The 15-Minute Rule. Use When Stuck.

This blog post is coming to you in two parts:

(1) The part I can write in 15 minutes, right now, and

(2) The part that will be completed later.

Because sometimes, we’re stuck (or, in my case, balancing time demands to the point where it could be overwhelming and completely override our best instincts about how to take care of ourselves). When I’m stuck, I use the 15 minute rule.

Do it for 15 minutes. Whatever “it” is.

Stuck when you’re vexed by a problem at work? Work on it for 15 concentrated, uninterrupted minutes.

Stuck when you want to eat something that is not on your nutrition plan for today? Take a walk for 15 minutes.

Stuck when you want to update your resume, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, and start emailing colleagues to schedule informational meetings because you know you want to make a career move? Do it for 15 minutes.

Don’t want to do your planned workout? Do it for 15 minutes.

The “15 minutes” tackles what is known in Buddhism as “monkey mind.” (In Chinese, the term translates literally as “the heart of a monkey.”) Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Mind monkey or monkey mind, from Chinese xinyuan and Sino-Japanese shin’en 心猿 [lit. “heart-/mindmonkey“], is a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”. (From

When we commit to doing “the thing” that we somehow don’t want to do, just for 15 minutes, sometimes our monkey mind gets the message. Oh, you really are going to do your workout today, aren’t you? Even if I don’t want to? And, like the impatient toddler (we live with one of those right now), sometimes the monkey mind simply gives in. Fine. If I’m going to have to do this anyway, I may as well enjoy it.

A friend posted this lovely thought on Facebook. I do not have information on the source, but whoever it is, you are brilliant. Thank you. (And contact me so that I can properly credit you in this blog post and link back to your work!)

And then you hit flow. And then, there you are, doing exactly what you wanted to do and feeling great and super-accomplished about it.

The 15-minute rule is how I’ve gotten through four planned workouts this week: rowing, running (twice), and swimming. It’s how I’ve gotten a bunch of work done that was really screaming to be put off for a while. And yes, it’s how I got this blog post done after 10 days away from the blog in the middle of a demanding month that got much busier than expected all of a sudden. (Can anybody relate to that?)

So, get out there and get after it. Fifteen minutes at a time. You know, the way I finally wrote this blog post.

Recent workouts: I’m starting to finally get my groove back as a runner. I want to run a half-marathon on the first weekend in May, which is 16 weeks from last Sunday. I’m using modified workouts from two favorite books: Run Less, Run Faster and Making the Cut. So far, so good. Best workout of the week: a 3 x 1-mile speed workout on a treadmill (it’s been cold and rainy), running just a little faster than I’m comfortable running right now. That will help me get faster for May. Game on.

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