Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Goal setting: 30 minutes to greatness

Okay, I don't have a problem with goal setting, list making, calendaring or crossing things off my to do list. But I am the kind of person who likes to do all the little things on the list before tackling the larger ones. Also, as much as I value routine, I love variety. Lately, I've been looking at my large projects and goals in a different way. Of course, I know that breaking a large task into several smaller ones is a good approach and keep things from being overwhelming, but I didn't realize how much assigning a very low time limit to those smaller tasks would help me visualize getting them accomplished and motivate me. What do I mean by low time limit?

Here's an example. I have three large projects going on right now - one is related to the maintenance of my apartment, one is a creative project and one is related to my business. I want to make progress in all of these areas every day, on top of my client work, etc. I know from experience that doing a little bit every day adds up to something massive more quickly than you think, so I wasn't concerned about making giant progress in a single day. Instead, on each day I include the following on my to do list:
  • do one thing on my apartment list
  • work on creative project for 30 minutes
  • either do one thing on my business project list or spend 30 minutes on one aspect of an item
The very low time commitment is enough to stop me from being overwhelmed by my task list. Also, one can do practically anything for 30 minutes. The bite size pieces keep me engaged in the projects because every day I'm doing something new - to a point where I've actually been looking forward to putting in my time on each and every one, each and every day. I don't even have to put on a timer for 30 minutes because I can sort of gauge my progress and often find myself motivated to work even longer. Now that I've been taking this approach for a while, I can see the work adding up, which is satisfying. 

This is all pretty common sense, but it really showed me that even if you are pretty good at getting stuff done - from the tiny to the massive - your systems always have room for improvement.

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by R Stanek
Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email


  1. I really DO set a timer for 30 minutes for cleaning the apartment, rearranging a cabinet, or looking through this season's clothes to give away, and give myself complete permission to stop when it goes off. It is a fantastic system! I also find it very motivating to schedule lunch dates or a class at the gym, even on work days when I'm in an office, to give me an official end-time to my task and something to look forward to when time is "up."

  2. Setting a timer is a fantastic strategy for getting chunks of things done and I love the idea of scheduling fun activities as an incentive/reward to get work done.

  3. I love to dig into a project and work on it for hours at a time, but waiting for a chunk of available time is a surefire way to ensure that it doesn't get worked on at all. This post provided me with an excellent reminder to get those project ideas out of my head and onto paper or my whiteboard, and to break them down into manageable tasks. That way, I will stand a much greater chance of accomplishing them. Thanks, Lelah!