If you’ve been around any NLPer’s you’ve probably heard the phrase “chunk it down.” This is in reference to breaking large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Sometimes it’s easy to break projects into bite-sized pieces, but other times it can be more difficult to do so. Especially when you’re doing very creative work, it can be nearly impossible to identify all the steps in advance, and clearly defining those steps may be tricky.
Even after you chunk a project into smaller tasks, some of those tasks can be intimidating when think about doing them. This can be especially true with tasks that are very tedious. Even if the steps are clear, you’re more likely to procrastinate when you think about a 3-hour block of relatively dull work.
You also know that getting started on a task is usually the hardest part. Once you get past the first 15 minutes or so, it’s easier to keep going. Once you’ve built up some momentum, two hours can flow by like it’s nothing. You just have to find a way to get started and naturalize the desire to procrastinate.
The 15-minute method is a great mental strength process and way to help you overcome inertia and get moving on a task. It’s basically a psychological trick, and it’s very simple.
How It Works
This is so simple…all you do is tell yourself that you’re going to work on a particular task or project for only 15 minutes. You can work longer if you feel like it, but you won’t worry about that until your initial 15 minutes are up. Only after you’ve completed those first 15 minutes will you even think about working longer.
Make sure you prepare your environment in advance; the preparation does not count as the 15 minutes. Set out all the materials you’ll need to work on your task for 15 minutes. Do what’s necessary to make sure you won’t be interrupted during that time. This is very important.
When you begin your 15 minutes, do nothing but the task at hand. Don’t get up for any reason. If you’re working on your computer, don’t open any applications except for the one you use for the specific task, i.e. Word, Excel and only these applications. Yes, this means NO Facebook or e-mail!
If the phone rings, let it go to voicemail. If a text message comes in, let it wait. Again, don’t even think about checking your email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other social or non-social site.
If someone pops in and asks, “Do you have a minute?” tell them to come back when your 15 minutes are up (or later).
For those 15 minutes only, commit to not being distracted. So what does this mean? This means that you are focused…Follow One Course Until Successful!
Work quickly during this time. Focus on speed. Try to make as much progress on your task as humanly possible. If distracting thoughts come up, repeat the phrase from Star Wars as they were attacking the Death Star…”Stay on target…stay on target.”
Put a clock or timer in front of you, so you can see the minutes counting down. It’s important to create a sense of time pressure. Know that you don’t have the luxury of all day…you only have 15 minutes here. The time will pass quickly.
Here are a couple of online timers:
And I’m sure there’s many apps for timers as well for your smart phone.
Chaining 15-Minute Chunks
After your 15 minutes are up, now you can decide whether you wish to keep going with the task at hand. At this point your mind is in a different state than it was when you first began. You aren’t in the same mental state you were in 15 minutes earlier. Your neurons are saturated in task-related activity. Your mind will have a strong tendency to want to keep going and to resist stopping.
If you want to stop, give yourself permission to stop. Get up, walk around, take a break, or switch to some other project. My suggestion is to take the break for 15 minutes as well. When you’re ready to do another 15-minute chunk, then do so. You’ll soon get into a great rhythm.
But most likely when those first 15 minutes are up, you’ll want to continue. You may even be annoyed that your time is up. Feel free to keep working. If it’s easy to do so, restart your timer immediately, and commit to doing another 15-minute chunk.
Once you get moving, it’s much easier to keep moving. It’s hard to get started when you’re staring at a two-hour task or longer. That may seem like a big commitment, so don’t commit to that much up front. Only commit to 15 minutes.
When you notice that your 15-minute segments are becoming less productive, or you’re getting distracted, stop and take a break. That’s a good time to go for a walk, have a meal, or switch to other tasks. Then when you’re ready to begin again, start with a fresh 15-minute commitment.
With practice you can challenge yourself to chain several 15-minute chunks together. I suggest chaining only 4 to 5 sessions together. You want to stay fresh so after the 5th session, take a break, stretch, take some deep breaths, drink some water and take care of any hygiene issue. Then after 15 minuets, get back to it!
Remember…NEVER allow yourself to do anything off-task during a 15-minute chunk. If you feel the urge to check email or return a phone call, do it between — never during — 15-minute chunks.
Benefits of This Method
The 15-minute method has many benefits. First, it helps you overcome inertia and gets you moving forward productively. No matter how unpleasant the task may seem, it isn’t that difficult to commit to working on it for only 15 minutes.
Second, it gets you past those “I don’t know what to do” excuses. You can easily figure out what to do for 15 minutes. If you really don’t know how to begin, then chunk down the task some more, or hire a personal coach .
Third, it keeps you focused. You’re compelled to make clear distinctions between real work vs. distractions. You can’t deceive yourself into thinking that web surfing or checking email is working. When you use the 15-minute method, you’re getting real work done. A whole day spent using the method can sometimes be more productive than a whole week without it.
Fourth, it helps you work faster. You’ll find that the act of checking in with yourself every 15 minutes helps you maintain a fast tempo. Even if you keep working for hours at a time, those frequent check-ins are valuable, and they only take seconds.
Finally, it helps you build more mental strength. You’ll train yourself to stick to the task at hand and put off distractions. And you’ll challenge yourself to work flat-out instead of procrastinating.
First Thing in the Morning
If you want to have a really productive day, get started with the 15-minute method first thing in the morning. Don’t allow yourself to have breakfast, check email, or do anything else that could chew up your time until you complete at least one 15-minute chunk on a key task.
Or use the first 15 minutes to mediate and visualize all that you intend to get done. This can very powerful in that you are preparing your unconsciousness mind to help you stay on target.
Feel free to vary the 15-minute method to suit your situation. You can do 10- or 20-minute chunks if you’d like. Just make sure the chunk sizes aren’t so big that you have a tendency to procrastinate. The point is to make it easy to get started by lowering the perceived commitment.
You can also use the 15-minute method to monitor and control how much time you spend on activities like web surfing or email. Limit yourself to a certain number of 15-minute chunks. For example, you can set aside a 30-minute block of time to handling your online communication.
I think you get the overall concept here right?
When you block out specific number of chucks of time for ONE task until it’s completed, you’ll more done in a day than you thought was possible.
Let me know what you think of this method in the comments below.
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