How to Get Big Stuff Done In Little Chunks of Time - Christine Kane

You’ve wanted to write a book forever – but each year goes by it doesn’t get written.

You promised yourself you’d get rid of all the crap in the basement – and months have passed leaving you grateful you didn’t share your intention with anyone.

You’ve been meaning to set up a merchant account, read that book, start a blog, celebrate your 40th birthday party (eight years ago), learn how to knit, practice yoga.

And you keep waiting for that big long sabbatical on a white horse to show up at your door so you can do all of these things you don’t have time to do.

The truth is, even if it did show up, you’d probably panic and spend even more time on Facebook than you do already.

That’s because until we learn how to leverage our small windows of time, we won’t be all that great at using our big imaginary unending sabbaticals.

However, the dream of days upon days of uninterrupted time with no appointments or to-dos has probably served a wonderful purpose for you…

It has become a convenient excuse to not do what you say is your most important dream.

So, you can nod your head and continue to be disappointed in yourself.

Or you can take just FIVE SIMPLE STEPS and start getting your big things done in small windows of time.

Do this:

1 – Define your Priorities by Creating a Master List

When you begin ANYTHING, start with definition.

When you don’t define, then you don’t really know what you want to do.

And when you don’t know really what to do, your small windows of time become meaningless. Easy to blow off.

Your first step is to make a list of what it is that you keep telling yourself you want to complete.

Write it all down so you define what’s important to you.  This is your Master List.

2 – Pick one thing from your Master List and break it down into small pieces.

Pick one item on that list that feels the most exciting and/or do-able to you. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just choose one.

Ask yourself how to break this item down into small pieces.  What elements could be completed in 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there?  A quick bit of research?  Choosing one limited area of the attic?  Challenging yourself to write the first draft of an article in 30 minutes just for fun?

Write down those action steps.

3 – Do it.

Let’s say it’s noon.  You have a lunch appointment at 12:30. That’s a good 25 minutes. You could “hop on line,” go to Facebook, check emails and blow that 25 minutes in a matter of seconds.

Or you can train yourself to notice this small window of time.  Then, set your timer and challenge yourself to make even a tiny little bit of progress on the priority you wrote down.

4 – Make it a Habit

Every Sunday, look at your schedule for the week.  Find those spaces where you have 30 minutes to an hour each day. (Yes, you do have them. Take a look.)  Schedule appointments in your calendar. Show up for them. Set your timer.

Again, this seems simple and small. But it’s huge.

After all, you’re asking yourself to shift a well-worn habit. You’re choosing to honor a priority, rather than splatter your attention.  Learn to stay conscious for your small windows – and when you have bigger windows show up, you won’t be as daunted!

5 – Set a Deadline

If you really want to get something done, give it a deadline.

Promise your best friend it’ll be on her doorstep by X Date.  Then, write a check to your most despised political cause or party.  Give the check to your friend. Tell her to mail it if you don’t meet your deadline.  (I’m dead serious about this! Currently, I have an accountability buddy out there who has just such a check from me in a drawer somewhere.)

But hey, it doesn’t always take money.

Just now, I challenged myself to write this article in a small window of time.  My day is mostly done.

And I’m putting my theory to the test.

This took me exactly 25 minutes to write.  No, it’s not a book. But it’s a start.

So tell me this in the comments:

If you showed up for your small windows of time, what big amazing wildly cool outcomes could you create?

  • Jeanne B.

    Ouch. This one hit home, LOL. Were you speakin’ to me? (Yes.)

    That bit about waiting for the long sabbatical (time) to show up is also applicable to one of my other issues, which is “waiting for the big chunk of cash to show up” and believing I simply do not have enough money that I can invest $20 here or $50 there to get my dream at least sitting up and thinking about launching.

    I think I know better. And I think it’s also true that until we learn how to handle the smaller chunks (of time, money, energy, inspiration), we/the Universe won’t allow ourselves to have the long sabbaticals or big chunks of cash”–what on earth would we do with it? (Waste it. Which is a hard, hard lesson I’ve already learned. Both with chunks of money, and with long “empty” time periods. Now I understand I won’t get that opportunity again, until I’ve learned how to manage the smaller chunks of each.)

    And now I must go and use my small chunk appropriately, as I only really hopped online to check my Facebook messages to see what time my friend is picking me up so we can go see “Stomp” tonight. (That was an hour ago…)

  • Wendy


  • Dee

    I have been a silent observer of many of your articles and have received a copy of your DVD – thank you. I appreciate all of the valuable information and coaching tremendously, and slowly (v…e……..r………..y slowly) I am learning to be, do and have more in my life in all areas. Many thanks to you.

