There’s a beautiful line in the movie We Bought A Zoo that goes like this:
You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.
I’ve watched a lot of movies in my lifetime (and many featuring Matt Damon – I blame my wife!), but I’ve never forgotten that quote since hearing it. Sometimes it really does just take a handful of seconds to rip off the band aid and do something you’re scared out of your gourd to do. Whether that’s asking someone out on a date, stepping out on the field to play an important game, or rockin’ that major speech. The goals themselves typically take longer than an actual 20 seconds, but the point is that it gets you to START which is always the hardest part.
Now I don’t ask girls out anymore, but I’d like to think I’d harness this trick if I did :) These days I use a different one instead, which is more about helping me tackle stuff I have a tendency to push off – both in money and in life.
I call this the 15 Minute Trick, and it’s super easy to do. Every time I don’t want to do something I know I REALLY need to get done, I tell myself that I’ll just sit down for 15 minutes and knock a little of it out, and then get right back to my awesome life of playing dad or blogging or looking at my sexy old coins from the 1800’s (I know, I know – you’re jealous!).
And each time I activate this, one of two things happen:
- I go back to my fun life after exactly 15 minutes, feeling a tiny bit better about myself.
- I end up sitting there for however long it takes to knock off the task completely, and then pat myself on the back for tricking myself!
Do you want to guess which outcome occurs more frequently than the other? The 2nd one, of course! You’d think by now I’d be on to my own shenanigans, but for whatever reason 15 minutes seems to be just long enough to push the momentum far enough that you figure you might as well just finish the damn job now that you’ve already committed time to it.
It’s very similar to Matt Damon’s 20 second trick, only nothing super amazing happens at the end – you just have one less annoying task to complete on your list now :)
And I can come up with 101 ways we can use this trick right here and now (don’t worry, I’m only going to list a dozen or so as my creativity was used up Friday coming up with all those amazing acronyms for you ;)). I usually use it for the more menial tasks, but you can implement it with anything:
- Going over/starting a budget
- Reviewing your last bank/credit card statements for errors
- Balancing your check book (do people still do that?)
- Mowing your grass
- Going for a jog
- Doing piles of laundry
- Doing those piles of paperwork on your desk (what’s in there, anyways??)
- Doing your work while you’re actually at work! (I see you goofing off on my blog! :))
- Preparing your meals for the week
- Calculating how much longer you have until early retirement
- Getting your will started (this one has the highest rate of stopping at 15 minutes, haha…)
- Dropping off bags of stuff to donate (this is one of my favorites because it starts with 1 bag, and then you’re like “Well why the hell am I going to drive all the way to Goodwill just to drop off a single bag? Let me go scrounge up some more real quick and then head on outta here.”)
- Calling up car/life/business insurance companies for quotes
- Starting a blog
- Starting a band
- Starting a side hustle
- Starting a family! (That might even take less than 15 mins – zing!)
And so on and so forth… I went a bit crazy there at the end, but you get the point – You can get started on a LOT of things in “only” 15 minutes. Even if you do stop as soon as the timer goes off (I don’t recommend setting a timer fyi – you don’t need reminders when it’s up!).
Anyways, that’s how I get through a lot of my life :) If they make a sequel later – We Bought Another Zoo! – I hope they’ll keep the sentiment there and just swap in my idea to help keep it fresh… I can see the older, cooler, version of Mr. Damon dropping it like so:
“You know, sometimes all you need is fifteen minutes of tricking yourself, homeboy. Just literally fifteen minutes of sitting your a$$ down and doing your damn work. And I promise you, something not that amazing – but very successful! – will come of it.”
It’s already been an hour and a half since I implemented it here on this post ;)
Shout out to Money Smart Guides for reminding me of this.
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Wow! I really need to start doing this.
Most (a lot) of the time I still down in front of the laptop and procrastinate like a bitch. I currently have four articles I need to thrash out and for the life of me I can’t seem to get over the hill with them.
Well today I’m gonna take your advice and try out the 15 minute rule. In about an hour I’ve got to pick my daughter up from preschool and then it’s daddy time.
I’m going to a make a coffee, set a 15 minute timer and go for it. All the time thinking that it’s just 15 minutes and once it’s out the way I can go enjoy my day.
I’m hoping that you’re right and it does work. If so I be doing this from now on and hopefully my productivity will sky rocket. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Thanks for sharing.
