Work on Your Personal Story in Just 15 Minutes a Day

Memoir Writing in 15 Minutes a Day

We’ve all heard it before: how to do this or that in 15 minutes a day.  How to tweet, keep up with Facebook, lose weight, eat better, stop smoking, write a book.  You might ask, “How can we do anything in minutes a day?” The bigger the project, the more daunting it sounds.  But, when you stop to think about it, particularly when writing your own personal history, family story or memoir, 15 minutes seems just about right.  Manageable.  Doable.  Realistic.  Why does this work?

The “15 minutes a day” concept hits the nail on the head.  Here’s why:

  • It’s manageable.  You can add that time into your daily schedule without too much of an upset or without rearranging the activities that are already there.  You might have to get up a little earlier, or turn off the TV for a half hour, or work on your list during commercials.  But it’s a short enough time frame that you can manage.
  • It’s doable.   Despite our feeling overwhelmed, once we set aside some time, we really can do just about anything for 15 minutes a day. Think of the workout you dread on Monday morning, even though you know you should hit the gym.  You jump on the treadmill and say, “For just 15 minutes I’ll walk on the treadmill.”  Chances are you’ll find yourself a half hour or an hour later still on the treadmill and feeling better for it.
  • It’s realistic.  The goal isn’t too small or too large. If you give yourself two minutes, you don’t get anything done.  If you give yourself a week, you don’t get anything done.  In just 15 minutes a day—which adds up quickly—you can accomplish what you’ve set out to do with your personal history or other writing project.  The small time frame has allowed your project to be broken down into chunks that make it eaaaaasssssy… and we all want easy… right?

Now that you know why the “15 minutes a day” concept works, here are some ways that you can get started without feeling overwhelmed when you are writing your story or working on a personal history or family project.

Start right now by making a loosely structured list of what you hope to accomplish in your project.  It might even include a checklist of the topics that you want to explore. Then, pick the first day that you’ll start chipping away at items on the list.  (I’m hoping it will be tomorrow, because now that it’s manageable, you don’t need to put it off any longer!).  When you start your 15 minute time period for that day, look at the first item on the list and do it for 15 minutes.  The next day,  pick up where you left off.  The next day, pick up where you left off or start a new item if you finished the one before it, and so forth.  This might seem really elementary, but it is so easy to get sidetracked and do just a little bit of everything or nothing at all, leaving you feeling unaccomplished at the end of the day.  Nothing says you have to accomplish the whole list or tackle each item on the list per increment.  Just spend some time each day and start moving forward.  Your list might look something like this:

  • Why I want to start my story – list the reasons why it’s important that you’re working on this project in the first place –those reasons may be the start of your own personal mission statement.
  • Look for photos of Grandma that she packed away.
  • Find the family tree that Aunt Joan created.
  • Write a list of topics that I’ll cover in my memoir.
  • Subscribe to Genealogy Gems (or other blog, newsfeed).
  • Learn RootsMagic.

Some of the items above might take several attempts to accomplish.  For instance, looking for photos or learning new software could span a few days.  You have to start somewhere.  If you give yourself too much time you’ll get nothing else done at work or at home and you might find yourself re-organizing the closet instead of taking care of what you originally set out to do!  Once you’ve come face to face with why it’s important, you’ll have a much easier time writing what you know and what you want to share.

There are many prompts you can find on the Internet that will help you unleash some of the stories and memoirs that make up your life.  For a free download of 30 Prompts to Start Your Memoir, email me at and mention how you heard about me.

What are you waiting for?  Have you scheduled your 15 minutes?

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