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Do 15 minutes to complete an hour’s worth of work

Greg Devine


Man stressed while working on laptop

You’re going to have to trust me on this one. Productivity experts claim that, when completing difficult tasks and in order to work for much longer, you should say to yourself, ‘I’m just going to do 15 minutes’. The thought behind it is this: if you think you’ve only got to do 15 minutes of work/research, or whatever it may be, the task won’t appear as daunting and you’ll likely do more.

Where did this idea come from? My colleague, Paul, who also writes for ITK, suggested this during one of our office conversations. He’s an avid war-gamer who spends his evenings painting high-quality, bespoke figurines. Painting can sometimes seem a tedious task for him after a long day at work…by saying to himself ‘I’ll just do 15 minutes’ he usually finds he paints for close to a couple of hours.

I was sceptical of his claim at first. I struggle to motivate myself to do any revision or extra learning for my course once I’m home, so I decided to try his suggestion. I ended up doing a lot more than 15 minutes—in fact, I spent closer to an hour and half! The task just didn’t seem as large or challenging, and it felt much more manageable. It seemed so much easier that I believe the approach could be applied to other areas of my life.

My next plan is to say to myself ‘I’m going to do a 15-minute run’. I really hate exercise, unless it’s a team sport; I particularly dislike running or anything to do with the gym. I’m at the stage of life where lots of the friends I used to play football with are now in different cities, at university, or they have demanding jobs and the idea of doing more physical activity when they’re home sounds hellish. My hope is, by telling myself I’m only going to do a short burst of exercise, once I’ve started, I’ll want to do more.

young man in shirt and tie writing something and smiling while standing in the office

young man in shirt and tie writing something and smiling while standing in the office

I appreciate this may not work for everyone. Maybe your home life is incredibly busy and finding a spare 15 minutes in the first place seems an impossible task. If you are able to spare 15 minutes, though, I can’t see a reason why you shouldn’t try it. Even if you don’t end up doing more work, you’ll still have spent the 15 minutes being productive in some way. In the grand scheme of things, though it’s only a quarter of an hour, you can still do a lot in that time.

Still not sold? Consider this idea... Tik Tok has seen a rise of influencers who encourage you to revise/work with them. You do short bursts of work—20-minute slots—for around 2 hours. You’re free to leave when you like, of course, but from what I saw in the comments section, most people stay for the duration—the accountability really works for them. One ‘TikToker’, in-between these 20-minute sprints, asked the audience to rate their productivity out of 10. Answers were mixed, but what I did enjoy is that he gave anyone who had a lower number a little shot of positivity and motivation. He also mentioned them by name, which I imagine makes the experience more personal and which would encourage someone to do more in the next phase.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to be productive when we experience a lack of motivation or procrastination sets in. If this is the case, just accept it and try again later. See how these ideas work for you—hopefully, you’ll have as much success as me and Paul!

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