15min / year

And if considered in the context of 8hr working days, this means that over the course of a year you will have spent over 11 x 8hr days working on this new skill!  That is almost a two week vacation dedicated to learning just one thing.

Now tell me you can’t learn something substantial in that time.

Leverage for Success

In order for this to work you need two things: consistency and focus.  Consistency in that you’ve got to punch the time, every day.  And focus for those fifteen minutes on the task and only on the task.

Ideally, you will associate a behavioral trigger to this practice.  This way you will develop the daily habit and doing it will become automatic.  Like any important task it is best if performed in the morning so that it gets done even when the day gets away from you.  But if you already have a strong morning routine then you can choose anytime.  Perhaps pouring your morning cup of coffee cues your practice, or brushing your teeth at night.  You could set an alarm for noon and do it then, just before lunch.  The important thing is to choose a time and then repeat the short routine daily.

Setting a timer can also help to keep you motivated and on task.  Similar to the Pomodoro technique, by placing a time constraint on your project it trains you to work with focus during the time that you do have.

Choosing Habits

So what are you going to do inside of your fifteen minutes?

Anything you want!  While the best advice is probably to learn something marketable, such as a coding language, or proficiency in Sigma 6 practices, you should only go down that road if it inspires you.

Personally, I feel that you should focus on something that you’ve always wanted to do.  Something that doesn’t necessarily provide any external value, but has inspired you since you were a kid and gives you joy.  Drawing, or playing an instrument, or doing yoyo tricks.  You need to really want to do this every day or you’ll stop coming back to it.

Of course some habits are better than others.  Linchpin habits are so named because they provide a disproportionate amount of value to the rest of your day, and make other things easier.  Developing a fifteen minute daily meditation practice is a great example of this.  By taking some time to slow down and train your mind to focus you should begin to see a spillover effect to the rest of your work.

Whatever you choose, keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Portability – you should be able to do this anywhere, not just in your regular environment.  On a plane, in the middle of the ocean, on the top of a mountain.  During your workday or while on vacation.  You might need your laptop, or a pad and pen, but you need it with you always.
  • Make it easy – whatever you choose it needs to be easy to start and easy to stop.   You shouldn’t need any significant setup time.  Grab and go.

Pick Something and Stick With It

To realize the full potential of this you need to stick with it.  Choose something, then commit to doing it for a full year.  That is enough time to both get in the groove and gain proficiency at this new skill.  The power of this practice is the consistency over time.  You need to come to the table daily, and commit to improving just the tiniest bit each time.

Choose something that you enjoy so that you are motivated to keep doing it every day.  Get yourself a little day-timer and mark an X on the calendar each day when you finish.  Over time those X’s will build into a chain that will motivate and keep you accountable.

Pick a goal, stick with it for a year, reap the rewards.

What will you do with your daily practice?


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