The magic of 15 minutes
Did you know there are 96 blocks of 15 minutes in every day? Let me tell you why you should care.
So, how’s that big project coming along? You know, the systems overhaul before the end of the year your boss is expecting? Or, maybe it’s the promise you made to yourself not to begin any kind of holiday before you finish purging all the bedroom closets and dressers.
15 minutes = excellent starting place
Are you freaking out yet? The reality is that our brains go into overload mode when faced with the idea of something so big that it can’t find an entry point. It just happens that 15 minutes is an excellent starting place. Yes, just 15 minutes.
There was a study done that asked parents to think about the amount of money they would put away over 18 years or 6,574 days, give or take depending on leap years. Which one was easier for the parents to think about? Yep, the 6,574 or so days. Even though the number is bigger, the smaller chunks of time seemed to smooth out the concept. It was easier for the parents to approach saving money with more chunks of smaller amounts of time.
5 examples of 15 minute tasks
Say a free 15-minute block in your schedule pops up. Either your client is running late or there was no traffic this morning. Think you can’t get anything done in with that surprise gift of time? Think again.
Here are five examples of 15 minute tasks and I’m sure you can think of others too. You’ll be amazed at what you can get done in such a relatively short amount of time. Now, go and get your timer.
Just start anything. Why not that aforementioned looming big project? The one you have no idea how or where to begin. Set your timer for 15 minutes, and begin thinking it through. Scratch out an outline, and you’re on your way.
Sift through a junk drawer, nightstand, car trunk, or the side area of your desk. Trash the oddball receipts, sort out the paperclips and rubber bands, get rid of the expired grocery coupons, same with the pens that don’t work, hey there’s the earring you’ve been looking for, whose tennis ball is that, and look, there’s the electric bill. By the way, if this is something that can’t be accomplished in 15 minutes, give me a call. We need to talk.
The average adult reads 250 to 300 words a minute, which equals 3,750 to 4,500 words in 15 minutes. Multiply that by 30 for an average of 112,500 or 135,000 words per month. According to Amazon, the median word count for a novel is 64,000. I’d say that’s two books for every 30-day period. And you thought you didn’t have any time to read.
Return phone calls, particularly the ones you don’t want to make
The 15-minute parameter will force you to stick to the job at hand. It is the quickly-ripping-off-the-band-aid theory. Think how much better you’ll feel in 20 minutes with those calls crossed off your list.
Power through your email inbox
A short, to the point reply is better than none, and, remember, not all emails need to be answered. They do, however, need attention. File, delete, forward, act! Unclog that inbox.
There’s no special key to these magical 15 minutes, though there are some favored tools. Mine is a timer. A timer will get you there faster than imagining 15 minutes. Setting a timer for a specific block of time gives you a sense of urgency as well as puts a stop time on the task. Once the timer goes off, make sure to move on or reset the timer for an additional specific amount of time.
I want to be clear that I’m not advocating every minute of your day be filled with doing, doing, doing. “Doing nothing” is also very important. In my book, I talk about how “doing nothing” is a misnomer if you are using it for meditating, strategic thinking, or breathing techniques. You actually are doing a ton of very important work while “doing nothing.” Never underestimate recharging and rest.
Next time you are waiting for your chronically late colleague, set your timer for 15 minutes. It’s a lot more productive than grumbling.
Photo: Flickr / koalazymonkey CC BY-ND 2.0