I am what you would call a side-project junky. I work a day job and then I come home to work on a passion project. However, finding time after a day job to dedicate time to work can be difficult when I also manage an ever-changing schedule.
I shared my problem with my coworker, Perry to see if he had any ideas to manage my time better. “Just three blocks of 15 minutes a day,” Perry suggested. Essentially, Perry reminded me that I don’t have to find a long period of time after work to spend on a project each day. Instead, I can find a couple small chunks of time that could be considered my “spare time” throughout the day.
I started to think of all the “spare time” that I didn’t know I had. Here was my list after a quick brainstorm:
- 15 minutes before I start the day
- 15 minutes before bedtime
- 15 minutes during a lunch break
- 15 minutes during a train ride commute
This list captured essentially an hour in my day that had been underutilized. I had no room to complain anymore about not being able to find time for what I care about – even if it’s a little here and there. Like the popular quote states, “a little goes a long way.” Each 15 minute block throughout the day adds up, and sometimes, that’s all you’ve got to work with.
Feel Gratitude For What Can Get Done
Once I started capturing the time that I didn’t know that I had throughout the day, I started feeling more accomplished. I could see a slow and steady progression of my work all while managing a hectic schedule. I started to develop more gratitude for what I could get done instead of beating myself up for not making enough progress. Even when I didn’t spend a day working through my spare time, I didn’t dwell on the lack of progress. I kept holding gratitude for when I could find the time.
Not only could I find time for my project but I started seeing other residual effects from this new technique, such as:
- I could start projects with a lower barrier to entry
- I could plan and anticipate next moves quicker
Start Projects With a Lower Barrier to Entry
The starting point is usually the hardest part of the project. I would compare starting a project to pushing a stationary car. It’s hard to push a 4,000 pound vehicle at rest but once you get it rolling, it’s easier to keep going. However, what’s keeping us stationary? It could be a number of factors, such as: procrastination, lack of confidence, information overwhelm, fear of failure, or perfectionism.
When I use the “15-Minute Technique” to start a project, I plow through any feelings that keep me stuck by just taking action. I’m able to take action because this technique lowers any high expectations of completing it within 15 minutes or staying perfect. When I only give myself 15 minutes to spend on a project, whether I spend it during my lunch break or before I drive to work in the morning, there’s a good chance that I won’t be able to complete the whole project with such a short timeframe, and it won’t look perfect. But that’s ok. In fact, that’s actually kind of the point. Lowered expectations create action because I’m not worrying about what could go wrong. I’m just doing!
Plan and Anticipate Next Moves
Working for a long period of time without a break doesn’t give my brain a rest or allow time to see the project from a new perspective. The 15-minute technique provides resting time in between each 15-minute chunk that can allow for space to reflect on the project’s progress or to anticipate and plan out my next moves. Some examples of resting time could be: a drive to work, a wait in line for coffee, or an afternoon mowing the lawn. These breaks keep my mind sharp and my time efficient.
When my coworker Perry enlightened me with the idea of working on my passion project in three chunks of 15 minutes throughout the day, I finally felt confident that I could find time to work while managing a hectic schedule. Once I convinced myself that it was possible, I found four time slots of 15 minutes that I could utilize for my goals. Not only could I accomplish more with this technique, but I noticed that I could start projects easier by lowering any roadblocks in my way, and plan my next moves in an efficient manner. Now, whenever I want to start a new project, I apply the same 15-minute technique to schedule progress little at a time.