Don’t Stint—Do Your Stint!

When can a little mean a lot? When can doing a tiny bit add up to a ton?

When the tiny bit you do is done regularly, every day.

When you do your stint.

Stint is a funny word. As a verb, “stint” means to be sparing or frugal, to use or give something in limited amounts.

As a noun, it means an allotted time spent at a task. This is the stint I’m talking about!

In my world what it means is that a little time devoted to a task each day—a daily stint—adds up to a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

I’m a big believer in stints. I have to be because, left to my own devices, my life would prove the principle that a body at rest stays at rest.

Inertia would rule.

And because my days are unstructured by outside work, I often don’t feel any pressure to begin a project—I always feel like I’ll get to something soon. But . . . I don’t.

I love to be productive but I often find it difficult. I find myself sitting and reading mindless novels; they’re engaging but the literary equivalent of junk food. I find myself sitting and playing endless games of Words with Friends. And sitting and adding ideas of cool projects to Pinterest, ogling other people’s creations instead of making my own.

Time just evaporates when I’m doing these things . . . and then I am disgusted with myself at the end of the day.

So, I’ve identified my stints, my allotted time I say I will spend on a task each day, the time I will commit to spending on the things I know I want to do!

For me, a list-maker, driven by this need to feel productive but often victim to inertia as well as overwhelmed by wanting to do so many different things, having a list of daily stints works wonders:


See those little black sideway arrows, next to the words “today”? Those are stints–when I check them off for today, they get scheduled automatically for tomorrow

My little list app on my phone is always ready, to guide me and remind me. The daily stints sit there, along with any other errands or appointments, and I can check off each item as I go. When I check off one of the stints, it automatically pops up again, for the next day.

For my stints, I set myself a minimum—and there’s no law against doing more! For example, I often do more than 10 fabric yoyos a day or spend longer than the allotted time on weaving. It’s just a matter of getting started—a body in motion stays in motion.

There’s also no law that everything gets done every day. I rarely exercise every single day but I usually do more than 30 minutes when I do, so having the stint in my mind keeps me on track.

And during candy season or on days when I need to shop and run errands, all bets are off. I might just pick one or two of the items and be content with those. My app lets me “put off” items for a day or more, with no scolding or penalty.

I find that, for me, spelling out a specific amount of time I will spend on a task, or a desired outcome I want to achieve each day, makes it seem manageable to me.

For instance, when I wrote about my making of fabric yoyos recently, I told you that I figure I need over 1300 of them to make a coverlet. If I sit around and think about 1300 yoyos, it is all too easy to pick up my phone and lose myself in Words with Friends.

But, if I say I will make 10 yoyos? Easy!

And guess what? It works! I started doing the yoyo stint a couple of weeks before I did the recent post asking you to guess how many yoyos I had done. At the time of that accounting, December 7, I had made 400 yoyos, and it had taken me about 2 years of plodding along.

Since then, I’ve done over 200 more, in about 3 weeks! And it’s been utterly painless. I’ve learned that it takes me about an hour to make 10-12 yoyos and it’s an hour, late in the afternoon, when I can justify sitting in front of the fire, with a drink, to relax and sew.

Thirty minutes of exercise? I can handle 30 minutes of anything! No big deal! Thirty minutes of weaving? That means 5 or 6 more inches on my current project and, as long as I’m sitting there, I think I’ll do more . . .

This works for me.

How do you handle finding motivation to get started and make progress, when there’s no outside pressure? Are you a self-starter, who jumps out of bed, excited to pick up your current projects? Or do you need to find strategies to help you get going?

Do you do any stints?

55 thoughts on “Don’t Stint—Do Your Stint!

  1. Oh dear, I am an easily distracted lollygagger, evidenced by the fact that it is 2 am, and I am still messing around at my computer. Love your motivational system, but lists scare me. However, I am playing with the idea of putting together a very big list this year; a 10 year plan sort of list. (Hmmm…. small lists scare me, but I want to do this????)

