by Janice Kennedy

Walking through my house can be a depressing experience. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see several big, chunk-of-time projects, tempting me to try to bring them under control. I quickly divert my eyes since I don’t have large chunks of time available, nor the energy, to bring order to my world.

This is the dilemma I have silently wrestled with on many occasions. When my children were young and we were preparing to leave Africa after living there for 17 years, I knew we must whittle down our possessions. But in the middle of training a national couple to replace us at the university, driving my children to and from school, plus afterschool activities, juggling power outages and numerous other life situations, sorting through our belongings did not make it to my priority “to do” list. I am depressed just remembering those days!

Thankfully, during this time, I started reading a book by Emilie Barnes entitled Survival for Busy Women. I cannot claim to have put all of her suggestions into action. She gives far too many for me to handle. But, she did make one suggestion which helped me enormously. I call it “the 15-minute-rule.”

She suggested to take just 15 minutes each day to tackle a task which normally would take several hours and perhaps more than one day to accomplish. I could give myself permission to slot 15 minutes into my busy schedule. In Africa, I decided to begin my sorting with the thousands of pictures my husband and I had taken of our African life. My kitchen timer helped me remember my 15 minute deadline.

It is astounding how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes over several days. I threw away old blurry pictures, slides which were black and unnecessary paper crammed into numerous envelopes. And, I catalogued all my pictures and negatives! This process energized me to tackle the file cabinet and other paper mountains. Even the children learned to give short amounts of time to sorting through their toys and treasures, deciding which ones to give away and which valuables to keep.

I continue to use this rule whenever I encounter a task which requires many hours. The 15-minute rule has given me a way to clean out the garage or organize a cupboard. I have used the rule to learn a new craft like quilting or to research various topics on the internet. Some tasks are unpleasant, and I would never willingly put them on any to-do list. Even though my sons and husband are energized as they learn the latest techniques on their phones, I must be prodded. So, my 15-minute rule helps me succeed in learning new technology.

Oh no! I can see a box in the garage marked “old letters,” a box full of letters and cards my mother received from us and the children during 30 years of life overseas! It is time to employ the 15-minute rule to catalogue and save these priceless documents for my children. There is no longer any need to divert my eyes. This task will only occupy 15 minutes of today and 15 minutes tomorrow and the next several days until the task is checked off my “to do” list.

Janice and her husband, Doug, have worked with Campus Crusade for Christ for over 30 years. They spent 17 years in Africa, 12 years in France, and now live in Orlando, FL. If you want to be in touch directly with Janice, her e-mail is: