The power of little and often



One of the most often-asked questions I get comes from stay at home moms who feel like they are buried in all of the responsibilities they have at home. Many times they’re caring for little ones, not getting enough sleep, spending hours a day putting away the same items over and over again, trying to make sure everyone has something to eat and wear, and struggling with overwhelm and a touch of depression. I have been there; I’m still there.  Every hour seems like it’s bustling, loud and full of activity. There’s very little down time. It feels like you’re trapped because if you take a break, everything will fall apart and you’ll have even more to do when you come back.

These women ask me, “How can I possibly achieve any of my own goals when I’m busy just putting out fires at home?”.

Others may phrase it differently but the essential message is that they can not reach for anything more than their daily grind because just what is on their plates already keeps dragging them down. They feel stretched to the limit and beyond, and the thought of adding more to their to-do lists seems too much to take.

I understand this because this is the exact situation from which my passion for helping other women was born. It is very hard, and let nothing else I say today make you think that I don’t appreciate that fact or care for you in the midst of this.

But, the truth is, very busy people still have time.

You know this because you see these people every day. You see the entrepreneurial father who works from home to build a small empire so that he can be available to help his wife raise their tribe of small children. You see top business executives who coordinate slews of people into running a successful corporation, but still have time to write a best selling business book and connect with their families. You see that one mom at school drop-off who is always upbeat and motivated, running a successful home business, raising her family and still has time to run the PTA. These people have full lives with many responsibilities also, and yet they’re still finding a way to create their own dreams.

So we’ve established that there are in fact very busy people who still find the time to achieve important life goals somehow. We know that it is possible.

The question is, how will you find time to reach for your dreams?

There are many factors in how you organise your work that come into play when planning towards reaching goals. For very busy people it is a coordinated and mindful effort to create a total atmosphere of optimal productivity, minimising things that distract you from your purpose. I cover various other aspects of this process here on the blog, and all of them are important, but today I want to focus on one key point; the power of little and often.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

People commonly overestimate the amount of time it takes to complete various tasks.

For example, if you have ever used a 15-minute timer to time a segment of housework, you will know that you can get a lot more done in 15 minutes than you expected at first. Jobs that feel like they take an age to complete, like hand-washing dishes, actually take considerably less time than you thought. In fact, 15 minutes is a time segment packed with powerful potential. It’s small enough that you can squeeze it into your day just about anywhere, but it’s big enough that you can really make progress on just about anything you commit yourself to do.

What if I told you that I create entire sculptures 15 minutes at a time?

What if I told you that I’m writing a book 15 minutes at a time?

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty:

  1. The trick with using short segments of time to complete projects is to use that time to its full potential. You need to enter your time segment fully prepared to get down to business. This requires an element of organisation, because you don’t want to waste precious minutes getting set up. You should already be prepared so that you can set your timer and get right into it.
  2. Having an appropriate level of preparedness will most likely require you creating an effective system to keep your items for this project organised and situated so that you can grab and go. Depending on the project you may be able to use a box or tray or simply assign a space in your home to this project’s items only. Most of the time this will be a temporary situation as you will eventually finish your project!
  3. You also need to have a good plan in place for your project as this will give you a framework for continuity and consistency, ensuring that every time segment is well coordinated to work towards your goal. You don’t want to get sidetracked on things that don’t have specific purpose for the goal at hand and this requires having a clear vision of the pathway for your project. I generally set up my storage space and create a plan for my project in the first 15 minute segment, and this sets me up for success.
  4. It’s important to work quickly and have a productive mindset when you enter your 15 minutes. Pour all of your effort into what you’re doing. You will not use this time to its full potential if you’re dilly-dallying and this method will not work as well for you. Choose your time wisely to minimise possible distractions (perhaps 15 minutes during nap time if you have little children).
  5. You absolutely must show up for your project often. I know as busy moms it can be hard to be very consistent with time, as we have to work around the ever-changing needs of our families. The important thing for you will be to consistently show up at some point during the day for your project, as close to daily as you can. Small daily progress will get your project finished much more quickly than you expect.
  6. Finally, think in terms of progress rather than completion or perfection. We have high standards for ourselves and that is excellent, but we need to balance our expectations with grace and patience too.

Look for the forward motion. Any little step in the right direction is a step closer to reaching your goal.

Make a list of three things that have been bothering you for a while but you struggle to find time to deal with. Then pick one, set a timer for 15 minutes, and GO! See what you can get done to bring you one step closer to ticking one of these bothersome things off your list.

For some inspiration to help propel you forward, here’s a list of just some of the things I’ve achieved by working 15 minutes at a time:

  • filled out paperwork to catch up on 4 years of expat taxes
  • created a filing system for all of my family’s paperwork
  • minimised my children’s toys and created a toy rotation system
  • created an entirely new, efficient system for all of my commonly used recipes
  • packed up my household of ten people to move
  • created countless knit clothing items and crocheted afghans
  • decluttered my entire house
  • created a system for my children’s clothing
  • refinished my large, second-hand dining room suite

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