  2. There is one thing that motivates me real fast to get my household work done( I often drag my feet on the thought of house work😯) I love my sewing room with an audiobook playing,or music . So no sewing until I do 30 min kitchen clean up ,load of wash ,a floor swept ….

  3. I tend to go with the flow of the day. Blogging is the only thing I do online. Exercise and creating have become daily habits. The thought of having a list scares me.

  4. Oh this is such a good idea and so timely. I have this week off and I was wondering how productive I will be…with no guidance, not very productive and I’ll conclude I needed the rest (not really). I just downloaded the app and I’m going to give it a try. I need focus and a sense of accomplishment! Thank you for guiding my “stints” Kerry!

    • Well, you know, you are totally allowed to veg out when you have a week off from work! But, if vegging out makes you feel bad (like it does me!), maybe the idea of a stint will work for you! I love that phone app–at first I thought it was cumbersome to use but now it’s like my conscience, sitting on my shoulder . . .

    • It works for me–and the thing I like best is the goal aspect–a minimum time spent. The goal is set low, so it’s easy to accomplish, but I set goals in several areas so, overall, i get a lot done!

  5. The idea of doing some things every day is wonderful for developing skills as well. Any skill that benefits from muscle memory – playing a musical instrument, drawing, sewing, even weaving – is best acquired by daily practice. Even 15 minutes a day will hone those skills. At least that was my theory for free motion quilting every day. Despite my grousing, I can still see the benefits from that practice. I quilt circles well.

    • This is such a good point! I was having all kinds of trouble finding a rhythm while weaving with two shuttles so I was avoiding it altogether. But, since I’ve been spending time every day at it, the rhythm has arrived!

  6. I like lists too, but lately they are only being made to get me through high stress periods – like the run up to Christmas. I got an ‘Up24’ as a Christmas gift and it is suddenly running my life for me. I’m wondering how long I will be okay with that 🙂 Your post has made me aware that I need to think about a certain structure for the work I love to achieve but often don’t because the day has gone by [I also play WWF]. Mmmm, I shall be cogitating this Kerry for the rest of the day!

    • I had a ton of lists to get me through the busy candy-making season but my list of “stints” worked differently for me. As you say, it gives structure in a way that sets the bar low but the little bits done, every day, truly add up and that’s very reinforcing.

  7. I’ve been a list-maker my whole life. I also exercise best when I have classes to attend or a friend to walk or hike with (when I wasn’t recovering from foot surgery, anyway). Exercise goes on my calendar and I remain faithful to those commitments. Because I’m self employed and still have a teenager at home, my days are well planned. What I do miss out on is some of the creative things I want to do, knowing that I have to haul out a lot of materials to do them, but without the benefit of a space. I do some things on our dining table, but of course that has to be cleared off for every meal.

    You’ve given us lots to think about, Kerry. I love your new app and look forward to hearing how you like it as time goes by.

  8. I’ve often employed the “minimum work” on a project idea. It can be the starting that is the hardest part, but once you tell yourself you will do X amount of something, it is easier to do a little bit more once you are in the groove.

  9. I love this post because we all have our systems that work for us. I’m a person who goes to bed at night thinking about my morning coffee, blog reading, and projects. There’s no hope for me – I’m an organized person. The one stint I’d add to your list is toffee making because after two batches I’m now a toffee addict. 🙂 I wear a Fitbit that syncs with my computer and phone. Because I sit with the laptop a couple of times a day all is well. I don’t handle the phone a lot when I’m home so it doesn’t sync. Fitbit then sends me messages that I’m not active and need to get moving. Some days when I’m pushing myself to get some steps in, I want to heave that smart phone across the room. LOL

    • I haven’t succumbed to a Fitbit yet–one more thing to make me feel like I haven’t accomplished enough (although I have worn step counters on and off for years)! But, I’m just like you with the business of looking forward to the next morning and a new day of getting stuff done!