Did it work???? :)
This is sometimes I do. I just try even though I feel like I want to procrastinate and bored. Then, during this time, I kinda feel like I am being energized then I will just find myself done with my task. Voila!
Do you think you could get this post to go viral and have them mention your blog in the sequel? How’d you like to see Matt Damon combing through his favorite blogs and having your site appear on the screen? Awesome ….
I’ve been using a similar trick for my writing. Every weekend in the morning before anyone else wakes up, I sit down and literally command myself to produce content for at least 10 to 20 minutes. What comes out may be good or it may be bad, but at any rate it gets the creative juices flowing!
I would instantly become a Damon fan in that case :)
(And yes – early mornings are the BEST for work! no distractions!)
I needed this today. I’ve been hitting some major roadblocks in my productivity as of late.
One of the tricks that works for me when I need to work out is the “just get dressed” approach. Once I have all my running gear on, it’s a lot harder to blow off my workout.
oooooh I like that one.
Ugh, yes, I needed this! I can implement this along with my “just do something” strategy, which involves me picking something on my list and doing it. I’m bad about delaying massive projects that I don’t want to start… but if I tackle them 15 minutes at a time, I bet I can convince myself to at least get it off the ground.
“Matt Damon, Matt Damon, Matt Damon” in best Team America accents. Ha! Probably the best movie of all time.
But I digress, this is some good strategy you have here. I often need to trick myself into doing stuff I hate, but then I realise what my tricky side is trying to do to my not-so-clever side and I rebel. It’s a constant battle to achieve anything.
I think I’m going to go watch Team America now. Or rewrite my budget. Hmm.
Maaaaat Daaamon! Literally laughing out loud, actually crying laughing.
you guys are going to hate me – but I actually turned off that movie halfway through it (gasp!).
Hi J. Money – Agreed! That is exactly how I’ve been progressing with my violin practice and working out. For anyone who thinks 15 min. is overwhelming I use the ’10 minute’ principle…same thing! Cheers! Pia :-)
Haha…. hell, why not make it 5 in that case? ;)
ive been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, and two i heard last week were from john lee dumas and from screw the nine to five. both were talking about the importance of focus and time management essentially. im a huge fan (read with sarcasm please) of starting a whole bunch of projects then not finishing them. so even if i finish them in increments of 15 minutes, at least if i remain vigilant and focus i can push forward.
and the more successful you get, the more important focus and time management is too. good problem to have, I suppose, but still a problem!
My boyfriend started doing this with me to encourage better cleaning habits. After breakfast and dinner we set the timer for 10 minutes, put some funky music on and do cleaning, tidying, whatever really. It works really well. If I’m in a good mood I do ten minutes or more. If I’m cranky do maybe four minutes and give up. But at least it’s better than nothing. Our house has never been tidier!
Pairing it with music is even better! Smart BF!
Yes! Growing up, my parents did this for the kids to clean their rooms. The timer was set for 10 minutes and we got to stop when it went off. It’s pretty crazy how much you can clean up in 10 minutes! Usually I’d finish before the time was up, but going into it, I was totally convinced that it was going to take an hour.
…and if Matt Damon ever says Homeboy, that will be the end of my love for him. GoshIlovehim.
I just usually tell my boy he won’t get snacks if he doesn’t clean up and he’s done within 10 seconds – hah.
I do this with running. Some days all I want to do is lay around in my sweats, but I tell myself on those days that I only have to run for 15 minutes. Once I’m out there I usually just keep on going. It truly is starting that is the worst part (especially when its cold out!).
I use a similar approach to Stefanie – the just get dressed approach. I love working from home, but doing something like working out can be a hassle to do because I can always come up with some sort of ridiculous excuse not to do it – like I’ll be less productive, don’t have time, etc. The crazy thing is when I take time to actually do it I have more energy so what I fear *might* happen gets turned on its head and the opposite happens. So, not only do I schedule the time for myself, but I’ll get dressed for it too. If I’m going to get dressed for it then it becomes that much harder to talk myself out of it.
So true. And half the time it’s not as bad as you think it will be and you wonder (once again) why it took you so long to get to it in the first place! Glad I’m not the only one. Nice list. Made me lol with the last one. :)
Anyone can do anything for 15 minutes!
And yes, I still totally balance my checkbook. I even do it the old fashioned way with a pen and a checkbook register. I can’t help myself and I feel so much better after I do it.