  • Shar’lee

    Hi Christine,

    The email with this article couldn’t have come at a better time – I love that about the universe! I was just talking to my sister two nights ago saying “I need to get better organised and use my time better, I seem to fluff from one thing to the next never finishing anything and I go around in circles.” So thank you, I plan on getting all these projects finished now using my spare 20 minutes here and there.

  • David Laurence Phillips

    For a “Testosterine Point of View”: WOW! Nuff said! lol Dp 😀

  • Stacey Broder

    I find I get overwhelmed when I have large projects with several moving parts so I started breaking down things into smaller tasks and it totally works – no more overwhelm! And I noticed, over the past 2 weeks especially, of doing small tasks when I get a few minutes here or there that it really knocks down the big to-do list so I can attest to this concept really working!

  • Annie Coppock

    I get off of work at 1:00. The school bus hits the end of my street at 3:05. I stay at my desk (I’m the secretary at a small church so no one is bothered by this) during that time and write. Will be starting my second novel tomorrow with the goal of writing 50,000 words (1667+ per day) or about half a book in the month of November (see A load of laundry and a load of dishes go in between the morning bus and my grooming time in the mornings. Another of each goes in after later in the day. Now, if only I could tackle that pile of junk I hid in the shower yesterday (I take baths)! Think I’ll take one box at a time (I think there are 6) and I’ll be done by next week! Thanks for the inspiration and direction!

  • Rani Primmer

    Great timing! I’ve come to some of these conclusions naturally by constantly working and reworking my failed or worn out organization methods but it would seem that reminders and enhancements to the current methods are always a necessity. I have a master list on a big board on the wall that I can’t miss when I get up in the morning but unfortunately I’ve lulled myself into ignoring it lately. This post is a reminder that it is time to once again open my eyes and see it, work it, and enhance it and get back to the business of life again. I am going to actively break the top priorities into small pieces…this is something I’ve never done… I generally just kind of jump in… but I think it would be really helpful to chunk it out.

    I would still gladly take the sabbatical on a white horse but I guess we will have to settle for the tiny tweener moments that pop-up here and there until my dream life takes hold!

  • Deb Prewitt

    I really needed this reminder. I always feel like I have too much to do and not enough time to get it done, thus I usually don’t get it done. And I have used these small bits of time before to get something done. I just haven’t done it on a regular basis. I need to really incorporate these ideas into my daily schedule. thanks.

  • Dori Staehle


    You are right on the money once again! left a job that had me working M-F, occasional nights and weekends, and loads of travel. Somehow I also managed to keep up my former businesses: (1) tutoring and consulting (a very scaled back version), and 2) booking young, local musicians for monthly shows.

    Now that I’m back home again, I wonder how the heck did I do all that?! Your article reminded me that 1) I had deadlines, 2) I carved out small chunks of time to devote to the 2 businesses, 3) I didn’t waste time on Facebook or watching TV because I didn’t have any extra time!

    It’s so easy to lose focus, so thanks for the tips and reminders!

  • Alice Osborn

    Hi Christine,
    Thank you for your fantastic reminder that we all have the same amount of time in our lives as everyone else does and that we CAN write that book, launch our business, submit that article, post that blog when we break down our tasks in small increments. I’m a writing coach/editor and I work best mid-morning and I’ve found that if I skip morning networking meetings and work through lunch, I’ll get my blog posts, client edits/writing, other writings done during my most productive hour. Love your #5 and having an accountability partner–I work well under deadline pressure.
    Here’s what I’d do with my increments:
    *Write my “You CAN Market Your Book” eBook
    *Clean my office
    *Finish my poetry book
    Thanks again, Christine!

  • Shirley

    Christine, if you can write a blog post that good in 25 minutes, I can take 5 minutes to give you a response. This wise use of time idea always relates first to purpose. I appreciate how you always begin with the fundamentals. I thank you for being the first person to help me sort out my own purpose and priorities. I actually am living the life I dreamed of. At the moment, I am looking out the window to the snow-sprinkled Allegheny mountain range and the green valley below. I am so blessed to write all day from this place. And to have a book coming out next year called Blush: A Mennonite Girl in a Glittering World. I actually had that sabbatical show up on a white horse and am using it the way I always wanted to — loving my family and using my writing and speaking gifts.

    But what really connects for me in this post is my purpose: to prepare for the hour of my death by living one good day at a time and helping others do the same.

    My book is my life review. Each day is another opportunity to use the precious time to full advantage. Blessings on you, your family, and your work, Christine. Thank you so much for all you taught me in the Gold Academy and all you continue to teach me.

  • Alexandre L’Eveille

    I am a list maker by habit (Virgo thing). Even though I do most things digitally, I really enjoy the activity of putting pen to paper and writing out the steps of a project for my daily things to do list. As each step is done, there’s a great feeling of accomplishment in drawing a line through it with a big, fat Sharpie. I like to refresh the list each day, so (1) I don’t feel I can sit on my laurels, and (2) so that I can refocus for the day on what needs to be done. I agree with the breaking down into “doable steps” otherwise you feel overwhelm and like you are not making progress, even thought you may be.

