Home Tip of the Day Use the “Tolerable Ten” Method

Use the “Tolerable Ten” Method


If you’ve been putting off a huge end-of-semester assignment because you don’t know where you’ll find the time to fit it in your busy schedule, it helps to start small. Begin working for just ten minutes on the daunting task. Almost any task,  no matter how unpleasant, or anxiety provoking, can be tolerated for a short amount of time.

When you are having difficulty sitting down to work, set yourself the small but significant goal of working for just ten minutes on the project. After you’ve fulfilled that promise to yourself, you are free to either continue working or to stop.

Further Tips for the Tolerable Ten

  1. If you haven’t been working at all, start by doing anything and stop after ten minutes. In other words, the less you’ve been doing the lower your expectations should be at first. If you put in your ten minutes, and you have succeeded. One of the main benefits of the tolerable ten is to start rebuilding your trust in yourself.
  2. If you have been working fairly consistently, try using the tolerable ten for the hardest tasks, whether starting a section of rough draft writing, or contacting the advisor you’ve been avoiding.
  3. Even on a day that is full of duties unrelated to your main academic goal, try to squeeze in a tolerable ten. Before you go to bed at night, check whether you’ve logged in ten, if not, do it then. A commitment to consistency will keep your conscious and unconscious mind connected with your project.
  4. Reward yourself, at least mentally, for completing your daily ten. Focus on process rather than product. It is not whether the words you’ve just written were brilliant, it is that you sat down and did what you said you would do. Small, concrete rewards are ideal: ten minutes with the newspaper, a phone call to a friend, a relaxing bath, a scoop of ice cream, wearing your favorite shirt, a cup of cappuccino.
  5. Precede time-sapping activities (such responding to email) with a tolerable ten.

(source: Successful Academic)

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