You will help carry on the tradition then! Haha….
I usually use the things I want to do as a reward,only allowing them to be done after I completed the things I don’t want to do first. #jedimindtricks
hah! I’ve been kinda doing that every night with my water intake. Every time I go to grab a beer I make myself down a large glass of water first :) and the beer always seems to taste so much better too – hah!
I love this! And I really need to start doing this, as my productivity has been sucking as of late as well… Thanks for the motivation!
Isn’t it funny that something as simple as a timer can change our productivity so drastically. I struggle to leave anything half finished so to combat this I never start. That way I never have to leave anything half finished! I use this trick but I make myself set limits on how long I can work on something even if I don’t get it done.
This is such a great way to force yourself to get things done! I read an article by a professional organizer a few years ago, and she recommended the same thing. It’s so easy, and it really works!
Great post, J$!
I’ve been trying to be more active lately so I started doing a daily 7-minute workout (the one that was popularized by this New York Times article – http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout/) and it’s been great!
It’s so effective because I can do it from anywhere, no special equipment is needed, and it only takes 7 minutes. Had I tried to start a daily workout routine at the gym or a longer routine at home, I’d definitely have quit by now because I would have started skipping days due to being “too busy”. I can’t make that excuse when it’s only 7 minutes though!
The great thing is, now that I’m looking and feeling better from the daily workout, I’m more motivated to step it up to longer, more intense workouts.
I don’t know why I didn’t think to translate this idea to other things but your post did so thanks! Now I’ll hopefully be buff AND more productive :)
That’s my work out too for a whole year now! (Though granted I don’t do it as often as I should ;)). I actually use this video which pairs music to the different exercises AND a countdown so you know when to stop and rest and then start the next one again… It’s done wonders for me:
the cool part is that once you get good at it and need a better challenge, you can try either doing more reps within each exercise or even trying it back to back :) Or just adding other ones afterwards as you mentioned…
I like this guy for a change of pace afterwards:
Only part that still sucks about this stuff is that you have to take a shower right after which of course adds more time to it :( Still better to do than nothing of course, but hard to “just do anytime” unless you don’t mind smelling for a while :)
So I just bit the bullet and did a 7 minute workout. Feels good! Bonus points because I found a banking keypad on my bedroom floor that I’ve been looking for for a couple of weeks!
Well done – congrats on winning the day! :)
Starting really is the hardest part, anything to help get over the hump and just do it is gold. I like the tricking yourself and getting a back pat when you successfully knock your work out – going to try that right now…
I like using a pomodoro timer app. 25 minutes on, 5 minutes rest. Then back at it. Great for bigger projects. The 15 minute thing is a good one. For a month, I was cleaning 15 minutes every day. First few days were easy, the things that jumped out at you. By day three, there was extra time so I actually had to get to things that I never usually got to (dusting for example). Good stuff!
that’s a cool app!
I just use this cool chrome egg timer which works well too… Usually when I set it for an hour and then try to see how much work I can pump through when I’m feeling feisty :) You have to get used to hearing the seconds in the background tick by, but it’s a constant reminder not to stray which can help!
(And the alarm is super loud at the end too – which scares the pants off you if you forgot you turned it on an hour ago – hah)
Don’t know if it’s the brutal Winter we just came thru or what…BUT I too lack focus and can’t seem to get things done. Making a list and going thru and checking off what has been completed for the day seems to help….As for Matt Damon….He did an excellent job in the “Jason Borne” movies…I still wonder how they pulled off some those action scenes…
This is good stuff, setting up a time based commitment device is very effective. As a chronic procrastinator… I appreciate all of the tricks and tips I can get. Thanks!
I love Matt Damon!
This post reminds me of a book I read called “Eat That Frog”. It’s essentially a book about productivity and starting with the task you least want to do to start your day. Once you complete that task you feel less stressed the rest of the day and get more accomplished. It’s definitely a good read for those who need a boost to be more efficient.
I like that in theory but so hard to do!
Unless you have some massive coffee from the start. Which of course makes anything easier ;)
On a side note, I tend to leave certain things until the end of the day to do – like interviews or responding to reader questions – so that I can have a beer first which also helps get the job done right, haha…
I like this! I’ve been doing a modified version, where I motivate myself to clean or do some task I’ve been procrastinating on, by listening to a podcast while I do it. (I never have enough time for podcasts it seems.) And then I find that I keep going because I want to finish the podcast! Works every time.
