The first 10 minutes
The first 10 minutes are the worst.
The cursor mocks me as it blinks on the empty screen. I struggle to find the right words. It's like my brain needs to get primed before it comes up with an insight. Without fail, this is my experience when I sit down to write my newsletter. The first 10 minutes of writing are painful. But an hour later, I'm energized and fulfilled.
Does this ever happen to you?
It happens to me all the time. Not just when I'm writing. But also when I'm running, reading, cooking, coding, cleaning—and many other activities.
The brain prefers instant gratification. Doomscrolling on Twitter takes less effort than lifting weights. Browsing the front page of Reddit provides a quicker dopamine hit than reading a book.
The problem is that instant gratification is short-lived and addicting.
It seems there's an inverse relationship:
- Activities where I struggle for the first 10 minutes end up having a positive effect on my life.
- Activities that provide instant gratification create a feedback loop of wanting more instant gratification while I struggle to avoid them.
I continue to feel tempted by social media, but I've been training to seek out those first 10 minutes of writing and reading and exercising. Because I know on the other side of those 10 minutes is a flow-state experience and a sharper mind and body. "Just 10 minutes, and I'm in the zone. I just need to get past the first 10 minutes."
I've found that my most creative work, novel insights, and rewarding experiences happen well after those first 10 minutes (usually closer to the one-hour mark).
Sometimes working smart means taking the path of least resistance. Other times it means heading into a fiery pit of discomfort for 10 minutes before you achieve your true potential.