Using The Fifteen Minute Challenge™ When You Feel Overwhelmed by a Challenging Project

Please note: Since this is a very popular post that is relevant to meeting goals and managing your time when you’re working on creative projects, I keep re-posting it in January of each year so that new Creative Sage Arts readers can check it out. It was originally published on November 15, 2008.

Sometimes we all feel daunted by an overwhelming challenge, whether it’s getting stuck in the middle of writing a novel, or rolling out a new service or product for a business. To tackle big projects in any area, a technique I’ve found to be highly effective is “The Fifteen Minute Challenge™.” I’ve often used it with my Creativity Coaching clients who are tackling a substantial creative project, or with Business Innovation clients who are coping with an overwhelming task list or trying to figure out where to start with developing a new product, service, or innovation management process.

You may have noticed I’m even applying this idea to music, currently composing a series of 15 Minute Challenge Pieces™, which involves quickly improvising a 15-minute musical sequence, or Comprovisation, and recording it, on any instrument, for voice, or for a sound art work, using combinations of “found sounds.” This variety of speed composing enables me to get a musical idea or theme down quickly, and then later, I can hone it further, which may include expanding, arranging or orchestrating it. Of course, I often find that once I’ve gotten through the initial 15 ice-breaking minutes, I’ll then continue to go on composing, for 30, 60 or 120 minutes—but that initial 15 minutes to get over the hump of my fear and resistance is the most important and valuable use of my time.

As many of you know, I have participated for eight years in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I’m especially finding The Fifteen Minute Challenge™ technique to be helpful when I am feeling overwhelmed by a section of a writing project, like my eighth NaNoWriMo novel. It’s a great technique to overcome any kind of writer’s block or indecision about where to go next with the story or characters. It is much easier to think about simply writing as fast as possible for 15 minutes and not worrying about anything else but getting words down on a page. I repeat this technique for several 15-minute time periods, sometimes assigning each one to a specific character, chapter or just a page of the novel.

Often, I use The Fifteen Minute Challenge™ in tandem with another favorite technique, Rotating Creative Crops™. You may want to go and read my post on that process, and then apply both techniques in your own way, to any type of challenging project you’re working on.

By the way, I love to get feedback from people who try any of my techniques or creative processes, and I love to hear about whatever techniques you use! Please feel free to comment after this post and let me know how you’ve applied The Fifteen Minute Challenge™, and how it’s working for you. Thanks!

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