The only time I’ve ever listened to podcasts was when rocking my baby to sleep all hours of the night… And the same thing would happen – I’d just keep rocking even though my arms were going to fall off and he was already asleep cuz I wanted to finish the show :)
Now that he doesn’t need to be rocked as much (thank goodness!) I’ve stopped listening to them which kinda sucks.. I don’t even listen to the ones I’m on – hah!
This is so good for us ADHD folks! I began using the 20-minutes-on-the-timer technique long before I knew about my “special” qualities, partly because I’m a master of distraction and procrastination. But using the timer in a focused way is a huge help. Just let the 20 minutes happen. I can always decide to continue or to be done. It’s super important for me to use this technique in the work environment, as it truly is a lifesaver.
Those minutes go by SO FAST too, right?
Starting is the hardest part… especially during March Madness! I have little reminders on my Outlook calendar that just seem to keep getting moved a day ahead once I arrive on the scheduled date. Maybe if I implement this strategy I will be able to delete those reminders and stop postponing them!
Fantastic thought! Thanks for sharing this post. Great!
Great tip. I do the same thing a lot of the time (stealing Nike’s “Just Do It” to get that first step) and it’s effective.
I think part of the trick is that once I start something, finishing is often easier than stopping. I seem to be a slave to inertia…it’s changing directions that is hard.
Love this idea. Right now I’ve got a list of about 100 small things that I need to do, but for some reason just ‘don’t get round to doing’.
I’m going to try the 15 minute trick, and see how many I can actually get completed in the next few days. Top of the list: send away all of my foreign coins to be exchanged into real money. I have about £200 sat there being useless.
Right, I’m off to do something productive with my time.
Thanks for the inspiration!
Great use of time!!
Hopefully you’re successful though w/ the coin exchange – every time I try they tell me they only accept BILLS now, not coins :( So annoying! What are you supposed to do with them all? (And this is coming from a coin collector)
I try to trick myself like this sometimes too. It’s a good idea and like you said, even if you really do quit working on whatever you dread after 15 minutes, at least you got some of it done. Usually for me it’s washing the dishes in my kitchen sink. I usually wash the dishes while I’m cooking supper with the goal of getting them done before the supper is done cooking on the stove or in the oven. About 99% of the time, I’m able to get them done with a few minutes to spare.
that’s supposed to be the job of whoever’s eating your supper! :)
Uh, HELL YES, J$, this chick right here still whips out pencil and calculator every month to balance her checkbook at the kitchen table. I feel it’s a valuable skill to know how to balance a checkbook — and to actually DO so. I personally know people who have become so bogged down by all of the zippy online tools and whatnot that they become mesmerized by those and don’t think as hard about what it’s all about– makin’ money !!! Give me the old-school ways any day because they seriously WORKED (yet, ok, more people had pensions back then, college was more affordable, bla bla). Keep rockin’ it bud!!
It’s a lost craft! Like writing letters! I miss reading those :(
Yep, the best way to get anything done is to just start doing it. Except when it comes to things like heart surgery. In that case, the best way is years of education.
(I almost spit out my beer on that one!)
I have used this trick to clean house! I set a 20 minute timer and tell myself I only have to do 20 minutes BUT I have to speed clean. It only counts if I am working fast the whole time :) Sometimes it gets me into that cleaning mode where I feel so productive that I keep on cleaning. Other times, I stop at 20 minutes and still feel good since you can speed clean a lot in 20 minutes. I need to try this approach to some of the other things you listed!
I love that movie!! There really are a number of things you can do in just 15 minutes that can either change your life or reset the trajectory of your life. Last week I created a new LLC for my new business venture. I had been waiting for the finalization of the money, but I figured I would start the process and put it out there in the universe. When it becomes a massive financial services company, I will remember that it took me only 15 minutes to get it started. :-)
I’m beginning to think you just like to stay busy :)
I like this idea. Especially the bit about getting permission to leave after the 15 minutes are up. An escape clause always makes a contract more inviting. House work has been my ugh! to-do item forever. But 15 minutes of housework? Probably. And this IS related to money. We used to hire cleaners, and we’ve been doing without them for 3 years of debt-reduction now. It’s just that I still struggle to find the motivation to get to it. I’ll give this idea a go : )
You’ve lasted a LONG time so far!! 15 mins should feel like nothing compared to 3 years now – hah!
