Friday, April 24, 2009

15 minutes: Agony and Elation

As you may have noticed, FlyLady has a large influence on my life.  FlyLady (whose real name is Marla and who used to teach fly fishing), provides free online homemaking coaching, which sounds kind of fussy and trite. She and her service are neither of those things - focusing not on coordinating details and but on bringing peace and ease in our daily lives.

One of her soap boxes is baby steps.  Our houses (and lives) didn't become complete wrecks in one day and we aren't going to salvage them in a day, either.  Most of her assigned tasks are to be completed in 15 minutes.  After 8 years of her coaching, I often apply this idea to my life.

15 minutes is short, right? I figure I can do any task, no matter how distasteful, for 15 minutes. But here is the distressing truth about distasteful tasks.  Most of them take much less than 15 minutes.  I spin huge and gruesome stories about how it would be great if I could do X but it will take so long and be so hard I just don't have the hours it will take to do it.

This week I've paid attention to these gruesome tasks and how long they really take:

Wipe down the bathroom - 7 minutes
Clean up all the kids toys strewn about the living room - 12 minutes
Wash the huge mountain of dirty lunch and dinner pans - 9 minutes
Help the kids brush/floss teeth, wash faces, file nails, put on pjs - 7 minutes
Put away 5 very full bags of groceries - 10 minutes
Collected overdue library books - 14 minutes
Trim the dog's nails - 2 minutes
Tidy the bedroom and make the bed - 4 minutes

On the reverse side, I often deny myself a few minutes of peace and relaxation because it takes so long. Here are a few things I've indulged in for 15 minutes with great results this week.

Sat in a peaceful room and flipped through a new magazine
Looked out at the sunrise and enjoyed some kombucha
Petted the dog
Read a book to a tired kiddo
Practiced my guitar

I'm always interested in the stories we tell ourselves about life that differ from the reality of it. My timer turns out to be a surprising tool for reflection.

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