Something Significant in Small Increments of Time

Just the other day I got the question again: “How did you manage to write a book?”

The short answer is: “Very slowly.” After all, it took me the better part of eight years, with admitted stops and starts over that course of time. The more reflective answer takes me back to the realities of that effort, and the life milestones I marked over those years. I lost three babies and welcomed three children into my life as the days, weeks, and months passed by. In fact, I was living in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with my youngest two, a set of twins, while I was reviewing the final edits and proofs from my publisher.

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All that aside, however, there was one thing that inspired me to push forward, regardless of obstacles. Early on in the project, I read the transcript of the interview that had been conducted with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. For those of you who do not know who Laurel is, she is a professor at Harvard University who won the Pulitzer Prize for History with her book, A Midwife’s Tale and coined the phrase “well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Laurel’s first publication was not Pulitzer-prize material, but it was a landmark for her and a number of other women. As part of a Relief Society fund-raising project, Laurel organized the research and writing of an area guidebook entitled A Beginner’s Boston.

“I did a ton of the work myself,” she said. “I remember how hard it was to write. I had three kids by that time. They were little and needed a lot of attention. I had been out of school for five or six years. I was just trying to keep my head above water. . . . I designated my children’s nap times to work on the writing that would go into it. It was just like pulling teeth. It was so hard. But I got so I could do it.”

Beginner’s Boston was a phenomenal, unexpected success and was touted by the Boston Globe as the first real guidebook to the city. But its impact on Laurel was the most lasting. “What I got out of it,” she reflected, “was a confidence in my ability to do a major thing in small increments of time.” With that new-found knowledge, Laurel went on to pursue a master’s degree, a doctorate, and has never stopped achieving since.

My father never accepted a complaint about how long something would take as a reason not to do it. “The time will pass anyway,” he’d simply respond.

Whenever I want to give up on a goal or a project because life is too busy or just too hard, I recall Laurel’s observation and remind myself that I too can accomplish something significant with even small snippets of time, stolen here and there, so long as I am consistent and persistent.

What have you always wanted to accomplish? Is there something you can do today that can move it forward? Don’t underestimate the power of small increments of time – they have the power to turn ordinary moments into an extraordinary life.

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