Sometimes I get daunted thinking about committing to something for the rest of my life, like eating healthy. Sometimes I can’t get motivated to do something that I know will take me a measly hour, like working out. Sometimes I am overwhelmed at the idea that I have several hours worth of work ahead of me, like cleaning the house. But thanks to some casual words describing a little game of basketball, I have decided to put on blinders and focus on only the next 20 minutes. I can do (almost) anything for 20 minutes.
I’m not usually a basketball fan unless my son is playing. But this past spring break I was a captive audience to much of March Madness. On the long car ride home from our ski trip, my husband and my teen were listening to the game on the radio; I was bored enough to listen with half an ear. The University of Kansas, considered by many to be the front-runner to win the NCAA tournament, was playing underdog Northern Iowa. (Full disclosure: I live in Kansas and my husband and I both attended grad school at KU.) Both ears perked up when I heard the commentator say that the underdogs did not have to think about being a great team – they just had to be better than the Jayhawks for 20 minutes. How empowering! And my mind, which loves a good analogy, immediately started thinking of all the ways this might hold true in my own life.
My first thought was about eating. (Of course it was.) While I have subscribed to the theory that I am implementing a lifestyle change and not a diet that ends, sometimes I am a bit daunted in thinking about the eternity of the commitment. But maybe I should stop worrying about what I am going to eat (or not eat) months from now (or this weekend even) and just focus instead on the next 20 minutes. Surely I can control my eating for 20 short minutes! Then I can think about the 20 minutes after that, and after that.
I thought about all the other things in my life that take time and motivation to complete. Like how often I just don’t want to get started with my boring elliptical workout, knowing that I have set a goal of an hour of exercise. What would happen if I told myself that I only need to get on for 20 minutes? I would be less deterred from starting and very likely to stay on past the 20 minute mark once I got going. Twenty minutes seems a lot more doable some days. Twenty minutes gets me started.
And sometimes 20 minutes is a great interval for breaking a larger, more time consuming project into smaller parts. Like tackling my dirty house. Sigh. I can’t remember the last time I carved out the time to clean the whole thing in one fell swoop. But I can pick up a dust rag and swipe away. Twenty minutes here, twenty minutes with the vacuum, twenty minutes later cleaning the kitchen, twenty minutes nagging reminding my son and husband that the bathrooms need cleaning.
And then, like Northern Iowa, I can overcome the odds and win the game. Doesn’t matter what game I’m playing. I don’t need to be great, I just need to do well for 20 minutes. Twenty minutes! And the same principle applies to so many other things. Forget about the clock and 20 minutes and consider the analogy. Lots of weight to lose? Focus on just 5 pounds at a time. Training to run a marathon? Take it in one mile increments. Finishing a degree program? Once semester or class at a time. Packing up your house to move? One box or closet at a time.
Twenty minutes. Shoot, it took me longer than that to write this post! What can you do?