  • Nancy

    This article was so helpful. I am excited about creating my Master List this afternoon. I am blessed with large chunks of time the next three days and this is just the instruction I need to begin new habits and make the most of my time!

  • Andrea

    Hi Christine, I love this article because it is about doing. I am a dreamcoach and that is absolutely the #1 issue for so many people! Thank you! What I see in my life is, that I have 2 parts of dreams. One was to get into your Academy and that was very real in time- I mean, I knew I wanted to achieve it and I did everything to be able to do it. (Seems easy now when I write that but there were many steps included).
    On the other hand I have a dream, my biggest, (to have the sweetest and tiniest cottage in Cornwall, U.K.) and I know right now it is not possible. But this doesn’t stop me for taking action. I was searching in the web and found 2 artists by “concidence”- I wrote to them.about my love for that place, my heartsdisire. They invited me. I took the plane. I met them. They introduced me to someone else. That person introduced me to another person, who just bought a theatre in my favorite place on earth. He booked me with my Mime- Show last month. I did the show. Succes. And I got 4 other dates for 2013. So! You never know, even with that big dream to have a house in another country just starts T.O.D.A.Y!
    Love, and see you soon, Andrea

    • Christine Kane

      Wow! I got chill-bumps reading this Andrea! You are amazing!

  • Nav

    Thank you for this timely reminder Christine. As always, loving your advice. And that idea about the accountability cheque is SO good!!! I want to start reading again, I used to be a real bookworm, but suddenly started watching all this tv and now, all these months later, find it hard to commit to a book and get through it in a reasonable amount of time as tv just feels so much easier! So I’ll be fitting in a chapter here and there in November xx

    • Christine Kane

      Nav – TV can be pretty addictive, in a very REAL way. I’m not just saying that. Use these tips in this post and really pull yourself out of that habit. It’ll pay off big time!

  • Devon Clement

    I just learned this lesson firsthand after being cooped up in my house for 2.5 days because of the hurricane! Oh, the plans I had…. I did get a lot of my TV shows caught up and some knitting done, but not a whole lot on the “finish updating my e book and write launch emails while also decluttering the entire house and oh yeah finish up sewing projects”…

    I have found that I get about as much done on a busy day as on a “work from home” day when it comes to that stuff. I bet I could leverage a whole lot more!

    • Christine Kane

      Devon – First, I’m glad to know you weathered the storm safely!

      As for getting these things done – set a timer and define the end goal for the time. That really helps!

      • Devon Clement

        Thanks! I have done this in the past with great success, I need to do it more!

  • Mary Grossett

    Hello – me again (realise that I was so excited that I didn’t answer your question 🙂
    What I would create in the small pockets of time:
    * finish my book “Second hand soup”
    * dedicate more time to my arts and crafts – realise that I don’t need 5hr chunks of time – I CAN do it in stages (wish I had realised this before I stayed up till 3am this week to complete a canvas LOL)
    * For Gwen (my beloved mom-in-law) and I to get our business, PresentlyPretty off the ground one step at a time (instead of worrying that we don’t have enough stock / time/ experience) to get started!
    * LOVE my 2 boys and my hubby AND I will use some of these pockets of time for DEDICATED “girl time” on a regular basis (once a week sounds good)

    I think that’s it for now

    • Christine Kane

      Sounds awesome Mary! Keep us all posted on your progress!

  • Mary Grossett

    Wow Christine – I “found” your website (clearly meant to be and not an accident) and downloaded your e-book on vision boards. My first vision board is complete and a daily inspiration. I also received your free DVD – THANK YOU!!! It is SO amazing! Your work really resonates with me and I appreciate that your share your own experiences and are so accessible and REAL. I LOVE this article and I am making my Master List as soon as I have sent off this comment!
    Love and light all the way from sunny Cape Town (South Africa)

    • Christine Kane

      Thanks Mary! So glad you are getting so much value! Yay!

    • Tori Martinez

      Hey, Mary… I stumbled upon Christine’s site, too… and I’ve been “secretly” reading Christine’s great posts and finding inspiration! I also downloaded her Ebook on Vision Boards and just had the girls over last night for a “vision session!” We had so much fun and talked about our lives and we all created some great boards! I am now going to email all these friends and make sure they posted their boards when they got home! (because I have a 30 minute window of time!) Then I will sit down and write my Master List 🙂 Good luck to you! … and THANK YOU, Christine!

    • Lin

      thank you for sharing 🙂
      sometimes i need a little nudge to keep moving…