Michael Nobbs is one of those admirable people who you sometimes see, quietly doing whatever it is they are doing—putting one foot in front of the other, one small step at a time…not making out that they are doing something heroic, not making a big fuss about it at all—and then it turns out that they were actually completing a journey to the North Pole, or achieving some other huge goal like that, while the rest of us were were just shuffling back and forth to the corner store.
The thing about really big projects is that they can be intimidating. If you always keep an image of the completed project, the dream fulfilled, foremost in your mind, the disparity between where you are NOW and where you’d like to end up can seem so huge that it’s actually discouraging.
Michael wrote a post on his blog where he shares his technique for getting a lot of things done, slowly but surely, over time. It’s called The Twenty-Minute Challenge,
What is the challenge?
The challenge is simple. Pick something you’d like to achieve and publicly commit to doing it. Then regularly (everyday if possible, but at least three or four times a week) work on your project for twenty minutes.
Some of the things that Michael suggests you can do in twenty minute bursts are to fill a sketchbook, blog, learn a language, or write a book. He suggests you pick projects that have a specific aim, or a clear end-point (three months, for example), rather than something interminable that stretches on and on into the distant future, and I would say that’s because it helps to reinforce your motivation to do things if you can gauge your progress, and enjoy a feeling of accomplishment as you arrive at the end of a project.
- Get yourself a dedicated timer for your project.
- Projects that need very few tools or resources work best.
- When working on your project do so at the exclusion of everything else.
- Don’t skip the public commitment step. A very good post about this over on Zen Habits. Committing to something publicly is a great way to stay true to your goal.
- At the end of your twenty minute session, stop. Don’t be tempted to work on after your timer has rung. If you have the urge to do more, that’s great, it’ll mean you’ll be even more motivated to start again tomorrow.
Another reason that doing things in twenty minute parcels is such a great idea is that you can work towards several goals at an even pace...without excluding or sacrificing any of them, or having to put everything else on a back burner. This is important to me, personally, because I find it very difficult to commit to any one thing…if I have to drop 3 of my plans and dreams to focus on just one, I automatically start to worry and panic about the other 3 and cannot concentrate on the one that is at hand. It’s a crippling mindset to have because I end up paralysed and not accomplishing anything!
So I’m getting ready to post a public list of modest projects that I would like to work on in twenty-minute packets of time, here on my blog. It’s exciting! And a bit like signing a public contract…when other people know and are watching, it helps hold you to your word.
Have you got some medium-to-largish projects that you’ve had trouble starting on (or finishing)? What are they, and do you think that working on them everyday for twenty minutes could be the answer for you?