The Time Technique

There are times when most of us feel things have become unmanageable or are too daunting to do. As a family therapist for over 35 years, I have seen this can lead to anxiety. ‘Getting started’ is the major hurdle to overcome when trying to tackle tasks.

There is a technique that helps with this. It is called the Time Limit…… There are thoughts and behaviors we can use to help; one of them is to set a time limit for how long you will spend on the task.

This technique is ‘time related’. For tasks or projects that seem too overwhelming, setting a time limit for how long you would be willing to work on the task can get you started.

The idea would be to set a reasonable amount of time that you can stay with the task or are willing to spend on the task: 15, 20, 30 or 60 minutes. It doesn’t matter how long you choose, so long as you meet the time you set. Generally what happens is that once you get started you may continue working on your task beyond the limit that you set. If not, you know you can quit after you meet your time goal; “Gee, I only have to work on this for an hour.” Make sure the time you set is doable for you. Remember this technique gives you freedom to work more if you feel like it or just do what you set out to do.

An example is shown here that is female oriented: Your in-laws are coming to your house in Palm Springs CA, to spend 4 days and nights. You feel (internal directed task) that you need to get the house cleaned before they arrive. You don’t feel like you can get it done because it seems just too much or “I don’t want to do it.”

Using the Time technique enables you to say, “I will work on the bathrooms first, but only for an hour.” Many of us will spend longer than the time set and do other related tasks because once you get started you feel like continuing because you have crossed the big hurdle that keeps us from doing tasks: Getting Started.

An example for a man might be: I need to make room for more storage in the garage. That may mean organizing what you have to consolidate. Or it may mean that there is stuff that you don’t need and can get rid of. Or it means building shelves or other tasks relating to making more storage room. The Time technique can be used here; setting time limits for how long you will work.

Remember: Getting tasks done, however small, makes us feel better. “I am glad that this task is out of the way. I can stop thinking about it now.”

I hope you found this blog useful and got something actionable from it. In my next Blog I will talk about another technique called Baby Steps. And in case you are wondering, here is a little more about me.

I’ve been practicing couples counseling for over 30 years and have recently moved to Palm Springs, CA. I have Masters Degrees in Social Work and Counseling. My approach cognitive behavioral and I teach behavioral and verbal tools and techniques to provide marriage counseling and couples counseling. Drop me a note or give me a call to discuss your situation where you may need help and we can review if I can be helpful or can refer you to someone or towards some resources that may be helpful.

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