Chipping Away at Your Goals 10 Minutes at a Time

“Come on, it’s only 10 minutes,” said author Lorne Holden, speaking to me from her home in Stockbridge, Mass., on Monday afternoon. “You always have 10 minutes.”

She was channeling the inner voice that she said chided her whenever she was tempted to procrastinate when writing “Make it Happen in Ten Minutes a Day: The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done,” a 2012 book that entered the pantheon of “… minutes a day” inertia-busting guides.

Among the titles available in the self-help sections are: “Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day,” “Take the Leap: Do What You Love 15 Minutes a Day and Create the Life of Your Dreams,” “Increase Your (SAT) Score in 3 Minutes a Day,” “Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day,” “The 10-Minute Retriever: How to Make an Obedient and Enthusiastic Gun Dog in 10 Minutes a Day,” and “The Five-Minute Renaissance: How to Have a Fuller, Richer, Happier Life in Just Five Minutes a Day … Really.”


The idea behind these and many other similar books is that getting started is the hardest part of forming a new habit or taking on a new project. And that many of us are intimidated by the implicit time commitment involved in, well, say, training a gun dog.

We’re busy. Really busy. Our email inbox is overflowing. Shows we want to watch are stacked up in our DVR queues. Magazines and newspapers beckon seductively, as does the pillow at the end of the day.

The incrementalists believe in setting the bar for daily accomplishment almost absurdly low (the authors of the SAT guide admit in their introduction that they “exaggerated slightly” when promising improvements with just three minutes of effort a day) in order to eliminate the main excuse most of us give for not getting started in the first place, thus overcoming Newton’s First Law, which states that an object at rest tends to remain at rest.

And then, often, ideally, the next part of Newton’s First Law comes into play: An object in motion tends to say in motion.

“Once I start I actually find myself enjoying it and work much longer than the 10 minutes,” reported Eileen Donnersberger, among four dozen readers who responded to the 10-minute challenge for 2015 that I issued in my column on the day after Christmas. Donnersberger’s goal is to finish knitting an afghan that she began several years ago as a housewarming present for her son.

“I’d say I work (on it) an average of 30 minutes a day,” she wrote when I inquired how it was going.

The range of goals is quite broad. I have an assortment of declutterers, novelists, memoir writers and aspiring instrumentalists.

Mary Dobbins intends finally to fill out “The Story of A Lifetime,” a book that asks older people to answer a series of questions about their life and times for the benefit of future generations.

Paul Mouw plans to write “short notes of encouragement to friends, acquaintances or people who could use a kind or helpful word” every day.

Barrie Hinman is going to study herbal medicine using “an ambitious online series of courses I have already paid for.”

The complete roster is online at, and if you want in on it, I’ve extended the deadline to Friday. Write to me at

Once you’re on the list I won’t bug you, but I will check in at the end of the year to see what sorts of projects and goals this micro-effort idea seems best suited to.

The idea is that 10 minutes a day is the floor, not the ceiling, and that with a minimum of 60 hours of effort over the course of a year you can get a lot done that you’ve always been putting off because you tell yourself you don’t have enough time.

But you do. Because, as Lorne Holden insists, “You always have 10 minutes.”

This artcile was written by Eric Zorn.

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One Response to “Chipping Away at Your Goals 10 Minutes at a Time”
  1. That is an interesting idea, i think the 10 minutes will do for me, recently i read a book called the 5 seconds rule by Mel Robinson, i think the core principle is the same.

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