Came across this post I did awhile back for an online website class. It gave me a (literally) timely reminder of the power of increments:
When I saw the ad for a workshop in Time Management I almost didn’t take it. What little time I had was already so eaten up by responsibilities that there wasn’t even a stray minute left to manage. Then I figured, what the heck—the workshop was online, so I could do things at my own pace; maybe I’d actually learn something helpful. If all else failed, I could always drop out.
Early on in the workshop I was asked to name something I really wanted to do but hadn’t been able to fit in my schedule. I was to imagine there was nothing preventing me from doing this thing, and I was not to limit my response in any way.
My “something” was writing. I used to write all the time when I was a kid; when I was older, I had a few pieces published in a small local magazine. Writing fell by the wayside as life became increasingly complicated, sometimes traumatic, and always demanding. I promised myself that “someday”, when I got everything under control, I would devote huge blocks of time to writing. But the likelihood of getting everything under control was laughably small; whenever I finally managed to get one tiny little piece of my life working right, another piece would go spectacularly to hell. I was too busy putting out fires to even think about writing.
As the workshop progressed I was asked to carve out just five minutes each day to devote to writing. Anything I managed beyond that five minutes was gravy, but those five minutes were to go to the top of my to-do list every day without fail. At first I laughed—what could I possibly accomplish in five minutes? Then I thought about the minutes I spent in the parking lot at work five mornings a week, dreading going in and bemoaning my lot in life. I got a small notebook and devoted those minutes to writing whatever popped into my head, no editing allowed.
And the words came. Slowly at first, but they quickly picked up speed. I found myself looking forward to that parking lot time and groaned when I had to stop. I spent my lunch hours writing. I carried the notebook with me everywhere in case an idea staged a surprise attack while I was cooling my heels in line at the grocery store.
I filled that first notebook, then another, and another. A storyline unfolded, characters came to life. Every evening I’d transfer what I’d written onto my computer. On weekends I’d sit down to do my “required” five minutes; three hours later there would be feline melodrama over late suppertime. Hit “save”, feed cats, back to writing.
The storyline became a book. It’s on another tab as I’m writing this piece. It’s called “Old Wolves”, it’s currently at—let me check—294 pages.
I’m already in the early stages of my next book. It’s in a notebook right at my elbow. I know I can finish it it— all I need is five minutes a day.
photo credit: tronixstuff via photopin cc
2 thoughts on “The Five-Minute Rule”
Thanks! It’s true, all those five-minute sessions really do add up.
Also, sometimes looking at The Big Picture (queue shriek of terror) is enough to trigger instant slothdom. But taking things a bit at a time not only makes whatever-it-is more manageable, it also quells my Inner Rebel because I don’t HAVE to do it for more than five minutes. And, because I don’t HAVE to, I usually end up doing a whole bunch more.