Stagnancy thrives on the myth of tomorrow.
You know the one. The mythical and elusive tomorrow that never arrives.
Tomorrow you’ll be inspired.
Tomorrow you won’t be tired.
Tomorrow you’ll have more time.
Tomorrow you’ll be in a better mood.
Tomorrow your partner will be more supportive.
Tomorrow you’ll be immune to the skepticism of others.
Tomorrow the planets will be more favorably aligned.
You’re going to get started tomorrow.
The thing is, tomorrow doesn’t exist. It’s a figment of your imagination. It’s a metaphorical storage unit for all of your fears, hopes, dreams, insecurities, and desire. It’s the place you stash your shortcomings and deny your capabilities.
How about today?
If you really want to start today, you can. You can and you will. Don’t worry about finishing. Finishing seems hard. Finishing takes forever. You’re not going to finish anything today. Leave that part alone. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters today is starting.
You’re going to start, because starting sets things in motion. Whatever you start is going to create momentum, which is the only thing you need right now. Starting doesn’t have to be time consuming. In fact, I’m going to recommend that if you’ve been feeling stuck for a long time, you should keep this short and sweet.
Whatever your creative project or business endeavor is, if it really matters to you, you can find just fifteen minutes to show it some love. If you’re already coming up with all of the reasons that it is pointless to spend fifteen minutes on it, thinking you can’t accomplish anything in fifteen minutes, there are a couple of things you need to do right now.
First of all, please define anything. In fifteen minutes I can send at least three or four emails to clients. I can have a phone conversation in which I’m asked to take on a bit of freelance work, I say yes, I’m given the details, I write them all down, and I send the invoice while I’m saying goodbye. I can come up with a long list of topics for blog posts. I could keep going, but you get the point. I can’t do all of those things in fifteen minutes, but I can do one of those things. One of those things is not nothing. They are all something, and they all matter.
Second of all, ask yourself: Will I get more done in fifteen minutes than I will in doing nothing while I wait for tomorrow?
15 Ways to Create Momentum in 15 Minutes
- Define Your Intentions – No matter what you’re about to do, whether it’s writing a book, putting together an online shop to sell your pottery, a photo exhibit, or launching a start-up, you should know what intentions are driving it. What do you value? How do you want other people to benefit? Your intentions can include giving yourself a creative outlet, filling people’s homes with beautiful, meaningful art, drawing attention to a cause you believe in, making people smile, whatever. Get really clear on your own values. What are you hoping to offer the world with your service or product? And why? Write out as many details as you can squeeze into fifteen minutes. Even when you think you’ve covered it all after three minutes, just try to keep writing. You might be surprised by what comes out.
- Free-Write That Project – Whatever your project is, write it across the top of a blank piece of paper. I’m not going to give you a prompt beyond that. Just put your pen on the paper and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. Even if you feel stuck and part of what you write is BLAHBLAHBLAHICAN’TTHINKOFANYTHING. Whatever comes into your mind, get it out on paper.
- Get Real About Money – What kind of a financial investment are you going to need to make in order for this project to happen? List absolutely every single thing you can think of that will cost you a cent and write it down. Unless you know the exact prices for those things off the top of your head, look them up. Be as specific as possible.
- Why Do You Want This? – I deliberately set this apart from the question about your intentions. With every artistic or business endeavor, most of us have both selfless and selfish motivations. That’s normal. And it’s not bad. If you’re embarrassed to admit that along with the joy that comes from knitting beautiful baby blankets that are soft and warm against fresh skin, you’d also like to be able to pay down your debt or take a vacation, cut yourself some slack. I’m not sure how so many of us got the impression that it is evil to want to be able to move beyond survival and meet our needs with a degree of comfort, but there’s nothing bad about that. You already thought about what you intend to offer others. Now what do you hope to offer yourself? The pleasure of having people recognize your talent? A degree of fame? To be able to pay your rent on time? To take your kids on a road trip this summer? To quit the job that currently pays your bills? List everything you want from seeing this to fruition.
- What Needs to Be Done? – List everything, and I do mean everything, that needs to be done to get from where you are now to finished project. Don’t try to organize it. Just get it out of your head and onto paper in a big, messy jumble. You probably won’t think of it all in fifteen minutes. Maybe there will be steps you’re not even aware of yet. That’s okay. Get as much down now as possible.
