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Sunday, August 19, 2007

You can anything for 15 minutes

Do you have any tasks, business or personal, that you dread doing? I'll bet you do, because I have a million of them myself. The stuff that is constantly in the back of your mind (I really ought to do _____) but you procrastinate for as long as possible on doing it. Sometimes my procrastination leads to negative consequences, which leads to frustration and negative thinking.

But I've finally learned a trick to help me with these dreaded tasks: I can do anything for 15 minutes!

It's such a simple mantra, but I promise you it works. I set my trusty timer (purchased from for 15 minutes, knowing that I will stop working on that particular project when the timer goes off. There are several psychological reasons for this simple solution.

First, one of the lies I tell myself about any project is that it will take forever. (Said in a whiiiiny voice.) But the reality is, most of the time, it won't take as long as I think it will. I'm always surprised at how much I can accomplish in 15 minutes, and many times I finish the whole thing with time to spare. By setting the timer I take away the excuse that it will take forever - I'm only committing myself to 15 minutes and when that time is up I've given myself permission to stop and take a 15-minute break. Period.

Second, the hardest part of any dreaded project is getting started. I find that once I get started the project isn't quite as bad as I thought it would be, and even if I can't finish the whole thing in one 15-minute time period I see just how much can be accomplished in that amount of time. The end result is that I'm encouraged and motivated to return to the task to complete it. Many times I even turn right around and set the timer for another 15 minutes because I'm on a roll and want to finish up.

Third, I'm an efficiency minded person. And I'm also competitive. And setting the timer makes me feel like I want to beat the timer. It becomes a competition for me, where I want to see just how efficient I can be. I always feel a sense of victory if I finish up with time left on the clock and I'm motivated to keep going.

So what do you do for those really, truly ginormous tasks that you can't possibly finish in 15 minutes?? Set your timer for 5 minutes and sit down to make a list and break the big task into several smaller tasks. For instance, my craft area can get waaaay out of hand and often becomes difficult to get under control. Instead of tackling the whole thing at once I'll break the room down by sections and devote one 15-minute time period to each section.

And if 15 minutes still seems overwhelming to you, start with a 5-minute time period. Keep it simple!

For more tips on time management and on getting your house under control, visit the creator of the "you can do anything for 15 mintues" mantra at

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