It’s something we’ve all said: “I really want to start task X, but I just don’t have the time I need to do it.”

Many of the items on your to-do list may seem overwhelming (especially piled on top of one another), but we’ve got a secret for you: Getting started doesn’t take much time at all. All you need is a little push.

Nicole Antoinette, founder of the blog A Life Less Bullshit, has a really great suggestion: Set a timer for 13 minutes and just work on the project or task for that amount of time, without interruption or distractions.

Antoinette notes that a lot of the time, productivity is a game of mind over matter, and getting started is about 90% of the battle. “This approach is how I get past the fear of diving into a new project,” she explains. “It’s how I move beyond the resistance I always feel to doing something hard. It’s how I overcome the frustration of dealing with annoying tasks I don’t want to deal with. I take a deep breath and tell myself: ‘You just have to do this for 13 minutes.’”

And once you begin? Well, you just might find that it’s easy to keep pushing forward. Soon, 13 minutes can turn into a half hour, and a half hour can turn into an hour or more. The next thing you know, your task is complete (or at least has a pretty big dent in it).

Not too shabby, right?

Of course, you may still be thinking that you can’t complete anything in 13 minutes or less. Want to take the challenge? Try breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. Here are three examples to try out.


1. You Want To: Organize Your Office

In 13 Minutes You Can: Tidy up Your Desk

Most of the time, your desk, cubicle, or office space gets messy or cluttered without you even realizing it. And while, sure, overhauling your filing cabinet is probably a good idea, often a quick clean is all it takes to make a big difference.

So, set your phone’s timer to 13 minutes and get cleaned up. Do you have a pile of trash just waiting to be taken to the dumpster or a stack of papers that’s taking up half of your desk space? Deal with just that. An even slightly tidier workspace can lead to a more productive workday, and you’ll be surprised how much you can do in so little time.


2. You Want To: Stay in Touch With Your Whole Network

In 13 Minutes You Can: Draft an Email to Your Contacts

It’s great to send an update to your professional contacts a couple of times per year, but the task of sending emails out to all of those people may seem daunting, especially if you have other work-related things on your plate.

So start by just writing one email to blast off to your network. In 13 minutes you could write a quick note updating your contacts on any new happenings. And you never know what opportunities might come along from shooting off a check-in email!


3. You Want To: Tackle That Big, Hairy Writing Assignment

In 13 Minutes You Can: Get All Your Thoughts on Paper

Whether it’s your next blog post, an all-staff email, or the financial report you’ve been putting off all week, taking on the challenge of writing for 13 minutes is a great way to get going on a tricky assignment.

A lot of the time, it’s hard to sit yourself down and just write without editing, and attempting to get a huge chunk of your work done in 13 minutes is a great way to force yourself past this barrier and just get what’s in your head on paper. I promise, you can edit it later.



Telling yourself you’re going to sit down for four hours and write a report or completely re-organize and clean out your office can seem intimidating and impossible. But setting a timer for just 13 minutes? Now there’s a time limit anyone can live with.


Photo of stopwatch courtesy of Shutterstock.