Finding a way, with minutes a day

These days, it feels easy to get carried away. Energy from a jolt of inspiration—or constant jolts from social media—build an idea up quickly. The problem with these grand aspirations is when its size gets in the way; when you feel like you don’t have enough time to do something, you put it off into the future, into the very well-populated land of “someday,” and risk never doing it at all.

When it feels like everyone has a big idea, or a new name for an old idea, there’s something really radical about deliberately shrinking ideas to make them fit your day, or keeping them small enough in the first place.

The New York Times, well-known for its big ideas, published an interactive feature on the 7 minute workout. More recently, it also published a post on the power of 8 minute phone calls with friends. The prompt reads like this:

Today your goal is to think of a person you love: someone you miss, someone you wish you connected with more often.

Send that person a quick text asking if they can chat on the phone for eight minutes — ideally today, but if not, schedule it for sometime this week. You can even copy and paste the following:

Hi! I read this in The New York Times and it made me think of you. Want to schedule an eight-minute phone call this week?

After the eight minutes are up, decide together when your next such catch-up will be — and then honor your time commitment and sign off promptly. (Unless your friend is having some sort of crisis, in which case it’s good that you got in touch anyway.) Hang up and enjoy that little glow of well-being.

In Keep Going, Austin Kleon writes:

“Attention is the most basic form of love,” wrote John Tarrant. When you pay attention to your life, it not only provides you with the material for your art, it also helps you fall in love with your life.

Not only that; making a few minutes for your creative work can also create the energy you need to bring to the rest of the things you need to do. As Andy Warhol writes, “If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.”

It’s not as easy to appreciate the effects of showing up each day, even half-heartedly; after a year or two, things start to compound—and over a longer time horizon, you really start to feel the effects.

There will probably never be a moment when you feel like you have enough time; it’s a fallacy. If it’s important enough, and you can’t slot it in as one of your big projects, then find a small way to practice it every day. Once you keep an eye out for these openings, you’ll see them everywhere.

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