Home > Achievement and Perfectionism, Uncategorized > From Procrastination to Productive in 15 Minutes

From Procrastination to Productive in 15 Minutes

Mondays can be tough.  We’ve  just come off of a fun and/or relaxing weekend and, for many of us, Mondays mean ramping up and getting enough momentum to get stuff done.  It’s the gaining momentum part that tends to be a challenge.  My to do list for today is not pretty, there’s a bunch of stuff cluttering it up that is normally not on there and it’s bumming me out.  This means if I want to do the other things I normally do, I need to be more efficient with my time today.  This is bad news for someone like me who is impulsive and organizationally challenged. Thankfully, I have learned some strategies that help me function like a productive, pulled together person.  One of my favorite methods for getting stuff done when I start to feel overwhelmed by my to do list is to commit to 15 minutes of doing one thing I need to do.

This may not seem like a mind-blowingly genius idea, but I assure you, it is.  The first time I understood how powerful the first 15 minutes are of any activity or project I was in a spin class. I was tired, un-motivated and very close to ignoring my alarm clock that morning and rolling over to go back to sleep. Somehow I made it to class but I felt crappy for the first few minutes on the bike.  I phoned it in, doing the bare minimum the workout required but then after 15 minutes, something happened: I started getting into my workout. It could have been the combination of good music, my body getting warm and loose and the instructor’s enthusiasm, but those things (except for getting warmed up) were in place at the start of class.  I strongly suspect it just took about 15 minutes to shift my focus (and my body) to what I was doing in the moment. I finished the entire workout and, as is usually the case, I felt about 1000 times better after my workout than I did before I started. It just took a 15-minute period to transition into an activity that I really did want to do.

I find this happens when I’m working on any project.  I’m writing a book right now and if I told myself I had to write so many pages by such and such date, I would probably find a way to freak myself out about it and watch funny clips on Youtube all day instead (this has actually happened to me). However, if I just focus on the bare minimum, those first 15 minutes, I often find I get into a flow and I actually want to continue doing what I’m doing.  I will often write for at least an hour when I intend to devote only 15 minutes of my time to writing. Sometimes I don’t get into groove at all and that’s okay, too.  At least I gave it a go and I feel better about leaving that project and doing something else for a while before coming back to it—and sometimes that means getting back to it the next day.

If you’re having trouble getting a project going this morning, just give it 15 minutes of your time and attention. See how you feel after that, it may be the jumpstart you need to get on a productive streak. If you’re struggling with procrastination, check out my post How To Procrastinate.

  1. October 26, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Emiko — this is powerful stuff. I’m constantly talking to my procrastination hypnotherapy clients about a prioritized Master Action List, but there’s still the possibility that they’re going to cruise up to their work-space, look at Priority # 1, and immediately divert (to YouTube videos, like you said).

    This 15 minutes tip will really help that.

    One other thing that helps is making sure that people write individual tasks on their action list, not projects. Simple example at home: if your list says “Laundry,” you might go into overwhelm, but if your list says, “Wash Load #1” you just throw the whites into the washer and then check something off and move on . . . pretty soon, laundry’s done!

    Keep up the great stuff, Emiko!

  2. October 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm


    I like that. I’m also a big fan of breaking up projects into smaller and still smaller tasks until it is ridiculously manageable. I would get very little done without that very useful strategy!

    Thanks for your comment and tip!

  3. Jeanette
    November 10, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    This reminded me of my HUGE resistance to meditation. I did not want to sit still, my mind is too busy thinking to calm down, I actually love things like school, thinking, reading, learning. My girlfriend goes, “Can you do it for 3 minutes?”

    I suddenly had a huge mental shift – that was like 20 years ago. There have been many things I did not want to do that I could do for 3 minutes. Three minutes is a long time – especailly if you are not used to working out – ever tried to run in place for 3 minutes? Try 30 seconds. Which reminds me of “Wolf running”. Wolves run for 50 steps, then trot or walk for 50 steps, then run for 50 steps, and so on. That way they go twice as far.


  4. January 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    If you work on a long-term goal for a few minutes, it will eventually get done. Working on your novel for 15 minutes a day will get it written. If you spend 10 minutes a day working on your small business, you will eventually be your own boss. Spending just 5 minutes a day doing yoga stretches alleviate some of that morning stiffness.

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