Weeding, Small Steps, and Finding Time

As the season of intense rain in Northern California winds down, it’s time to face the tremendous amount of weeds taking over our front yard. This medium-sized triangular patch is full of sprawling clover, tough grass, dead dandelions, and scary spiky plants.

I actually like gardening. When we first moved into our home, I took an adult education course on native plants in California, and put in a few, but then I got so busy with work and life that the yard filled up with weeds again. I’d let them grow so high and wild that when I had a free weekend to pull them out, I could only clear a small patch.

Some years, I’d hire someone to remove the weeds, but then I didn’t make time to put in new plants, or keep up with the weeding, and the weeds returned.

Each day when I walk out the door, I feel a little sad when I look at our front yard. “Someday I’ll have time to create a nice garden/yard/flower patch,” I sigh. But it never happens.

This has been going on for over 10 years.

Someone recently suggested that I spend a half an hour each day weeding. “I know your schedule is super busy, ” she said, “Just give it a shot.”

I could think of all kinds of reasons this wasn’t going to work:

  • What if . . . I can’t get my work done because I took time to weed?
  • What if . . . I get so dirty I have to take a shower? I don’t have time for that!
  • What if  . . . I’m not strong enough to pull out all the weeds?
  • What if  . . . that mean-looking plant with the thorns attacks me?

Blah, blah, blah.

This past Monday, I turned the volume down on the “what if” recording and just did it. I set my iPhone alarm for 30 minutes and pulled weeds. Although I didn’t make a massive amount of progress, it was enough that when I walked out the front door on Tuesday morning, instead of feeling sad, I felt happy. “Well, look at that,” I thought, “I’m getting a little closer to what I want.”

On Tuesday afternoon, after I finished my work for the day, I spent another 30 minutes weeding, and on Wednesday another 30. Between each weeding session, I’d find myself thinking about what section I was going to work on next, when in the day I was going to do it, and future projects that could make our yard nicer.

Because I only weeded for 30 minutes each time, I wasn’t as wiped out as when I would try to tackle the whole yard in a weekend. In fact, I usually wanted to do more when the 30-minute timer went off.

Why am I telling you this story about weeding?

As I was weeding, I started to think about other large projects I’d like to accomplish in my life, and how much progress I could make if I set aside 30 minutes each day, which, if I actually did that for 365 days, would add up to 182.5 hours per year.

I’m thinking that there is probably a writing, or creative project, or business goal that you’ve wanted to do for a long time, but you can never find the time. One of the most common responses to my Calling All Healers survey was that many of you are part-time entrepreneurs either because you have a part-time, or full-time day job, and/or you are a part-time, or full-time caretaker to a parent, and/or children. Making time for your writing, creative work and/or business is a challenge. Perhaps trying a version of the 30-minute weeding experiment can help you make progress towards one of your goals.

It really helps that I can see the progress I’m making, so if you’re working on a project where the results of the time you’re spending isn’t immediately evident; create something visual to represent it, like the equivalent of a fundraising thermometer. You can see some ideas in my Pinterest search results for a “visual goal tracker.”

What is a writing, or creative project, or business goal that you could experiment with spending 30-minutes a day on?

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

Photos by Britt Bravo.

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