The 30 minute rule


August 26, 2015 by Kenneth Fisher

In one of my first IT jobs (back in the dark ages) we had something called the thirty minute rule. Kind of catchy right? But what did it mean? Simply said, if you have made no progress on a problem for 30 minutes go find some help.

The idea is that after a certain amount of time you’ve exhausted all of your immediate resources and it’s time to get a second opinion. If 30 minutes doesn’t seem very long, well, I guess it really isn’t. This was 20 years ago and things were a bit different then. There wasn’t an internet to search (at least not in the same way), no forums, etc. Our options were books and each other. These days I generally use a 2-3 hour rule, but you can use whatever you are comfortable with.

We’ve all been there. An obnoxious problem that you just can’t solve. You can tie yourself in a knot, spend days going over and over the same pieces of information. After 2-3 hours the rule comes into force. You have to stop and force yourself to get some help. It doesn’t even have to be someone all that knowledgeable. Just someone to jog your mind a bit. Sometimes all it takes is explaining the problem to another person. The act of condensing the problem into something for someone else’s consumption can clarify it for you. If you don’t have someone else to talk to then write up your question as a forum post. Or maybe tweet a 140 character summary of the problem to the #sqlhelp hash tag.

You would be amazed at how much time I’ve saved myself over the years. Pick yourself an amount of time, make your own rule and see what you think. I’ll bet you’ll find you love it as much as I have.

9 thoughts on “The 30 minute rule

  1. davidbainbridge83 says:

    The amount of times I have had a problem I can’t get my head around started to explain it to someone else and worked out the answer myself.

  2. […] The 30 minute rule While You Have It… […]

  3. […] a week or so of dead ends I realized I was stuck. As you may know once I’m stuck I follow my 20 minute rule. Well, maybe a bit longer than 20 minutes. Basically if I’m stuck I go looking for help. So […]

  4. […] two together until someone else suggested it. So next time you find yourself stuck on a problem, and you’ve been working on it for a while with no progress, don’t be afraid to reach out for some […]

  5. […] of which have been technical, some funny, some discussions of soft topics (expertise, how to learn, when to get help that kind of […]

  6. […] Days I spent fiddling with this. Eventually, I had to stop and ask for help. Now normally I have a 30 minute rule. Where depending on the complexity of what I’m doing I go for help after a few hours tops. […]

  7. […] so many things I’d want to fix why did I have such a hard time getting started? I finally went for help. I asked my wife for help. Being the amazing person she is, she got me back on track. She told me […]

  8. […] ran into a rather obscure permissions problem the other day. Since I wasn’t able to figure it out on my own I posted for help. This wasn’t something I felt could be easily translated into #sqlhelp so I […]

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