Fifteen Focused Minutes

I’m a little hard-headed. I’ll admit that. Sometimes I hear wisdom and it takes a while for it to penetrate my thick skull and seep down into my heart, the part of me that will actually at least try to put wisdom into practice.

I don’t know when I first heard the concept of working on a large project for fifteen focused minutes, but my guess it was in my twenties, when I had three small children and no idea how to keep up with the clutter of our household. Not that I implemented that wisdom then. Oh no. Heaven forbid I should have tried something that might have helped!

Fifteen focused minutes: the bit of wisdom I ignored for over twenty years by Anne Mateer

Fast forward through the years. Now I’m an empty-nester trying to write and to keep up with the clutter of two adults–a task I never imagined would be so difficult! But from those early years of chaos, I’ve come to a place of enjoying order in my world. Not cleanliness, mind you. I can live with dirty. But I have a hard time living with clutter, whether out in the open or behind cabinet or closet doors.

Because of that, I have an ongoing “project” in my task manager app. It’s called Home Organization. And none of the tasks have been accomplished in over a year. I knew that in 2015 that needed to change or I’d go crazy! After being reminded of this concept during an episode of The Productive Woman podcast, I decided to give it a shot. So last week I tackled my most visibly cluttered area–the desk in my laundry room (which doesn’t really function as a desk but as a catch-all for miscellaneous stuff!). I worked on clearing the top and cleaning out the drawers for fifteen focused minutes a day. Just fifteen. Had it written just like that on my to do list and had it set to repeat every day until the task was finished and I could mark it complete.

How long did it take? Five days. All done.

It meant learning to be okay with not finishing it all at once. And that was hard for me. But it feels so good to look at my desk now. And it gives me the impetus to set myself the same fifteen focused minutes a day to work on the next task listed in my Home Organization project.

At this rate, I might be finished organizing my house by summer! And to think, it only took twenty or so years to finally put this particular bit of wisdom into practice.

8 comments on “Fifteen Focused Minutes

  1. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is start a project that you KNOW you don’t have time to finish or have the desire to complete. Breaking it up in 15 minutes is a great way to “talk” yourself into it. I do this type of thing a lot and I really do like it. I have to apply it writing sometimes too. On those days when I’m just not feeling it, I can normally talk myself into writing for only 30 minutes. Often times, I’ll go over that, but on the days that I don’t, I feel good knowing that I did SOMETHING.
    I’m glad you found something that is working for you. 🙂 Now the key is to try not to fall off the wagon, but to keep applying this to your life. 😉

    • I agree! I read a book called Mini Habits which talked about that very things–giving yourself a super small goal on a project and then accomplishing at least that but usually more. I don’t do as well for small bits of writing time, but the clutter thing is working. For now. Until, as you say, I fall off the wagon! 🙂

    • You are welcome! We have to remind each other to keep going with things sometimes, don’t we? That’s the beauty of community! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. My problem is when I start a project, there are other “rabbit trail” projects that become apparent: like trying to put something away from that desk top and find the closet to be a mess too. I guess the solution is to add that closet to the to do list, too. I do like the 15 minutes idea. I think I’ll try it.

    When you are a writer, every minute away from your desk is a guilty minute. But knowing it is only 15 minutes should break that idea!

    • Yes, you have to learn to just place something in another space but not start working on that space, too! And yes, it helps to have a list of the projects you’ll eventually get to so you can remind yourself when you are looking at that cluttered closet! 🙂

  3. I have heard this too. But why is it so hard for us to implement? Makes so much sense! I guess once I start I feel the need to get it all done? Thanks for the encouragement. I think I will join you in your de-clutter journey and start my own. It has been on my to do list for a while now. But I can give it 15 minutes at a time!

    • Yes, the hardest part is fighting the urge to finish the job instead of stopping after 15 minutes. But if I keep on and finish, I realize how much time it takes and I never get to the next task! Forcing myself to keep to 15 minutes has been awesome! Hope you find it that way, too!

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