A Procrastinator’s Guide From A to Z
“I talked to a calzone for fifteen minutes last night before I realized it was just an introverted pizza. I wish all my acquaintances were so tasty.”
― Jarod Kintz
Fifteen Minutes: The arbitrary amount of time your boss thinks it takes to accomplish any and all important tasks. For example, “That report should only take you fifteen minutes to write, twenty minutes tops,” or “I need you to reset the entire haircare aisle. It should only take you like…fifteen minutes,” or “You’re still working on that? If I’d know it would take you so long, I would have given that job to someone else. It’s a fifteen-minute job and you’ve been working on it for over an hour.”
Procrastinators have a limited concept of time. They let tasks slide until they absolutely MUST work on them, and then rush around like a fool to complete them. If they’re working on a task at warp speed Mr. Sulu, it might take only fifteen minutes to accomplish. Who knows? But since procrastinators rarely use a stopwatch, they have little sense of time management or how long it takes to get things done—hence the fifteen-minute rule.
How long does it take to get ready for work in the morning?
How long does it take to make dinner?
Actual results may vary from household to household, from person to person, and even from day to day…but don’t tell THAT to a procrastinator. Fifteen minutes is a nice round figure, a quarter of an hour. Thirteen minutes or twenty-four minutes is more precise, but of little consequence to the procrastinator. They don’t understand the true measure of time. They rarely allow extra time for tasks. They often feel like failures.
Society reinforces the procrastinator’s erroneous concept of fifteen minutes. A quick search on Amazon using the phrase, fifteen minutes, will get you over 80,000 results. (As of this post, it was 80,025 results…and growing.) If Amazon’s search engine is correct, I can eat healthier, get fit, travel in time, write my dissertation, talk to my favorite deity, enjoy a relaxing massage, find love, and start a successful business…all in fifteen minutes!
It would be laughable if this theme wasn’t so utterly perverse and pervasive. It would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that this ridiculous notion has led many a soul along the dark path of depression. I can’t change my life in fifteen minutes, and neither can you! Change takes time. It can take years. Decades. And some tasks may NEVER become a natural part of your day. You may ALWAYS need to remind yourself to do the things you don’t want to do, things that are good for you…like taking your vitamins or drinking a glass of water instead of drinking a sugar-laden beverage. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. That means you’re human!
I think you can use fifteen minutes as a measure of time if you keep it as a learning tool. FlyLady uses a fifteen-minute alarm to help procrastinators learn how long it takes to accomplish tasks, but I’m sure there are other teachers using a similar approach. You set an alarm for fifteen minutes, start a task, and see how much you’ve accomplished in that time-frame. The results are often startling! Fifteen-minute tasks rarely take fifteen minutes, but small steps in the right direction are better than none.
Your impossible boss—who’s likely a procrastinator—might treat you like a failure because you can’t work fifteen-minute miracles, but you are NOT a failure. You don’t have a magic wand. There’s no make potion. You can gain better time management skills, but you’re not going to be able to please everyone. And that’s a fact! Procrastinators need kind words, support, and the occasional kick in the rear…feeling like a failure isn’t helpful to anyone.