How to Put More Time in Your Life, Part 2

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Boost Your Productivity with the Grab 15 Principle

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Adapted from Answers to Satisfy the Soul: Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Important Questions by Jim Denney


In Part 1, we looked at how to put more time in our lives through organizing our priorities. Now in Part 2, we’ll look at a concept that I believe is going to revolutionize your writing life and speed you to your writing goals: The Grab 15 Principle. But first, we’ll look at how to keep your writing time safe and sacred from intrusions by other people:


Second: Don’t let other people hijack your time. You have a right to set your own agenda for success in life. Others will try to entice you or even bully you into setting your priorities aside so you can meet their priorities. They’ll use guilt and manipulation to pull you away from your goals. Don’t let them.

As J. K. Rowling observed, “The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books.”

When someone asks you to take on a task, immediately decide (1) whether it is something you choose to do or not, and (2) what priority this task should have (if any) on your Things to Do list. If you agree to take on that person’s task, put in the appropriate category — Priority 1, 2, or 3 — and accomplish it according to the priority it deserves. Just because someone is clamoring the loudest doesn’t mean his wishes should be your command.

It’s okay to say “no” without making excuses or offering any reasons. It’s okay to say, “This is my time, and I choose to spend it another way.” You don’t have to make up a lie or justify yourself. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Most people will respect your polite-but-firm refusal — and if they don’t, that’s their problem.

People will chew up your writing time if you let them. They’ll phone you or knock on your door and refuse to hang up or leave. When that happens to me, I find it helps to be polite but direct. I say, “I’m on a deadline,” or, “I’m short of time right now,” or, “I have to hang up now, my appendix just burst.” A good friend of mine simply says, “I’m going to hang up now.” If you want to be diplomatic about it, you can say, “I’m glad you called, let’s do this again real soon.”

Third: Follow the Grab 15 Principle. I learned this principle years ago while partnering on books with Bert Decker and Dru Scott Decker. Bert is the author of You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard and founder of Decker Communications, Inc. His wife, Dru, is a popular business speaker and author of such books as Stress That Motivates and Women as Winners. Dru originated the Grab 15 Principle, and Bert and Dru both promote it in their writing and speaking. It has changed my life by putting hundreds of extra hours into my schedule.

Here’s how it works:

You’ve got a project you want to accomplish, but your schedule is so full that you just don’t have the time. It might be that book you want to write, the exercise program you want to start, the new language you want to master. You’re saving this project for that mythical “someday” when you have “more time” — which, of course, will never happen.

But, thanks to the Grab 15 Principle, it can happen. Most of us are unaware of how much priceless, irreplaceable time slips through our fingers like sand through an hourglass. The Grab 15 Principle salvages that time and uses it to make our dreams come true. This principle is amazingly easy to follow and incredibly powerful:

First, select the project you wish to accomplish.

Next, make a commitment to “grab fifteen” minutes every day without fail to work on it. Come rain or come shine, come hell or high tide, you will devote a minimum of fifteen minutes of every day to your dream. Promise yourself that your head won’t hit the pillow until you’ve done your Grab 15.

Sounds too easy, right? But there are a number of good reasons why this principle works.

First reason: All those fifteen-minute snippets of time quickly add up. Let me ask you this: What could you do with an extra 78 hours a year? Because even if you take Sundays off and only “Grab 15” six days a week, that works out to 90 minutes per week — or 78 hours a year. That is time that would otherwise just fall through the cracks. You’ve magically, effortlessly added the equivalent of almost two 40-hour work weeks to your life.

Second reason: The Grab 15 Principle boosts your creativity, concentration, and retention. This is especially important if you are writing a novel or play. The Grab 15 Principle keeps your head in the game. Every day, you’ll spend at least fifteen minutes concentrating on your project. This provides reinforcement and continuity from day to day.

Without Grab 15, you’d be starting from scratch every few months or years, whenever you happen to get around to your project. You’d lose tons of time just saying to yourself, “Now, where was I?”

With Grab 15, you never lose your place, never lose your momentum. You remain focused on your goal day after day, so ideas and insights come to you in the shower, on your commute, and while you exercise, because your project is never far from your thoughts. This magnifies the effectiveness of each fifteen-minute session.

Third reason: The Grab 15 Principle keeps you disciplined. It imposes a daily requirement and keeps you moving steadily toward your goal. It creates a daily habit in your life that soon becomes hard to break. If you go a day without keeping your promise to yourself, you really miss it — and you make sure to get back on track the next day.

Fourth and most important reason: You find it hard to stop at fifteen minutes. You put in your fifteen minutes and discover you’re on a roll, and you just keep going. That’s even more bonus time to carry you toward your goals.

I use the Grab 15 Principle every day. This idea works.

Spend your life doing what counts

Dru Scott told me the story of her friend, Margaret. At age forty-two, after suffering a series of unexplained headaches, Margaret went to the doctor. The doctors diagnosed her with an advanced and inoperable brain tumor. She had one week to live.

Margaret’s husband phoned Dru with the shattering news. Dru had seen Margaret only days before, and she had seemed healthy and vital. Margaret had a happy marriage, a rewarding career, two fine sons, and everything to live for. Why did she have to die? And why so cruelly and suddenly?

Two days before Margaret’s death, Dru talked to her on the phone. Though the pain medication slowed Margaret’s speech, it could not quench her spirit. “For some reason, during these past six months,” Margaret said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how I spend my time. I always thought of myself as career-oriented, but lately I’ve realized that my family is the most important thing in my life. These past few months, even though I had no idea I was about to die, I’ve spent much more time with David and the boys.”

When Margaret said that, Dru recalled her last visit in Margaret’s home. “I should feel guilty about that mess,” Margaret had said, pointing to a messy desk in one corner, “but there are a lot of things more important than a clean desk. Lately, I’ve been concentrating on more important things — on my husband and my boys, on building family memories. It’s so much easier to face what I am facing now because I’ve spent my time doing what really counts.”

Are you and I spending our time doing what really counts? Or are we just “killing time”? Let’s use the gift of this present moment to do the things that matter.

3 thoughts on “How to Put More Time in Your Life, Part 2

  1. Sorry, this is where my comment about the Grab 15 Principle was supposed to go…I read both posts, Part 1 and 2, back-to-back. Between the three priorities approach and the 15 minute time slots, I just may be able to get my writing back on track. Thanks for the helpful ideas!

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    1. Thanks, Bethany! I hope those ideas help.

      For me, the most powerful byproduct of the Grab 15 approach is the way it keeps your project within the daily range of your conscious and unconscious awareness. A number of times, I’ve squeezed my fifteen minute session in right at the end of the day, when I’m almost too tired to think, much less write. “But I promised myself I’d do it, so here goes.” And even if I didn’t make much progress during the session, just making contact with my ideas and writing chores would apparently get “the boys in the basement” working on the problem.

      I did this just last week, and when I woke up the next morning, the first waking thought I had was the SOLUTION to the problem, a solution that had eluded me the previous night. So I think the Grab 15 principle can boost our creativity in really amazing ways.

      God bless and inspire you!

      —Jim D.

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