How to Get Things Done 10 Minutes at a Time

My love of cycling goes back to growing up in a small town in Upstate New York in a one car family. If I wanted to go somewhere, I rode my bike.  A few years ago I set a goal of riding 500 miles every summer and up until this year, I failed miserably. Well, this summer I exceeded my goal. The biggest difference? I made it a priority. Read on to discover the second factor that lead to all of those miles.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with a client that I’ll call Tina. At the time Tina was a part of a family of 5, Tina and her husband, twin girls who were about two and a half, and a son that was 8 months old. The week before I met Tina, her husband, a consultant, worked a 90 hour week… oh, and he had just registered to go back to school to work on his MBA. Tina worked a part time job, 10 hours a week while juggling the children and the dog. They had recently moved to a new home and she wanted help with getting the home office set up.

paintingAs we talked about organizing the office which would support both her husband’s consulting business as well as the needs of managing their home, Tina mentioned that what she missed most about her old home was the color of her rooms. She said that having the right colors in each room was important to her, it made each room feel comfortable. She asked, “What should I do first, organize the office or paint the office?” I think that she was surprised by my response: “paint”. With the baby on her hip, she looked at me and said, “How am I going to do that?” I told her ten minutes at a time.

First tape, then edge, then paint — all ten minutes at a time. Believe it or not, she called me about a week and a half later to schedule our work together. As we entered her office she was so excited as she explained to me that not only did she get the office painted but she also made curtains and it was the best paint job that she ever done, all ten minutes at a time. She was thrilled.

It doesn’t matter what you want to organize, the ten-minutes-at-a-time strategy can be used both at home and at work. Is your email overflowing? Take ten minutes a day to clean a few folders out and to set up record retention rules so that the folders automatically clean themselves out. Tired of misplacing all of the scraps of papers or sticky notes that are supposed to remind you of a task only to repeatedly find yourself scrambling because they don’t remind you? Take ten minutes to set up a tickler system to manage your to-dos. What about your top priorities? Take ten minutes to figure out what is first, second, and third. Then work those priorities. The feeling of accomplishment will feel so good.

How did I manage to get over a thousand miles of cycling in while juggling two teenagers, a husband, the business, my volunteer responsibilities, vacation, and more? Once or twice a day I rode ten miles at a time.