The 15 Minutes Secret of My Success

It’s one of those evenings again. I have some free time, and was excited about catching up with chores around the house. As I glanced around at my surroundings, that familiar sinking feeling came back. Just looking at the piles of dirty dishes in the sink had sucked all of the energy out of me. “What’s the use? The clutter is never going away.” I felt defeated even before I began.

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I knew it was my perfectionist tendency rearing its ugly head again. If I didn’t see a path through a problem, I  felt like giving up. “Why bother starting if it’ll just end in failure?” so I thought.  There are so many logic leaps in this kind of faulty thinking. Nevertheless, that was my train of thought for many years. Now, I no longer feel powerless when I’m in that mindset. I learned a great tool that helped me move forward when I felt emotionally stuck. I call it “The 15 minutes breakthrough.”

The concept is really simple. It asserts that we can do anything for at least 15 minutes no matter how odious and frustrating the project is. So, for anything, big or small, just spend 15 minutes on it. Simple and straightforward, right? Yep, that’s it. This simple rule changed my life, or at least the way I think.

For me, my biggest challenge is never about my ability to do something.  My biggest challenge is the dread I feel before even starting the process.  As a result, I either feel defeated before I begin, or I drag things out to the last minute. And this problem snowballs as I get older because the consequences become more severe.  Late bills incurs penalty charges.  Neglected paperwork and laundry pile up very quickly. When I learned this 15 minute rule, it changed my perspective.

The lady who taught me about this was right. When I think about only spending 15 minutes on these hated chores, suddenly, I don’t feel so defeated anymore. What’s 15 minutes anyways?  Now, instead of trying to avoid the problem or feeling paralyzed because of my own negativity, I have another choice.  I can spend 15 minutes to work on it.  Since I can stop after such a short time, the mountain sized project now feels more manageable. I hate doing dishes. As a result, we often have stacks of dishes piled up in the sink. This tip worked wonders for me in this area. I feel much more motivated to at least start the dishwashing process. When the time’s up, I’m usually about halfway finished.  I still give myself permission to stop if I want to.  However, most of the time, I feel so encouraged about my progress, I willingly spend an extra 10 minutes to finish the job. At the end of the exercise, I see that in reality, it doesn’t take me that long to do the dishes, and I’m so happy with my clean sink!  Over time, the dishwashing process stopped feeling like such a burden.  My feelings about it have normalized, and now I know how to deal with this anxiety trigger – just spend 15 minutes on it.

I learned about the 15 minute rule from the online coaching website: FlyLady.net.  I’ve read many organization books and blogs, but they’re mostly about the organizing process. Rarely do they deal with the lack of motivation and the self-defeating thoughts that kept me in a negative cycle. When a friend introduced me to this group, their advice really connected with me. For once, I felt like someone pinpointed my frustrations and offered an explanation that gave me hope. With the help of her suggestions, I was able to develop my own housekeeping routines that works in the long run. What a relief to be able to manage my chores and finally feel at peace in my own home.

At first glance, it may seem that these short micro sessions won’t make a big difference. However, the key is to create a positive experience that will keep me engaged in the process. Breaking up the project into smaller chunks helped me focus on what I have achieved, continue to take the next step, and not give up.

Besides doing chores, it has also been extremely helpful in changing my attitude in other areas. Instead of feeling paralyzed by fear or frustration in seemingly overwhelming situations, I’ve learned it’s okay to do what I can for now, and continue to return to it for the next step. Consistency is the key here. It may not seem like much, but being faithful to return to the process turns those 15 minutes into an hour, a day, and more. Before you know it, the project is done!

My house is still far from perfect, but this simple rule has really helped me tremendously. I thought about this often when I was blogging about working through anxiety. I am so grateful for learning about this and other practical helps from FlyLady. Her coaching really helped me develop a sustainable housekeeping routine. I want to note that I didn’t adopt her system completely. Some things simply didn’t work for me, and my house is still far from perfect. However, what I did learned from her made a big impact in my life. If you’re curious in finding out more about her system, please go to flylady.net.*

*Please note I’m not affiliated with nor sponsored by Flylady.net. My opinions are my own; for information purposes only.  Please visit Flylady.net with discretion. Thank you!

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