Blog Short #154: An Easy Strategy to Bypass Resistance and Get Stuff Done
Photo by Devenorr, Courtesy of iStock Photo
I have all kinds of little tricks to outwit my resistance to working on goals, especially researching and writing. So, I’m always looking for new things to try, and this week, I found one I want to pass on to you. You might already use it, but if not, you might like to try it.
I got it from Jon Acuff in his new book All It Takes is a Goal. I have to say I wasn’t thrilled about reading another book about goals because goals aren’t the problem for me, but doing the work consistently is. But I like Jon Acuff and have read all his books, so why not? And the book was great!
The strategy’s simple. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and am surprised at how well it works. So, let’s start with a description.
The “15-Minute Strategy”
Can you guess by the title what it is? Probably so.
In short, it’s using any 15-minute (or more) stretch of time that presents itself to you over the day.
For example, if you’re baking something in the oven, snatch 15 minutes while waiting for it to be done and do something productive. It could be writing, doing a couple of Yoga stretches, lifting a few weights, or reading a chapter in a book. It could be anything!
What about while sitting at the mechanic’s waiting for your oil to be changed?
Or hanging out after dinner before getting into your nightly routine.
Or waiting for a meeting to start.
Use just 15 minutes to do something that moves you toward your goals.
Most of us are pretty good at multi-tasking already and use those extra minutes to do other household chores, but likely, you also use them to check social media or watch YouTube.
By using short pockets of time like this to do something focused on one of your goals, you’ll move yourself closer to it.
Jon Acuff said he wrote his new book in fifteen-, thirty-, and sixty-minute segments. The whole thing! That’s rather amazing!
Why This Works
This strategy works because it doesn’t alert your resistance radar. When you know you’re only going to spend fifteen minutes on something, you don’t have much resistance to doing it. It’s so short you’ll barely notice the time, and even if the task is something you usually procrastinate on, you won’t mind working at it when you put limitations on the time you’ll spend doing it.
That’s the first reason it works. The second is that it gets you started. You don’t finish, but you begin. And starting almost always creates momentum. It gets you over that hump of dread and generates a little energy. You might say to yourself, “That wasn’t so bad. I don’t mind doing that again.” And likely you will because of the restrictions around the time.
What often happens is that once you’ve started, you don’t want to quit and spend more time on the task than you’d intended to. Even so, you don’t have to! It’s that escape door that makes this work.
A third reason it works is that even if you’re very busy, there are always those strange pockets of time when you’re waiting for something. Waiting for a meeting to start or waiting for another person to arrive and or get ready to go. You might be sitting in your car waiting for someone you’re picking up, and you could listen to a podcast or a book on tape.
I’m not saying you should be busy every moment and not have downtime. Absolutely, you need downtime! We all do and should schedule it to be sure we get it.
But there is a certain amount of wasted or waiting time that you could use for goal-related tasks and feel better for it.
It Adds Up
Let’s do some calculations.
If you completed five 15-minute sessions weekly, that would amount to 75 minutes per week. If you did that for 52 weeks, that would add up to 3,900 minutes, which, when divided by 60, comes out to 65. That means you would have completed 65 hours of work just doing that small amount every week. If you double that, you have 130 hours.
That might not seem like all that much, but this is time you normally wouldn’t be aware of because you waste it. It’s time that can bring you closer to your goals and increase your momentum.
In the examples Jon Acuff provided in his book, some people used 20-minute segments and some 30. Still, many stuck to fifteen and did a fair amount of them as they found more and more opportunities every day they’d never noticed were available.
One woman finished her online degree by listening to audio from a video or her textbooks being read aloud while waiting in the car rider pickup line for her kids at school.
Another made use of microwave time to exercise.
And another used waiting time for Zoom meetings to start to work on small tasks.
These are great examples, and when you begin using this strategy, you find all kinds of little pockets of time to do your work and get better at scaling what things will fit nicely in these spaces. It’s fun to see what you can do!
What can you do in fifteen minutes?
I’ve already given you some ideas based on the examples, but here’s a longer list to provide you with more ideas. You can add your own to it.
- Lift weights, do pushups, or run-in-place
- Writing or editing of any kind – blog, article, book, journal
- Compose an important email
- Organize your to-do list
- Enter data
- Listen to a short podcast
- Watch a school or job-related video
- Make an important phone call
- Post work-related material on social media
- Record a short lesson if you’re teaching or creating courses
- Brainstorm ideas to solve a problem
- Review your expenses for the week
- Fill in your calendar
- Clean off your desk
- Walk outside to clear your head
- Work on any project you have going
- Clean off your desktop
- Organize your Dropbox
- Schedule appointments
- Conduct a short meeting
- Study or practice a new skill
- Update your resume
- Work on a job application
- Clean out your email box
This list is not exhaustive, and some of these activities might take longer than 15 minutes, but you could still start something and finish it later if that’s the case. You can do many of them successfully in fifteen minutes or stretch them out to within thirty minutes.
It doesn’t matter what you choose, but rather to make use of wasted time on something that will move you toward your goals and that you might resist doing if you think you need to do it for a long time.
You already know that it’s helpful to break big tasks down into smaller ones to reduce getting overwhelmed, but using small time segments breaks it all down even more.
Using time as a measure instead of task completion is immediately soothing because you see the beginning and end and can imagine getting through that quickly.
Time segments also help you get quite good at knowing exactly how much time various tasks will take or how much you can get done on a specific task in a particular time frame.
For example, I know generally how many words I can write in fifteen minutes. Having that kind of information at your fingertips makes you much more efficient.
That wraps it up for today.
Next week, we’ll return to something more psychologically oriented, but for today, I wanted to share my new find, and I hope you’ll try it and find it helpful.
Have a great week!
All my best,
Acuff, J. (2023). All It Takes Is a Goal: The 3-Step Plan to Ditch Regret and Tap Into Your Massive Potential. Baker Books.