I was first introduced to the concept of breaking up big jobs into 15-minute sessions way back in the 1990s by the FlyLady, aka Marla Cilley. The premise is that tasks which seem insurmountable (ie. cleaning out the garage of doom, filing and organizing your important papers, or writing the Great American Novel), can be accomplished much sooner if you commit to working consistently every day, even just fifteen minutes, rather than waiting until a large block of time presents itself. I wish I could say that I’m now super-organized and industrious. Sigh. However, I can attest that the tactic works, in that I have made progress on a lot of my goals using this little secret.
In Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott shares that she keeps a one-inch picture frame on her desk to remind herself that in a single sitting, she will not finish her work-in-progress; instead, she focuses her efforts on a “small assignment,” a fragment just large enough to fill her metaphorical one-inch frame.
In The 15-Minute Writer: How to Write Your Book In Only 15 Minutes a Day, a short, 99-cent Kindle ebook, Jennifer Blanchard shares strategies that can help even busy people write the book they’ve always dreamed of writing. Blanchard points out, “If you committed to working on your book for 15 minutes a day, every day, for an entire year, you’d have put in around 91 and a half hours—long enough to do an effective job putting a book together.” (I confess I’m a much slower writer than Blanchard—I devote a thousand hours or more to my books. But 91½ hours a year is an auspicious start.)
Many times writers get bogged down in the “other” tasks that are part of the writing experience, like building a tribe with social media, writing blog posts, journaling, and reading. These can also be done in 15-minute spurts.
And on the days when words are flowing, you don’t have to cut yourself off at 15-minutes (unless, of course, “real” life intervenes—maybe you can make some quick notes about your ideas before you quit).
Two critical requirements of making the most of your limited time are working on your mindset and eliminating distractions. The goal of perfection must be replaced with the objective of progress. And nothing will derail your progress like interruptions. Blanchard gives strategies for overcoming these roadblocks.
Each section of the book ends with 15-minute action steps to get yourself started utilizing 15-minute units of time. Blanchard also includes the insights of three other writers who have successfully accomplished their goals using brief work periods.
If you want to be a writer but think you don’t have enough time, I strongly recommend you read this little book.
Sounds fantastic, and I know it works, too. I used to say I wrote my first book between making glasses of chocolate milk for my daughter. There were always interruptions, and only small blocks of time, yet it worked. I read in the same way and get through multiple books a year in this 15 minute way.
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That is interesting. I think I fall under the “waiting until I have a bunch of time that I can immerse myself in my writing. I wonder if a person can train themselves to flip that creative switch off and on? 🙂
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I think so, Theresa, as long as you don’t expect everything you write in a 15 minute session to be useable. A lot of days my writing is like “She did this, and then she did that. She thought about whatever and then she changed her mind.” The ideas are there, but they’re not executed very well. But on the days when you’re on fire, you go back and rewrite the scene with senses and emotions.