How to make big changes in tiny chunks

Photo by Sandy Millar

Back in the early 00s, I had a full time job and a newish husband and a brand new baby and a home that was never quite in order. In an attempt to try to get my act together in the home department, I stumbled upon the FLY Lady.

I don’t know how she does it now, but back then, you could sign up, and she’d send you all these reminder emails at the same times every day.

  • At 7AM, you got an email reminding you to wipe down your bathroom after you used it.

  • At 9AM, an email encouraged you to make a dinner plan for that night.

  • At 12PM, an email directed you to get a load of laundry started.

  • At 9PM, an email alerted you to clean up your kitchen and shine your sink so that in the morning, you’d have a fresh new start.

There were more that I can’t remember, but basically, her deal was that if you spent a minimal amount of time every day keeping things straight, things wouldn’t pile up to the point where you’d have to spend a maximum amount of time on a perfectly beautiful Saturday inside doing housework all day.

I didn’t know it back then, but she was really teaching me some high level sh*t: that small efforts over time, done consistently, mean more than just a few big efforts.

Almost 20 years later, I still do a bunch of what she suggested.

I still try to have a dinner plan by 9AM. I still try to get my kitchen cleaned before I go to bed.

And the biggest thing I learned from her was the 15 minute rule: You can do anything for 15 minutes.

Don’t feel like washing the dishes? Just do it for 15 minutes.

Hate vacuuming? Just do it for 15 minutes.

Exercise sound like a drag? Just do it for 15 minutes.

Whatever you don’t want to do, just promise yourself 15 minutes. Set a timer, and tell yourself that when the timer goes off, you can stop.

Photo by Marcelo Leal

I still do this almost every single day for a variety of tasks. And most of the time, when the timer goes off, I have enough momentum to go ahead and finish whatever it is I’m doing. If I don’t, I let myself quit guilt-free.

This approach works for whatever big thing it is that you want to change in your life. Chipping away, 15 minutes a day.

I want to keep my anger under control, so I spend 15 minutes meditating every day.

I want to maintain my exercise habit, so on days when I can’t get to a class, I do 15 minutes of something in my living room.

When I wanted to quit drinking, I wrote out a bunch of mantras and read them and journaled for 15 minutes every single day.

15 minutes a day can build up some really great habits and spark some really remarkable shifts.

Do something you’ve been wanting to do for 15 minutes today. Because you can do anything for 15 minutes.


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