Monday, January 22, 2007

15 Minutes of Accomplishment

Assuming, well, assuming all sorts of things, today might actually be "normal". It's been a long time.

"Normal" means getting up early for coffee and prayer (check), unloading the dishwasher (check), getting The Child off to school without incident (check). So far so good.

Now what it means is getting something accomplished. There's a lot that hasn't been normal lately, with the weather changing routines and all that. This has only compounded the struggle with my own little devil, the one named "Procrastination". Here's an example of how it gets me. Say I need to pungle some bills (which I do). That usually also requires entering stuff into Quicken, possibly reconciling the checkbook, adjusting my cash flow projections...all of which take time. Usually too much time, because I procrastinate. I procrastinate even when I know there is money to pay the bills, although I know part of this is a hold-over from the days when I didn't have money and every bill paying session was accompanied by a clenched stomach, dry mouth and shaking hands. The other part of it is just that because I put it off there is always a ton to do and I feel overwhelmed so I just don't do it at all. Which means that there is even more on the pile the next time I think to tackle it.

Or take editing that liturgy book. I finished the manuscript last January. I've done very little on the editing. Because it's a big job. It's going to involve some re-writing. I don't enjoy that so much. So I put it off. And I also put it off because I think that if I can't devote a couple of hours to it then I shouldn't bother at all. Which is why the job isn't close to being completed.

I've mentioned Flylady before. I've adopted a lot of her common sense principles to good effect but one of the things I haven't heeded as much is her "15 minute" rule, to whit "You can do anything for 15 minutes". More than that, she emphasizes that once you've logged your 15 minutes, you're done. She encourages people to not stress if the whole project isn't completed right away. Which makes particular sense when you're talking about something like paperwork or ironing or some other quotidian task that's still going to be there tomorrow no matter what.

So I'm going to focus on that 15 minute thing...dedicating little chunks of time to projects that don't necessarily thrill me to the marrow but can't be ignored forever. Doing certain things every day for 15 minutes (like book-keeping) will necessarily result in having less to do over time. As for bigger projects, well, yes, the first thing my little devil voice said was, "You can't get a book done by only editing for 15 minutes a day". To which I replied, "15 minutes is a damn sight more time than I'm spending right now". What's the old do you eat a bite at a time. (Hopefully cream sauce is involved).

For additional incentive, The Neighbor and I have adopted a new ritual of sharing our daily accomplishments when we have our evening glass o' wine. Because we both have a tendency to focus on what we didn't do. This way, we celebrate what we have done, however small or insignificant it may be. And because we know we are going to be sharing it with someone else, it prods both of us to make sure we actually have something to share. Yay us.

So as long as a blizzard doesn't start or The Child isn't suddenly taken ill or The Dog doesn't run away from home, I may be able to have a "normal" day. And get something done.

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Blogger jLow opined...

I'm with you on the whole "bill clenching" thing. Due to Hubby's law enforcement pay grade and my little church mouse salary, there's a lot more month left than there is dollars when all the bills are paid. Creative accounting is my middle name.

I'm not so sure the 15 minute plan would work for me. Once I get a project started, I am driven to finish it. My OCD does not allow clutter on the desk or untied ends.

I really like your and The Neighbor's idea of talking about the things you DID accomplish over the ritual glass o' wine. What a positive note to end the day on!

January 22, 2007 10:50 AM  
Blogger greeny opined...

Here's to your normal day. And please list "quotidian" as your next word of the week!

January 22, 2007 11:33 AM  
Blogger Seattle Coffee Girl opined...

Here's a big toast to the 15 Minutes're going to have a very good day, I can tell!

Tell the Nayb I say hello when you share your evening glass o' wine and accomplishments!

January 22, 2007 11:41 AM  
Blogger Jon opined...

I love the 15 minute thing and I'm going to try it. My dear sweet Texan grandmother always used to say, "Procrastination is the thief of time." Very wise woman.

January 22, 2007 11:44 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

That's exactly why 15 minutes works for me...I can get so engrossed in one project that I don't do anything else and then I feel terrible if I have to stop before it's done, too. If I alter the expectation that everything all has to be done perfectly all the time I actually wind up getting more accomplished. Guess who edited 2 chapters of her book this morning? And I'm ok with the fact that there are more chapters to do. At least I did it!

Thanks, Greeny. Ironically, I got a call from school that The Child was complaining of a headache. I told them to give her a Tylenol and see how it goes...I'll just keep plugging away in the meantime and hope she feels better!

Knew you'd understand, SCG. And consider the hello delivered.

January 22, 2007 11:47 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Oh, and yes, Greeny...I'll try and remember to use "quotidian" next week. Grand word, that.

January 22, 2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Wise granny, indeed, Jon. She was so right.

January 22, 2007 11:50 AM  
Blogger Red7Eric opined...

I've never heard the 15-minute rule before. I like it.

I find that for me, the biggest hurdle to an unpleasant task is starting it. Once I start, I can spend two hours on it, and time just flies right by. But right before, the urge to NOT start and laze around doing nothing is great, indeed.

January 22, 2007 12:08 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

And the real trick, Red, is using a timer. I have one solely for this situation, perpetually set to 15. Once it beeps, I move on. Terribly gratifying.

January 22, 2007 12:11 PM  
Anonymous the neighbor opined...

So Nayb, as you know, I'm all over that 15 minute technique. It really does work, but the timer is essential to keep track of the 2nd 15 minutes which is always my reward time.

Time to get back to accomplishing stuff so I'll have something to report tonight...

Hi backatcha SCG!

XO nayb

January 22, 2007 12:21 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Aren't we just a pair of pips?

January 22, 2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger jp opined...

I'm confused. So let's say it takes me 20 minutes to pay the bills, but I have to stop after 15. What about the other bills?

January 22, 2007 2:10 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Well, I don't know about you but it usually takes me forever to pay bills because I leave them all to the last minute. If I do a little bit every day, including scheduling upcoming bills to be paid on line, then it stops taking 15 minutes every time. Capice?

January 22, 2007 2:15 PM  
Anonymous the neighbor opined...

JP - the deal is, you pay bills for 15 minutes, go have a glass of wine and play Spider Solitaire for 15 minutes, and then when the timer goes off, you go back to the bills and finish up. For those of us who take longer than 20 minutes to pay bills, or more than 2 or 3 15 minute sessions, lots of wine can be consumed. I consider this a bonus.

January 22, 2007 3:10 PM  
Blogger jp opined...

Ah, I get it now. Must buy more wine.

January 22, 2007 3:22 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Oh, right. Forgot about the break to play Spider Solitaire and wine part. Silly, focused girl.

January 22, 2007 3:24 PM  
Blogger Legal Alien opined...

Get to work. You can procrastinate later. ;)

January 23, 2007 3:36 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

LA: I think I once heard Ellen Degeneres say something like, "Don't put it off, procrastinate now". That's more my nature.

January 23, 2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger gina opined...

You know, I could never figure out why I hate paying the bills so much even now, but you just made me realize - it's because most of my life I didn't have the money, and I dreaded it. Hard to break that habit. That's why I pay everything online. Thank you, God, for Bill Payer at my bank. I just schedule the bills, and out they go. If I have to write the check, put it in an envelope, and mail it, it never gets done.

I should try that 15 minute thing, but I don't know... The whole accountability with the neighbor is the best strategy. Good luck!

January 23, 2007 12:43 PM  

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