Twenty-Four Hour Rule

Last year, before we left New York, Jake and I were making a lot of changes in a short amount of time and there were a lot of up and downs between my leaving Teach For America and his quitting his work and our deciding to leave the city that had been our home since college. We struggled with a lot of decisions: professionally, monetarily, personally and emotionally. Some of our choices depended on other people and many of the actions required large leaps of faith. This is when we invented the twenty-four hour rule.

The rule is simple: You’re not allowed to act on a reaction within twenty-four hours of a piece of news. This generally applies to what we consider upsetting, frustrating, or other negative events. For example, let’s say your boss is being a complete jerk and pulls you into his office and lets you have it. Your first instinct might be to say “I don’t need this,” and quit on the spot. No one needs to be treated with disrespect and your boss is definitely wrong, regardless of the context. However, this doesn’t mean giving him the finger and walking out is the best reaction to that situation. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. It’s not certain.

What is certain is that in that moment, your emotions control you more than your logic does. While I’m generally in favor of making decisions with the help of our emotions, I think it’s not a good idea to make them solely based on emotions (this is probably even more true for me than it is for normal, less-emotional, people). In that moment of raging anger or huge humiliation, we tend to see dark and make harsh decisions, utter regrettable words.

Jake and I decided that if we wait twenty-four hours, it gives us enough time to cool off. We’re still emotional after a day but we’re not so emotional that we can’t involve logic in the decision-making. This way, we might explore other options like moving departments or even changing managers instead of walking away. We still have the option of coming in the next day and giving the boss the finger and quitting, of course. That option doesn’t go away. The twenty-four hour rule seems to only add choices.

We now apply it all the time. A problem at work? Wait a day and then resolve it (unless, of course there’s a major immediate repercussion and it needs to be handled immediately). Having a major disagreement with your loved one? Set up lunch for the next day to talk it over. Fighting with a friend? Call her in twenty-four hours. I am not advocating putting off a problem or burying it. I think it’s crucial to address issues and make sure they get resolved. I used to think it was crucial to resolve problems immediately. I don’t anymore.

Now, I wait twenty-four hours.

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