15 minutes a day

Some time ago, during a rehearsal break, one of the singers was standing at my window looking at the note in the photograph. She asked what it meant. My answer was short and incomplete, something about working on a project 15 minutes every day to divide big projects in little steps. But in fact it’s a lot more than that. The 15 Minutes a Day Method can become a way of life.

For me, it started with my Italian teacher (who later became my French teacher). I wanted to learn Italian and she and I made a plan. She had a grammar and exercise book which we divided into 12 parts, one for each month. Then we divided each part into 4 so I had weekly lessons to prepare. Then she said: ‘You don’t have to work much at home. Just 15 minutes a day. Every day.’

She then explained to me that this was the way she learned foreign languages. She had learned Italian, French, Russian, and Czech. By now she was 67 years old and she had just started to take up Chinese with her 15-minute method. I admired how focused she was. But I had my doubts: ‘She can do it,’ I thought, ‘because she’s retired, she’s focused and I’m not, she has time and I don’t, she doesn’t have a partner, she…’ etc etc.

I realised they were all excuses. I wanted to learn something, so I should try it.

OK, here comes the magic of the method! So, like I just said, first I thought I had to be focused to be able to do this. But the good news is that it’s the other way around. It is the 15 Minutes a Day that get you focused. This is how you do it.

  • Let’s take an example – you want to master that piece of music.

  • Take the little mechanic alarm clock egg that everyone has lying around in a kitchen drawer, and set it on 15 minutes.

  • Then sit with the music. Listen, sing, read, take notes.

  • Work until the alarm goes off.

The fun thing is that when the alarm goes off, chances are that you don’t feel like stopping. You may want to set another 15 minutes, but you don’t have to.

The pluses of this method are

  • No stressful last-minute study (you know, two hours before a rehearsal going through the sheet music in mild panic?)

  • More peace of mind (and less thinking ‘I really should’ or worse, ‘I really should have…’)

  • A sense of happiness that you are creating time for yourself

  • You get better at what you want to learn

  • You get a lot of things done in one day because you have paid attention to each task, even if it was only for fifteen minutes.

I invite you to try it. With my teacher, I did one year of Italian, and managed to do 15 minutes, well, almost every day. It worked, and it made me happy. So I’m wishing the same for you, in whatever project you take on.