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Mamas, Get Stuff Done: The 15-Minute Power Hour

Knock things off your to-do list.

Key points

  • Clutter can make us feel crowded in our physical and mental space and create anxiety and dysregulation.
  • Breaking down a larger task into smaller, more manageable, and less anxiety-provoking tasks can help us get things done.
  • Setting a timer for just 15 minutes can minimize the feeling of lethargy that comes with the thought of attempting a dreaded task.
Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock
Source: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Mamas, it’s the new year, and I’m sure you have many new year intentions, as I do. For me, my goal has been to declutter and have “less stuff” in my immediate environment because too much stuff makes me feel crowded in my physical and mental space, and creates anxiety and dysregulation. I know I’m not alone on this.

I’m also sure you’ve been saying to yourself, “Once I have some time, like a few hours, I’ll get to XXX.” How many times have you walked past the pile of mail sitting on your dining room table, which is now a mail-holder rather than a table used for eating? How often have you looked inside your closet and swore to yourself that once you have "some time," you’ll take sort through your clothes and donate? I know I’ve said these things to myself many, many times. Too many times to admit.

Raising babies and a running a business makes it very difficult—in fact, sometimes impossible—to actually find a few hours to do anything without being interrupted 3,999.8 times. Given I’m not a patient person, and given I am a person who needs to accomplish something at the end of each day, I have found a way to break down a larger task into smaller, more manageable, and less anxiety-provoking tasks. Thus, I’ve found a way to clean and organize the closet, the drawer, and that part of the basement or garage in a way that makes me feel productive and efficient. That is how the 15-minute power hour was born for me.

Here's how you can make it work:

Identify the Task

Identify the task that is most bothersome to you or has to get done because it "has to," or simply because it’s irritating you. Is there a part of your kitchen that you would like to set up as a working station for yourself? Is there a room in your house that you would like to clear out? Are your children outgrowing their toys? Do you need to organize your filing cabinet or desk so you can reach for and find things more easily?

Make yourself a wish list, as if you had all the time in the world. Identify all the things that you want to sort through or get rid of in your home that are creating a visual distraction for you or making it difficult for you to function each day as easily as you would like.

Set a Timer

Set yourself a 15-minute timer using Alexa, Siri, or a good old egg timer. Whatever it is, once your “zone” is clear to you, hit start and go! Once the 15 minutes are up, ask yourself if you feel done with the task. I give myself the flexibility to determine if another 15 minutes are needed and, if so, then another 15 minutes it is.

When I know it’s only 15 or 30 minutes, the lethargy that comes with attempting a task that I really don’t want to attempt in the first place becomes minimized. Yes, I’ll feel better once it’s done, but most of these things we want to get to are not inherently fun. By creating a small window of time, it also minimizes the dread of having to work on something so “not fun” for a long period of time. For me, that shift in the mindset of “I’m only doing this for a little bit, and whatever it is, it is” in the end keeps me motivated to organize and get rid of things that I haven’t used, that are broken, or that I don’t want in my house any longer.

How many of us have a ton of documents related to our child’s IEP, re-evaluation, etc? We all do. How many times have you told yourself you’re going to sort through it all and put it in one place? How many times have you wanted to create one set place for your children to place their backpacks and school belongings so the morning routine flows a little more smoothly? How many times have you attempted to create a visual schedule for your child to make the after-school or evening routine run more smoothly? Give yourself 15 minutes and

Assess or Reassess

Now take a look at the progress you’ve made. Are you content? Do you need to continue another time? Sometimes one clean-up inspires another. Either check it off your list or add another item to your list.

Set a time once each week to give 15 to 30 minutes to tackle little clean-ups. Perhaps each Saturday you are able to set aside time to complete one of the items on your list and continue on each week. This is also setting aside time for your agenda rather than chasing the agenda of everyone else in your family, which can sometimes feel endless.

There you have it—a small way to get to the items on your to do list that you feel you won’t be able to get to until 2051 because you want to wait until you have "some time." I don’t know what "some time" really looks like but, if I find it, I’ll tell you about it. Until then, set your timer and…go!

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