15 Minutes a Day


I have a ton of problem getting motivated in doing most things that are outside of my comfort zone. Through most of my life, I excelled at procrastination – I gained the ability of putting aside the vast majority of undesirable tasks and filled in that time with hours of video games, internet surfing, recreational reading or otherwise – whatever it took to avoid the activity I wanted to do.

On Wednesday, I am headed to Mexico. Even though the majority of people there speak English (especially since I don’t plan on leaving the all-inclusive resort), I wanted to learn at least a small amount of Spanish, in order to understand a tiny percentage of what was being said around me. The problem with that project was that learning a new language – even just to start learning it is hard work and takes time, which I am able to “waste” very well.

I employed the same method I have implemented in the past couple of years, to get through school and keep a somewhat clean house as well as maintain a wide number of hobbies and interests. I invested 15 minutes a day into learning Spanish, over a 2-month period, the exact amount of time of Pimsleur’s Level 1 Spanish. While I am unable to have a conversation besides confidently saying “I speak very little Spanish”, “One beer please”, and “Where is the washroom?” I at least know I can understand the jist of a simple conversation. From a base of literally knowing zero of the Spanish language, I have built up to maybe a level 10 or 15 out of 100 in Spanish skills (if you were to look at Spanish skills as a video game).

15 minutes is about as much of an undesirable activity I can really talk myself into, unless there is some pressure to get it complete (the lifestyle of a procrastinator). At the end of a year though, 15 minutes turns into 90 hours (if my math is right). From my perspective, 90 hours is more than enough time to get most anything done, mostly because the stuff I would like to get done is really not all that important.

From a personal finance perspective, 15 minutes a day could be enough to learn quite a bit over a year about anything, I could:

  • Learn a new or different method of investing – I could read a chapter of a book per day.
  • Organize my investment accounts
  • Accurately track my spending
  • Research a stock

At the end of a week, I would be way further ahead with my finances and financial plan than at the beginning of the week.

How do you fit in “undesirable” activities? Do you leave them until the very last day, or attack them well ahead of time?

5 thoughts on “15 Minutes a Day”

  1. I am a house cleaning procrastinator. I hate cleaning and will do anything to avoid it. Maybe I could clean for 15 minutes each day. That would be enough time to put the clean laundry away or to empty and load the dishwasher and wipe the counters or vacuum one room.

    I hate exercise too. Maybe I could try 15 minutes of exercise each day too.

  2. If I can’t get started at something I get my phone and put the timer on for 20 minutes. I can do anything for 20 minutes. When that time is up I reward myself with something for another 20 minutes if I need to. Then I do a further 20 minutes on whatever I was procrastinating about. It works well for me now however when I was very ill and had little energy I had to do things in 5 or 10 minute slots.

    Jane, you could do both at once – ramp up your housework to high speed and wash your floors on your hands and knees, scrubbing hard and then you only have half the time spent on doing things you don’t like doing. Been there, done that. It works.

  3. @ Life on Purpose: I find it really hard to motivate myself too, but I find 15 minutes “tolerable” and easier to talk myself into.

    @ Hilary: 5 or 10 minutes is better than zero, right? If you look at exercise, if I tried to do something like bodyweight squats for 5-10 minutes, that’s a pretty decent amount of exercise (with the alternative being doing nothing).

  4. Nice theory but really to do anything that is difficult and make progress you often need to invest some decent blocks of time. Not discounting that your method is a good way to start. But at some point you probably need to invest a few hours at once!

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