Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Control Journal: Fifteen Minutes of Focus

You've got a control journal set up, you've got lists of tasks to get done all day, but you soon realize that you don't have the chunks of time it takes to a) scrub the entire downstairs floor, b) reorganize your bedroom, c) anything you can think of that you'd rather procrastinate than actually do. Here's how FlyLady would have you approach this.

Break your day down into fifteen minute increments and go from one task to another. When I first heard of this I immediately thought that I would never actually accomplish anything. You just can't get much done in fifteen minutes. Wrong. You can get a lot done in only five minutes if you're fully concentrating on just one task. You might not get it ALL done, but fifteen minutes of something is sure better than nothing. Those of us with children at home or other distractions can live with this system. Obviously babies and toddlers need responding to quicker than an older child, but it's easy enough to carve out fifteen or even five minutes of uninterrupted work on a particular task. You'll be amazed at what will get done. When those fifteen minutes are up, you're done. Finished. Don't worry about it again until tomorrow when you tackle another fifteen minutes worth of work on it.

Here's an example: We have an oversized attic space where school supplies, craft materials, holiday boxes and the like are stored. It suffers from stash and dash syndrome and can get out of hand. The obvious solution is to put things away immediately, but that room needed help first. I can recall going in there for extended periods of time during the summer and hating every minute. The thought of cleaning it all up in one setting wasn't getting me anywhere. Enter the five minute rule. I set a timer for five minutes because fifteen minutes in there seemed too long. I went to work knowing that I would be stopping when the bell went off. I took this approach every day, and within a few weeks, I had made a vast improvement. No overwhelming thoughts. No negative feelings towards anyone as to how it had gotten in this condition. Just five minutes of focused work.

Today I live by this rule. Fifteen minutes of school with H-Bob, fifteen minutes of picking up, fifteen mintues to check email, back to another fifteen minutes of school with Goat Princess. I tell you, it works! Quite often I will group three of the five minute tasks together for one fifteen minute chunk but the concept remains the same.

Next post I will focus on a variation on this approach that works for those tasks that you just do not want to deal with, and therefore, procrastinate on indefinitely. Yes, I know. I've been there.

Related posts:

Control Journal: Routines
What's with the FlyLady?
Control Journal: Baby Steps

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