The 24-hour Rule


In the heat of the moment when you’re upset about something, it’s easy to do things that you might regret. This is a simple concept and most people realize this… but this is an important reminder to really apply discipline here. When emotions are inflamed, nobody thinks very clearly and behavior can be erratic. So, if at all possible, take a deep breath and wait as close to 24-hours as you can before responding / reacting. You’re response may be an email, a phone call or a direct confrontation with somebody – whatever it is, 9 times out of 10, it can wait. Obviously, 24 hours is a target time period because you can technically ‘sleep on it’, but the point is to take some period of time to pause and calm down before reacting (and likely doing something you might regret).

After 24-hours (or at least some period), you will have had time to calm down, think things through and, in almost every case, your response will be better, smarter and more well-received. And, you will almost certainly have fewer regrets.

The fact is that when we’re feeling emotional, we are likely not being as reasonable as we should be. The short waiting period, in addition to giving you more time to think about whatever is going on, will definitely allow time for your emotions to settle a bit. Both of these are really good things and you will have a ‘clearer head’.

Acting impetuously or rashly is almost always unproductive and often is something you’ll regret. And impetuous acts are often those that are hard to reverse.   You can inflict damage in multiple formats, hurt yourself or somebody else when behaving with a ‘hot head’.

Most recently, this has applied in my life regarding emails that I REALLY want to send to somebody. I’ve drafted emails in the ‘heat of the moment’ (when I’m upset about something somebody did, an event, something at work, whatever…) because I really wanted to ‘tell that person what I was thinking, let them know how upset I am and how wrong they are, etc. and then – WAITED TO SEND THE EMAIL right then and there. It seems odd to then wait after writing an emotional email in an emotionally tense moment, but after waiting to send it, I have ALWAYS better off. In almost all cases that I remember, after waiting ~24 hours or so, I decided NOT TO SEND the note the next day. I was obviously calmer, the anger had passed and I realized that it was best to keep my mouth shut. But, in any case, it always felt better to have written the note. It was almost therapeutic to write what I wanted to say clearly in an email when the matter was most inflamed in my mind.   In a few cases, after ‘sleeping on it’ I’ve edited the note (softening it quite a bit) and decided to send the note. Editing the note the next day was a much better decision than sending a more blunt note the previous day. In all cases, thought, I was very happy to have applied the “rule of 24” before acting.

As you get older, after accruing more experiences like this, you will certainly recognize the importance of this rule and likely have more discipline to apply this type of self-control all (or most of) the time.   But, why not apply is sooner in life? It will only help you.

The next time you get upset or angry about something, take a minute to breathe deeply and think about the rule of 24 (hours). Do you really need to respond this instant? Or can it wait? Trust me, it usually can wait. You will be thankful you applied the rule of 24.

Let me know what you think? Any good stories when you applied the rule (or didn’t)?

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