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:

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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?