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Managing life’s expected and unexpected 20 minutes at a time

Annise, our dog, spent the weekend at the veterinarian. It started Thursday morning when she was out for a run with my husband.

She went after a rabbit, tried to clear a barbed-wire fence remnant left over from some long-gone ranch, and ended up with a couple of deep cuts on her legs and chest.

She came home with a few stitches, a cone of shame, and was pretty much raring to go a few hours later. Then she vomited.

At first I thought maybe it was a reaction to the medication they sent home with her. She vomited again a few hours after that. And then again the next morning. The vet suggested we bring her back.

They thought they could see something on an x-ray so they first tried to use IV fluids to see if they could flush out some foreign object she’d eaten. No such luck. She was still vomiting and started refusing food. Surgery was required.

It turns out the problem was scar tissue from a previous surgery had adhered to itself and was effectively blocking her intestine. They had to remove the affected section of intestine.

Thankfully 24 hours later she was raring to go again. (Also thankfully we invested in pet insurance earlier this year so this expensive weekend was at least partially covered.)

Stuff like this comes up in families all the time. One minute you’re planning on using your weekend to organize the pantry and file that pile of papers on the table, the next minute you’re making multiple trips to the vet with a queasy canine.

It is how those papers get piled up on the table – they are put to the side when more important things come up; like managing meltdowns, evenings with dear friends, or new episodes of Doctor Who.

After we got back from our epic trip to Great Britain I had an extraordinary backlog of things I needed to do – things related to running my business, helping with my husband’s business, and basic running the family kinds of things.

Trying to figure out how to do all the tasks I needed to do was a little overwhelming.

Plus it was easy to get lost in doing the things I liked to do (reading, writing, organizing photos from our trip) and neglect the things I didn’t want to do (say, cleaning the house).

I realized that I needed to trick myself a little bit, change things up so that I wouldn’t get entrenched.

I started limiting myself to doing tasks for 20 minutes at a time.

I have a timer on my computer set for 20 minutes. When it goes off (with music I selected) I get up and do something else – clean a bathroom, empty the dishwasher, rake leaves – for 20 minutes. Then I go back to the computer and set the timer again, working on a blog article, or reviewing others’ blog posts, etc.

This organizational strategy has worked well for me because it doesn’t matter if I put things off in favor of other things. I will get to what is needed to be done in an upcoming 20 minute segment.

I feel like I finally have the backlog well and truly managed – 20 minutes at a time.

Originally published on Autism Mom


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  1. Marjorie Snyder 2 years ago

    That is a great idea! I too get overwhelmed with the seemingly endless tasks I can handle 20 minutes. Thank you

  2. Tarsha benevento 2 years ago

    I LOVE THIS!!! I use a similar approach to self care. I discuss it on my blog http://www.findyourmagic.org
    My daily goal is #202020
    Read for 20.
    Write for 20.
    Exercise for 20.
    I don’t beat myself up when I don’t get to all 3. I hardly ever do get all 3 in these days but that is my goal. And now, thanks to this, I will be adding another 20 for organizational/task orientated work!!! Thank you for sharing.

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