      • That Fitbit is like an electronic constant reminder to get out of the recliner and away from the laptop or out of the chair at the sewing machine. LOL I readily admit I feel better and sleep better if I hit the 10,000 steps but it is a daily struggle to do it. 🙂

  10. Thank you for the reminder to be engaged. I didn’t do much today – read and napped and let the day slip by. It was what I needed. The weather outside is miserable cold and rainy, a perfect day (and excuse) to stay inside and read. Happy New Year and many returns, Peace.

  11. When I was 13, my mother insisted that I use a “job list” so that I wouldn’t forget to do something — and I was insulted & felt too superior to need a list. As I grew older, I began to recognize how very much I need lists. Your app sounds nice, but it is so satisfying to cross off that last task, crumple up the oaoer, and toss that list away!

  12. I have things I need to do, and things I want to do. Need: eat, exercise, spend time with Jim, nap, sleep overnight, daily hygiene, basic household chores. Want: almost everything else. My big problem is I want to do ALL of it in the morning, except nap and sleep overnight. And napping is the dominant feature of my afternoon, driving almost everything else that happens after lunch and before dinner. Fortunately, I have few deadlines, and I do get enough needs and wants taken care of that my life still runs pretty well. 🙂

  13. yep, definitely somwthing I struggle with 🙂 I find that leaving something at a convenient starting point, such as a plain row on my knitting as opposed to needing to do something, such as start a new colour works well for me

    • I do this, too! I always try to be sure I can just pick up a needle and start sewing or that my loom is advanced and ready for throwing the shuttle–it’s a great technique!

  14. Kerry, I very much enjoyed this post, and your last one, too. Your description of the new year, the quiet, the purpose, the goals, especially after all of the celebrations of the preceding season, is spot on.
    and what’s funny about the Stint post is that I’ve been wondering about those Yo-Yos! 🙂 I agree that tackling a daunting or big task in small increments is the way to go. I’ve got to complete many continuing education units in the next month, and decided that I will do a few each evening after work. So THAT is my stint … for now!
    Happy New Year, Kerry! Enjoy your Time and Good Luck with those Stints!

  15. Hmm. I used to do lists at work, but what I’ve learned about myself is that I used to put everything on them, even things I would almost automatically do, so as to be able to say – ‘Look! I’ve already got through half this list!’. Nope, I no longer do lists, and with or without them, I’m pretty good at doing the things I want to do, and hopelessly neglect the things I ‘ought’ to do, but don’t wish to embark on. (Ironing, anyone? No, thought not)

  16. I love lists too! Although I often overload myself and put too many things on there “just in case” and end up not doing the things I really need to. I’ve never got on with using my phone / computer for organisation, there’s something so much more satisfying about writing everything out with a pen and paper! I love your method of putting a small amount of time on there as motivation, I must give it a go.

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  19. I think we can all be lollygagers and discipline is not something I have in my arsenal. I’m a list maker of what needs to be done today. Otherwise I would sit here and try to catch up on the 1500 posts sitting in my inbox. I allot myself till 7:30 to read e-mail then shower and dress, make the bed and get to my work of the day. Today it will be getting everything ready for this weeks retreat. Making sure all my supplies are collected and what I will work on is ready. There is always more to do than there is day to do it so the list is essential. Your aspirations for your day is lofty indeed. I would love to exercise 30 minutes a day. I have the time, not the initiative. That’s fancy talk for “I’m lazy”. 🙂 And no matter how carefully I plan my day, something comes along and throws a wrench in it. 😦 It is best if we take things in small chunks or stints. Otherwise it can be overwhelming.

    • I wouldn’t want you to think I’m doing everything every day! I have my list and do as much as seems reasonable and then push the rest of the stuff off a day. I can prioritize the items and, I have to admit, I’ve been giving the exercise one high priority-I am trying very hard to establish a habit there.

  20. I’m trying to get exercise at the top of my list too. 😦 I have to find creative ways to get it because I hate it. And I desperately need it. I hear you about moving stuff from today’s list to tomorrow. I’m happy when I can at least one or two things on the list accomplished but at least I have lofty goals. 🙂 We have to keep trying, right?

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