Hi there. I’m back, and I’ve set my timer for fifteen minutes. What do you want to get accomplished today?
When my dad was a teenager, he worked at Safeway as a night janitor, courtesy clerk and stocker. He used the money to buy a motorcycle and an awesome car and move out on his own at age 19.
When he and my mom started dating (they were high school sweethearts), she would sometimes go into the store and buy something small—even a pack of gum—just so he could carry it out of the store for her. Aww.
At night, he was allowed to eat as many day-old donuts from the bakery as he wanted, because the next day the leftovers would be given to the “Pig Lady” who, you guessed it, would take them to feed her hogs.
But of all the stories he told me about his first job, this one was most memorable:
It was about ten minutes until the end of his shift, and the store was quiet. He and a couple of other guys he worked with were standing around, shooting the breeze, not doing much of anything. Their manager walked up to them and asked for complete silence.
Then, in the next ten minutes—the next strangely silent ten minutes—they watched the manager build an endcap display. That’s the product showcase at the end of a supermarket aisle where you’ll see a tower of soda, or cereal boxes, or canned food on special. You see those all the time. And someone builds them—usually, someone who does a job just like my dad’s.
When the manager was done, he turned to the young men and said this: “You see what I just accomplished in ten minutes? That’s the difference between spending time and wasting it.”
That lesson stuck solidly in my father’s brain for more than 30 years before he relayed the story to me. He often uses the phrase, “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” and I am insanely grateful for the work ethic he imparted.
His story helped drive the development of Fifteen-minute Firestarter. I am a full-time marketer, mother, aspiring novelist, enthusiastic cook. Where do I find the time to launch a blog and actually create content?
Fifteen minutes. I’m taking the first fifteen minutes of each lunch hour to make this happen. I set the timer. I have only three minutes left.
Where do I find the time to work on my second novel? Same answer, almost. I don’t write in fifteen minute chunks, but I carve out little bits from my night, the time I might have wasted watching television, and literally run to my office while the kids are asleep and the hubby is grading reports.
I pull up Facebook and send an instant message to my friend Denise, author of several books and a single mother of six (if that doesn’t shut down my “I don’t have time to write” complaint, I don’t know what could). We do a word race: set the clock for 30 or 45 minutes and then just get down to business—we write.
It’s a contest based on the honor system: when time’s up, we count the number of words we’ve added to our manuscripts and compare progress. Sometimes I can boast 500, 600, 850 words. Sometimes I show up with 150. Sometimes she wins. Sometimes I do.
Don’t want to clean the house? Imagine your mother-in-law just called to say she’s on the way, she’ll be there in 20 minutes. Set the timer and go. Don’t want to pay bills? Sit down in front of you favorite sitcom and start ripping open envelopes with the goal to get it all done by the time the show’s over.
Having trouble starting a project? Set the timer. You’ve got fifteen minutes. GO.