Ten Minutes with a Timer


I have a new strategy for journaling. "Ten minutes with a timer," it's called. Pretty self-explanatory, but don't let the simplicity fool you. It's some powerful stuff to actually begin to do what you've been wanting to do.

For years and years, I wrote in my journal almost daily. It was just something I did. Through journaling, I learned to pray, to process, to progress. I hardly ever went back to reread what I wrote, and some of the journals I even threw away. But the time spent journaling was never thrown away.

Then one day, somehow, I got out of the habit. I'm sure it wasn't as abrupt as that, but I didn't write in my journal on a Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday, or even over the weekend, and pretty soon I realized I wasn't journaling anymore.

The opposite proves true, too. You do something a little today, and a little tomorrow, and a little the day after that, and before you know it, you really are someone who journals, or exercises, or writes letters, or prays, or plays games with your kids, or reads for fun, or meal plans.

In the past few weeks since the kids started school, I've noticed that when I have big blocks of unfilled time, it is hard to discern which of all the many things I could do to actually do.

Just this past Thursday, my could-do list included:

-prepare preschool lesson for church on Sunday
-work on finances
-take a walk
-write a blog post
-make a meal plan and grocery list
-clean bathrooms
-copy down quotes in commonplace book
-I won't bore you with more.

If I start working on the finances, how long do I work? "Till I'm done" would eat up my entire morning alone. So is it pointless to even start?

If I journal, do I write to the point of resolution of the maze in my mind?

If I clean bathrooms, do I clean all of them? And does that include cleaning the tubs, too?

If I copy down quotes, do I write till my hand is tired? Or till I've found a line that speaks louder than the rest, and into which I can direct my efforts at living this day?

So, you see, the uncertainty of knowing whether to do one thing to completion, neglecting the rest, or to do little bits of many things is always the dilemma. It's such a dilemma, in fact, that the important, restful, soulful opportunities can get swallowed up in the mix. I hesitate to start the more life-giving tasks because they feel too weighty for just a random dollop of time.

I'll never have three hours to copy down quotes from Writing Down the Bones, but I can give it ten minutes today. And ten minutes next time. And ten plus ten plus ten plus ten equals a lifetime of intention and becoming.

Ten minutes of journaling is worth more than an hour of thinking about journaling and wondering when I'll ever journal again. Now I know when. I set my timer and write for ten minutes, and do it again on as many days as I can. Ten minutes is not much and it's everything, at the same time.

If there is something you have wanted to do for a while - say, make a photo book or memorize a poem - but you fear you will never get to it or you keep choosing other things in its place, you can and must start small. Set a timer for ten minutes and it will be over before you know it. Enjoy those ten minutes, and when the alarm sounds, turn your mind toward the future of ten more minutes next time. No longer will this task be the neglected thing. It won't take over your life; it will only take over ten minutes.

And ten minutes from now, you will go back to the more mundane and required tasks of life. But surely your soul will soar on those ten minutes all day.