Working at something for 5 or 10 minutes a day still makes progress. Just set a timer and go. Give yourself a list of what you’ll do every day for 5 to 10 minutes to promote your book, clean out a room, or set up birthday cards in advance for the year.
If you find 5 to 10 minutes is not enough time, set the timer for 15 minutes. It’s tough at first. Often, you want to keep going past the time you set. But don’t. I found that most often, it doesn’t work and actually lessens productivity.
Why It Doesn’t Work
You start out with the 5, 10, or 15-minute time frame in mind. Let’s use 15 minutes, but note that many tasks will only take 5 or 10 minutes. For the first few days you set the timer and work on certain tasks and/or projects for only 15 minutes each. By the third or fourth day, you are really into one of your projects and keep going… past the 15 minutes. You may have gotten a lot done on that task and feel good about it, but working past the 15 minutes broke the pattern before your brain could make a strong neural pathway connection.
Many researchers and experts say it takes approximately 21 days to form a habit. Some of them say as many as 66 days. Of course this varies from person to person and depends upon the difficulty, severity, or length of what habit you want to form.
Non-the-less, you need to stay on task for at least 21 days to solidify small habits and form neural pathway connections.
Why It Works
There is almost always going to be something that needs to get done, whether it’s chores around the house, a story to write, a book to read, grocery shopping, or birthday cards to send. Setting up time increments gives you a place and time to start. It also gives your brain “permission to focus.”
Setting aside 2, 3, or 4 of these time frames each day can put a dent in the things that you want to do or things that need to be done. But it takes at least a few weeks to solidify the pattern.
Everything you do creates neural pathways in your brain. Some become stronger than others. I notice that when I schedule projects and tasks in 15-minute increments on a regular basis, I get a lot done!
The other day, before turning on the computer, I vacuumed the house, washed the dishes, set up a new work area, folded, and put away laundry, and all before 12 o’clock. Honestly, I didn’t even notice how early it was. I just kept going. After all of that, I showered and made lunch. By the time I looked at the clock, it was 12:43. How do I know I finished everything before 12 o’clock if I didn’t look at the clock? I know it takes me 45 minutes (give or take a few) to shower, dress, brush my teeth, and put on my make-up.
There are tasks or projects that take longer to complete and may need to be done over a period of time. Those are the things that tend to overwhelm people. But if you train your brain to be “OK” with spreading projects out over a longer period of time, it will lessen your stress.
My Long Purging Process
When I/we first started minimizing and downsizing, “many” years ago, I thought the family would just go through and get rid of things and we’d be done. However, after a few months it became clear that it was going to take a lot longer. After all, it took us over 30 years to accumulate the stuff. So I had to get it into my head that it could take several years to go through and get rid of it.
The first purge took about 3 years because we moved from a large 5-bedroom home to a small 3-bedroom home. We filled three large dumpsters and still had to get two large storage units. With adult children moving in and out, we just couldn’t get a complete handle on everything. It wasn’t until about 6 years after we started that we finally got rid of the two large storage units and were able to somewhat organize the rest in the garage. Now we are in a house about half the size of the large one and it’s fairly empty.
Reformatting your brain to allow yourself to complete tasks over a period of time is healthy.
Of course, some tasks might be near completion and can be done if you spend another 5 minutes on it. But if you have 15 minutes left to complete the task, wait until the next day. Trust me, it works. In doing this you’re training your brain to set up neural pathways to reinforce the good feeling of completing a task. Practice and follow through will make it easier to continue this pattern.
Training your brain to focus on one thing at a time uses less energy than multitasking. Multitasking forces your mind to change focus back and forth, which uses more energy. Do you ever wonder why you’re so exhausted after a day of multitasking? Using less energy equals less stress, more mind rest, and eventually, more peaceful moments. Train your brain for peace…
Do you have time blocked for specific tasks or do you just meander through your day? I’d love to know! Comment below.
©2007, 2014 Susie Glennan