Guest post: My adventures living 10 minutes at a time

headshot071111-2-1(Laura’s note: Over the next few weeks I’ll be running some guest posts from bloggers I enjoy. I hope you enjoy these posts too!)
By Laura Brady Saade
Sometimes it feels like I’ve only got 10 minutes each day that aren’t spoken for. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom of young kids, a working mother, an entrepreneur, or almost anything else these days, you know this feeling. I started living my life 10 minutes at a time when I realized that a lot of the day is full of obligations, but that those small gaps in the schedules can end up being my favorite times of the day. I squeeze the “want to’s” in alongside the “have to’s,” 10 minutes at a time. At the end of the day, at least I know I stepped out of the daily grind and pushed a bit beyond the status quo. 
I keep a list of what matters to me — it’s a handy cheat sheet so when I have a few minutes, I can do one of the things on the list. I know it sounds crazy to need a list of important things in your life! But it’s an easy reminder when I suddenly have a few free minutes. The list of important things changes, but the general theme is things that feed my soul and make me feel like I did something important that day. My list generally has on it things like: 
– one-on-one time with the kids 
– friend time
– spouse time
– financial planning 
– desk work 
– tidying 
– healthy eating
“One-on-one time with the kids” is a good reminder to me. Often the kids will ask if I can play a game and I have my usual knee-jerk answer: “Sorry, guys, I’m too busy right now.” Remembering that “time with the kids” is important to me, I am more likely to take the break and play. Whenever I do, it ends up being one of the highlights of the day. And the 10-minute aspect helps make it doable — I couldn’t play a round of Monopoly, but I could play a few hands of gin rummy or a round of Sorry. And “Friend Time” is a good reminder that I may not have talked to a long-distance friend or a sick friend in a long time. “Financial planning” falls into the scary but important category — I can’t bear to spend hours on it, but I can spend a few minutes a day making sure we’re on course and seeing where we can save.
Sometimes my 10-minute goals fall into the “dream” category, as in “Sounds like a good idea some day when life isn’t so crazy.” My two friends and I had talked about starting a women’s group where we would raise money for charities the members were involved in. We thought it sounded like a great idea but we all thought maybe “some day” we’ll have time to formulate a plan. I thought I’d experiment with seeing if we could get if off the ground if I developed the idea 10 minutes at a time. Within two months we had our first meeting! Tea and Empathy ( now has over 100 members and we have raised thousands of dollars for more than 30 charities.
I take on at least one 10-minute goal a month and see where I can get with it…
– June’s goal was tidying the house — I did the car one day, the kitchen everything drawer one day, the linen closet, etc. Three months later all those tidy projects are still holding. It feels great to know where to find a pair of scissors when I need them! 
– July was “financial health.” I created one cheat sheet of all our financial info. Now all the info is in one place, and in doing the analysis I realized I could save about $400 if I switched car insurance. Cha-ching! 
– August was all about getting a handle on my computer — creating folders, purging old files, cleaning out email. 
– And one month was “Read a book” month. Those 10 minutes were such a great way to start the day.
If you’d like to try taking 10 minutes for a goal, here are a few ways to pick one…
– Think MInd-Body-Spirit: is one of these lacking in your life? 
– The project that keeps lingering on your to-do list
– When you hear yourself saying, “I used to love when I had time for…” or “Some day I’d like to…”
– The scary or overwhelming project
– The self-indulgent activity
Then look for 10-minute gaps in the schedule…
– During kids’ activities (while you’re waiting for them)
– Getting up a few minutes early
– As soon as the baby goes down for a nap
– Before you turn the TV on at night
– While you’re waiting for a client
– While you’re waiting at school pickup
– Look at the schedule inside out — look between the big chunks of scheduled time for a few minutes of opportunity in between
Each of my 10-minute goals is something that’s important to me but that I’ve put off because it feels too scary, overwhelming, boring, or self-indulgent. But at 10 minutes a day, they’re suddenly doable! So that’s how I live 10 minutes at a time.
What do you do when you have 10 minutes to spare?
Laura Brady Saade is a Wharton MBA and former management consultant. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three kids. Laura consults at Give Me 10. On her blog,, you can log and track your own goals, and join the monthly 10-minute challenges.

15 thoughts on “Guest post: My adventures living 10 minutes at a time

  1. I love the idea of dedicating a month to a specific project or goal. I bet you feel very accomplished knowing that you made something happen just ten minutes at a time!

    1. Even without dedicating a whole month to something, I know there are a number of projects I could make progress on in 10 minutes. 10 minutes cleaning out my car would make a noticeably cleaner car. And it’s only 10 minutes! Guess I should go do that…

  2. I absolutely love this strategy, especially the idea of tackling big projects that I can’t work up the motivation to complete (like going through old clothes/toys to donate/sell)—I keep putting it off until I have a full day to do it, and that is NEVER going to happen.
    Also intrigued by the idea of reading a book in 10-15 minute intervals on a weekend…

      1. I don’t usually get privacy in the bathroom these days…my little one tends to freak out still when he can’t SEE me, so he has to follow me in (or stand outside the door screetching)

  3. At one point, Real Simple magazine had an article per issue with something you could do in 15 minutes such as clean your car. I liked that idea. My biggest problem is that the only 10/15 minutes I have is after the kids are finally in bed (or at least temporarily in bed), so I’m too exhausted to tackle many projects, however small, and I need to focus on must-do items for the next busy day.

    1. MP, I remember those days! My kids are a bit older now, so the days aren’t quite as non-stop, but non-stop in other ways. I started this 10-minute thing when they were very young. If you can muster just enough energy (even 5 minutes) to do something for yourself at the end of the day, maybe it will become part of the routine and you’ll start finding other little pockets of time you can use, too. That’s how it was for me. It’s crazy to think how our days can be so busy that there isn’t even enough time for a shower or even the bathroom — I hope you can start stealing just a few minutes at a time!

      1. I’ve been taking notice of the few moments I start to have because the kids are getting older. This morning I showered while two of them were playing in my bedroom. Last night I got to sit on the porch and answer some emails while they were all playing in the backyard. I didn’t have to hover over the baby now that she’s almost 2. It feels awesome!

  4. As a full-time Internet Marketer, mom and wife, I am always looking for the most efficient ways to get things done. This week I told my Facebook friends I wanted to focus less on my “must do” list and carve out more time for my “love to do” list. This is a perfect article at the perfect time. It has given me ideas on how to make that time even if it is in smaller increments. I have been feeling a bit tied down by my commitments and hope this helps lift that burden.

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