Ages ago when I was helping my mom through a year of illness and feeling completely overwhelmed by all the housework, I discovered Marla Ciley’s housekeeping book Sink Reflections. Now Ciley (A.K.A. The Flylady) is no Martha Stewart, and her book is no Homekeeping Handbook, but it did help me out quite a bit. One of the most important lessons I learned from it is that “you can do anything in 15 minutes.” If I get home and my house is a wreck, I turn on a timer for 15 minutes and spend that time just putting things in one room away. I don’t let myself get sidetracked by something like taking a handful of pens from the living room to my office and then straightening everything on my desk. I just put the pens away and return to the living room. Once that timer goes off, I stop and evaluate. Am I done? Am I too tired to continue? Do I have enough juice left to do another 15 minutes somewhere else?
Now, I know from lots of mundane experience that I usually finish the ‘clutter busting’ in just about 5 minutes or so, and I can often get two or three rooms finished in 15 minutes. And I’m usually not exhausted like I thought I’d be. But even though I know this, I’ve been a downright slob as of late. My new shift at work combined with summer’s long daylight hours means I’m not getting near enough sleep, and my job’s mandatory overtime means I take my precious off-hours very seriously–I don’t want to do housework, I want to have fun! So while I know I can keep my living space looking nice with just a few minutes of effort…I still find myself procrastinating.
To combat this, I’ve taken to turning my 15 minutes into a bit of a spell. Before I start my timer, I light a scented candle or put some oil into my diffuser. Then I take up a cord and tie 15 loose knots into it while holding the image of my finished task in my mind. With each knot, I say something to the effect of “No delay, time is slipping away. From this task I will not stray.” Then I undo the knots, chanting something like “In fifteen minutes, my task is done. Then I shall take some time for fun.” Then I set my timer and get to work, and I work without letting anything interrupt me or thwart me from my task.
I think I do concentrate better on my task when I do this little spell than when I don’t. I think that taking just that little bit of time to still my mind and focus on the task at hand–and the goal of completing it!–gives me just the little bolt of energy I need to see it through. And, better still, I’m not living in a pig sty.