- Break Down the Process – Grab that list you made yesterday. Start putting it in a logical order. What needs to happen first? And then what? And after that? If you finish putting it in order before the timer goes off, try breaking each of the steps into smaller sub-steps.
- Who Are Your Current Connections? – Make a list of every single person you can think of who might be helpful in the execution of your project. This includes more people than you might realize at first. For instance, if you’re a painter and you’re hoping to have an exhibit, it could include gallery owners, other artists, a friend who owns a printing company and wants to cut you a deal on cards and flyers, bloggers, friends with huge local networks on social media, people willing to babysit for your kids, the best friend willing to listen to you whine about the hard parts, and the list goes on…
- What Connections Do You Need to Make? – Maybe there’s a new gallery in town, and you haven’t talked with the owner yet. Perhaps you could really use a mentor to help walk you through the process, but you haven’t met any of the painters in your area. Think broadly. There are lots of helpful, likable people in the world, and you only know a fraction of them.
- What Tools and Supplies Do You Need? – If you already own everything you need, gather it all together. Make sure it’s in working order. If it’s a consumable, be sure that you have enough of it. Make a list of anything you don’t have that you’re going to need.
- Hangups and Holdups – There are reasons you’ve been putting this project off that have nothing to do with your schedule. What are your hangups? What are you afraid of? Don’t just say, “Failure.” What about failing is scary? What will happen if you fail? And then there are holdups. The holdups are not in your head. They are concrete things that serve as obstacles. Your holdups are that you work sixty hours a week at a low paying job to feed your family, so you’re exhausted when you’re at home. Or you have a child with special needs who requires a lot of care. Or you need a new piece of equipment, but you can’t afford it. Don’t worry about coming up with solutions today.
- Reasons You Can Rock This – It’s time to toot your own horn. What is it about you that lends itself well to this thing you’re creating? What talents and strengths do you possess that make this totally possible. If you’re only used to saying negative things about yourself, this might be difficult. It might even feel painful. If you must, start with something simple, like “My hands are steady,” but for the love of all things holy, put some nice things about yourself on that paper.
- What Do You Need to Learn? – No matter how much of a novice or an expert you are, you’ve still got a lot to learn. If you don’t have a lot to learn, I’m sorry. I won’t even pretend like that’s not sad. Identify the areas where you could benefit from study or a mentor.
- Make an Investment – It’s human nature. Once we’ve made a financial investment in something, we’re more likely to see it through to fruition. I’m not telling you to endanger your family. Please don’t spend the grocery budget on a new camera lens. I’m telling you to shell out just enough money to feel like you’re really in this, and even better if it hurts (just ever so slightly). For some people, this might mean no vacation this year in order to go to a conference. For others it might mean giving up lattes, eating out, and new clothes for the next three months to pay for a piece of equipment. And for others, it might mean that you scrimp at the grocery so you’ll have enough left over to buy a notebook in which to write your business notes.
- Make Something Tangible – You’re not going to crank out the entire chapbook in fifteen minutes. But you can start a poem. So do that. Whatever your big project, do some sort of tangible work on it, something direct and solid that you can lay eyes or hands on.
- Organize the Chaos – If your desk is cluttered, clean it up. If your paints are a mess, deal with it. If you’ve got thousands of photos on your computer that aren’t organized in any logical way, start making folders, dragging and dropping. Even if your whole life feels chaotic, messy, and cluttered, clean up whatever little bit you can in fifteen minutes. Let that little bit of neat and tidy, even if it is a single folder on your desktop, serve as a refuge and sanctuary.
Start at the top of the list and work your way down. Spend fifteen minutes on one exercise a day for the next fifteen days. Some people who try this will find that momentum takes over at some point during those fifteen days and will start skipping a TV show or foregoing Facebook here and there in order to spend more than fifteen minutes a day on their project. Some of you will feel like it’s a push to keep going for the full fifteen minutes every single day. Either way it’s okay. No internal guilt tripping. You’ve only committed yourself to the fifteen minutes, and if you do the fifteen minutes but not a second more, you’ve still kept your commitment to yourself.
If you decide to do this, please feel free to share your experience or check in for moral support. I’m here. I care. Just do today. Fifteen minutes. You’ve got this.