A few weeks ago I promised a friend that I’d write out a piano arrangement for her. The music was there, in my mind and my fingertips, but the task of getting it on paper loomed over me like a giant impossibility.
I felt terrible. Every week when I saw her I muttered something about maybe next week.
The song is now complete, I’m relieved, and she’s happy. And it could have all happened much sooner if I’d remembered one important tool I carry in my mental toolbox: setting a 15-minute timer.
The elephant, my friend, has been eaten, and in 15-minute increments, at that.
Are you curious why 15 is the magic number? I’d hoped you’d ask 😉
Setting a timer is manageable
When using a timer, you’ll want to set it for a short, specific amount of time. For most people, 15 minutes is manageable. It doesn’t feel like a lot of time. If you sleep between seven and eight hours per day, you’re left with roughly 990 minutes. Looking at that number, it feels like I should have all the time in the world to get stuff done. Well, I don’t know about you, but I need boundaries in order to get anything done. Setting a timer creates that manageable boundary.
Setting a timer helps you focus
Using a timer–especially for a short, specific period like 15 minutes–helps you focus. This is imperative. It’s pointless to set a timer and then just go about business as usual.
One friend tells me that when she sets the timer, she starts on a task but ends up like the mouse in the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book—she hops from one project to the next without accomplishing much of anything.
If this sounds like you, here’s what you’ll need to do: find a work area with no distractions, or shove everything off your work station except for the task at hand. Use earplugs if necessary (and if it’s safe). The timer is your safety net, so you don’t have to worry about getting caught up in the project. You’ll stop in time. Just stay focused until then.
Setting a timer shows you that you have enough time
Fifteen minutes is more time than you think. When I finally put it on my calendar to work on my piano arrangement for 15 minutes a day, I discovered that it took me just 35 minutes to jot the entire piece down. Thirty-five minutes! And this was with writing it out by hand—something I’ve never enjoyed.
How will you spend your 15 minutes?
I’m off to tackle a task I’ve been carrying over from one to-do list to the next, month after month. How about you?