What Do You Do for Fifteen Minutes a Day?

Diagonal beams of sunlight pierce a shady deciduous forest. Germany 2016.
A few moments of light change the whole forest. Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2016.

When we’re overcome by life and can’t get to the things and the people that matter to us, we get frustrated. How often do we think it’s all or nothing?

Do you ever think. . .

. . .If we don’t have a 3-hour block, it’s not worth getting started.

. . .If I can’t get away for a weekend-long retreat, I might give up on this hobby.

. . .If we can’t go for a real hike, there’s no point.

Or my favorite nostalgic worries when my brother and I watched the Olympics as 10-/11-year-old kids:

. . .We’re too old. All the champions started much younger.

Of course, there’s value in 3-hour blocks, weekend-long retreats, hiking the Long Trail, and pursuing interests you’ve had since you were a kid.

But sometimes our dream is so overwhelming, we don’t feel like it anymore. That’s when the “give-it-fifteen-minutes” way can bring joy into our lives.

Other things we do have natural limits and use rules of thumb. (RULE OF THUMBS would be such a lovely spoof on GAME OF THRONES, but I digress.)

. . .My eldest visited us recently from Italy and taught me how much pasta to cook. “100 g per person, but I like 200g.”

. . .My husband gave a slide show last night. “200 slides is the right number.”

. . .The Centers for Disease Control recommends 5- 30 minute episodes of exercise a week. But I took a brisk walk at lunch with a Health Department colleague who was participating in a study on physical activity. She said, “10 minutes counts.” In other words, ten minutes is enough to get the metabolism going, to get the engine started.

. . .Recovering from a hospital stay a few years ago, I complained that I wouldn’t get to my vegetable garden at all that year. My husband helped me outside, put a basil plant next to me, handed me a trowel, and let me transplant it. When your hands do something, your mind believes it.

. . .It’s not hard to write 1,000 words in a week. 1,000 words a week is 52,000 words. A middle grade novel. 1,000 words a week-day is 260,000 words. Two adult novels.

Fifteen minutes a day feels amateurish, meaningless, and unimportant, but it’s how you get your life back. When you do something for fifteen minutes, your subconscious believes you mean it. The internal editor stops talking about imposters. It’s a chance to be playful, because everyone knows you can’t do anything real in that time.

What do you want more of in your life?

Do you do ever use short blocks of time for it?

How does it work for you?

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