Similar tactic for me is “just do a little.”
You don’t have to write the entire blog post/theater review/freelance magazine piece/whatever…Just get it started.
You don’t have to clean the entire bathroom…Just do one thing.
You don’t have to walk very far today if you’re feeling lousy…Just go up as far as the corner.
You don’t have to read too many blogs…Just drop by Budgets Are Sexy.
What generally happens is that once I get started I accomplish more than I thought I would/feared I wouldn’t. In fact, as soon as I finish this comment I’m going to do 15 minutes on a theater review…Just to have a starting-off place.
Definitely an awesome trick! (or technique!). Our brains get so overwhelmed and can’t help but jump ahead to all the steps and separate things that need to be done, but you can only ever take one action, regardless of what your brain tells you. This focus of picking one specific action for 2, 5 or 15 minutes has changed my ability to get things done, but especially to not get overwhelmed by bigger projects.
And I love that line you mentioned – just before reading this post I picked up the phone to call a potential new employer, and despite the temptation to keep going over what I would say, I just dived in with confidence despite my heart racing … but of course it went through to voicemail….
Haha… hopefully you rehearsed what you’d say on that too should it have happened! Those are the worst to screw up on cuz it’s saved somewhere! haha…
This is a mindset I’m trying to use on my own blog. Every day without fail, I need to do something blog-related (write an article, network, work on getting new links, etc.) so that I can always go do something else with the knowledge that I at least got a little (and hopefully much more than a little!) accomplished. It also helps form a daily habit that just becomes routine after a while.
Yup – a blog posting schedule helps too with getting stuff done! Cuz as long as you hit your post for the day, you know you’ve accomplished the most important part :) Without articles blogs are nothing – hah! (Though of course we all know that the send part is *marketing* our blogs or else no one will be there to read our brilliant words ;))
I really REALLY hate to clean our house. (Thank god we don’t have kids.) But this means that I procrastinate until we are having people over then spend 4 hours speed cleaning the whole house. Then I’m so sick of cleaning I don’t do it again for three weeks. It’s an awful cycle that I finally broke out of… – I found the “Fly Lady” and she has many tricks to get people who have no system better at running their households (mostly stay at home moms, but it would work for anyone). The main trick that I learned from her was to set a timer for 15 minutes and just go for it. Whether it’s vacuuming, dishes, or whatever. You can do ANYTHING for just 15 minutes and by the time the timer goes off, you are most likely finished with the task. This helps me see a light at the end of the (boring task) tunnel, feel more motivated, and work faster to “beat the clock”. Many times I’ve noticed, if it’s a large task and I do half of it within 15 minutes, I will set the timer again to finish the task! This has been HUGE for me. Sometimes I even reward myself – one cookie for each 15 min. or something! haha. Whatever works!
YUP! Have heard great things about Fly Lady over the years – great find :)
So true!!!! The hardest part is starting something and then finishing it! Usually though I have the determination to see it through to the end if I can just get started. There’s so many things I want/need to do and I just need to get going on it!
Hmm I also have a tendency to start too much all at once too though. Another topic!
JJ Luna in his book “How to be Invisible” had a line at the end of it that I never forgot that applies here. He said something to the effect: Whatever it is that you want to do…set a date and no matter what do it on that date.
I like that :)
And sometimes once you make it “official” you’ll actually accomplish it earlier too since it’s then locked in your brain.
This happened to me when I wanted to move to NYC after college. I kept telling people I wanted to go but wasn’t taking any action to make it happen. So I set a date – Jan 15th – and as soon as I did that I started finding myself working on it little by little. I ended up moving there around December 20th I wanna say (it’s been a while) and then smiled one of my biggest smiles when I was walking down the streets of Greenwich Village and realized it was THE Jan 15th. I had done it!
I use a similar method that I call my “Rule of Twenty.” I’ll clean for 20 minutes, rake the lawn until I fill the wheelbarrow 20 times, organize 20 feet of the garage or do at least 20% of a project. The results are the same as you get with your 15 minutes. The hardest part of finishing anything is getting started. Once something is started the end is usually in sight.
That’s a great one as well! Super easy to remember too which is key.
I suffer badly from procrastination and will be trying this 15 minute thing this very weekend! Cheers J$!
“Starting a family! (That might even take less than 15 mins – zing!)”
About 15 seconds in my case