A Recovering Perfectionist – In 20 Minute Increments (and a Giveaway!)

Posted by: Robin Perini on May 27 2012, 10:04 am in , , ,

Twenty minutes is my new mantra. Why? Because I’m a perfectionist. Have been all my life. There are good things about wanting everything to be just right and done the ‘right’ way. A perfectionist tends to do a good job. They tend to want to always improve and get better. Their standards tend to be high and they try to meet them to the best of their ability—at least for things they want to be a perfectionist about.

The bad…sometimes a perfectionist can get stuck in a panic loop. Or they will sacrifice time for quality. Or they will end up with the all-or-nothing syndrome. Either it’s done perfectly or it can’t be done. So, if a perfectionist starts organizing or cleaning the house, or writing the chapter of a book, it must all be done perfectly before they stop. Which sometimes makes it hard to start!

It’s a horrific do-loop, because if there is no start, there is no finish.

For me, I have elements of the good and the bad. As my family and friends will attest to! My office is either perfectly clean or an utter, complete disaster. My garage…well, it’s never been completely and ‘perfectly’ organized.

This weekend, I’m off work for Memorial Day. So after spending some solemn time honoring and remembering those who have fought and died serving our country, I decided it was time to tackle a project I have been avoiding…for five years or so. Surely I can find a bit of courage to face a single room in my house.

Yes. That’s right. The garage. A mountain I’ve been avoiding for a while. I almost climbed the peak once. But my parents moved from my childhood home and brought me everything from my room and the attic so it was no longer in THEIR garage. Dance costumes from when I was a child. High school papers and report cards. My high school graduation gown. My swimming medals. Oh yes, and lots and lot and lots of books! (big surprise there, huh)

It’s a month-long job, don’t you think? Looking at that picture? If not more. But I’m biting the bullet and doing it 20 minutes at a time. It’s how I write now, actually. In twenty minute increments. That’s a blog unto itself, but for 20 minutes I turn off my internal editor, and I just write. So, if it works for writing, I’m hoping it works for the garage.

Do you have any tips on getting off dead center for REALLY big projects. Or even the small ones! I’d love to know. A friend introduced me to FlyLady at http://flylady.net/. I’m checking her out! She advocates fifteen minute pushes to move forward. Similar enough to 20 minutes that I can live with that (look, already overcoming perfectionism).

Thanks so much for stopping by today. It’s truly an honor to interact with you. If you’re interested in learning more about me or my books…you can read excerpts, read reviews, sign up for my mailing list and even request trading cards or a Kindlegraph on my website at www.robinperini.com. I’m also on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t forget, one lucky reader who comments on my blog or answers the question will be randomly selected to win an autographed copy of FINDING HER SON along with Trading Cards from IN HER SIGHTS and FINDING HER SON. Good luck!

And if you want a second chance to win a book and trading cards, check out my Fresh Fiction blog and contest, where I’m talking about the perfect man. Hmmmm….

Book Blurb



Investigating a cold case is SWAT cop Mitch Bradford’s worst nightmare—especially when it involves a kidnapped infant. But thanks to an injury, he’ll have to settle for following Emily Wentworth instead of breaking down doors and cuffing criminals.

The prime suspect in a mysterious disappearance, Emily has always claimed she was framed. And as he earns the trust of the incredibly desperate—and unbelievably beautiful— mother, every instinct tells Mitch to believe her. Then new evidence unfolds, revealing an elaborate conspiracy and forcing Emily into a deadly spotlight. Now, torn between loyalty to the badge and his promises to Emily, Mitch may have to make the ultimate sacrifice if he’s to bring her little boy home.

EXCERPT – a brief taste from the beginning…

Icy wind howled through the SUV’s shattered windshield, spraying glass and freezing sleet across Eric Wentworth’s face. He struggled in and out of consciousness. Flashes of memory struck. Oncoming headlights on the wrong side of the road. Skidding tires on black ice. The baby’s cries. Emily’s screams.

Oh, God.

Why couldn’t he focus? Above the wind, he heard only silence, then an ominous gurgling sound from his lungs. He shifted his head slightly to check on his wife, and a knifelike pain seared his neck. He stopped, staring in horror at the shaft of metal guardrail penetrating his chest. Blood pulsed from the wound, but he couldn’t feel it. He couldn’t feel    anything.

Eric was dying. And it was no accident. He hadn’t taken the threats seriously, hadn’t told Emily what he’d done. Why they were all in danger.

[Text Copyright © 2012 by Robin L. Perini. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.]


16 responses to “A Recovering Perfectionist – In 20 Minute Increments (and a Giveaway!)”

  1. Jenn McGowan says:


    Love the 20-minute approach. I also have read the Fly Lady (have always hated that title, but her info is great!) and i find that if i can just get into ANYTHING for 20 minutes, i keep going. even exercise (okay, for that i just need to get into it for FIVE minutes and i usually will gut out the whole workout.) 🙂

    But I use the 20 minute approach all the time for freelance, and it keeps me focused and productive.

    Go YOU on the garage! My mom did a similar “dump” of stuff she didn’t want while moving, and it took me months to get it all sorted through. I should have tried the 20 minute approach then!

  2. I did Flylady for a couple of years. Sometimes I was able to stop at 15 minutes. I could never stop at just wiping down the sink. I had to do the countertops and mirrors. And I hated wearing lace-up shoes in summer. But I know it works for some people. And it did help me realize that you can get a lot done in 15 minutes.
    Good luck with that garage!

    • Robin Perini says:

      Hi there, Samantha. I had JUST heard of the FlyLady. I hear you on not stopping at the sink. But the short bursts–that I get :-).

      Thanks on the good luck. It’ll be an interesting day!

  3. Louise B says:

    I always stop at the sink! I need 20 minutes to keep going.

    Robin, I love the 20 minute approach, and I know how well it has worked for you.

    • Robin Perini says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Louise.

      Yeah, given how many things are going on in life these days, I wonder if the 20-minute approach will work for the rest of my life. It’s worth a shot! 🙂

  4. The one thing I cannot stand is what feels like nagging and that’s how flylady feels to me. It makes me crazy. When I was 40, I learned 2 things: 1) to do the best I can and forgive myself for not doing everything 2) I learned to prioritize. I have no trouble telling myself, “I don’t have to worry about that today” and “I never have to worry about that.” For a person who was as much as a perfectionist as you were, Cousin, to “I’ll worry about that tomorrow” was a big leap but a very healthy change! Sounds as if you’re getting a handle on it, too.

  5. Robin Perini says:

    Thanks everyone for joining me on the blog yesterday. Jenn…you won the free autographed copy of Finding Her Son. Send me an email at robin (at) robinperini (dot) com with your snail mail address and I’ll get it right out to you!

    All my best,

  6. Fred Aiken says:

    Two things that will help to ensure that you will successfully complete the project is one, a timer that will alert you when the desired time period is completed and the following twenty minute break is over so that you can spend the next twenty minute cleaning period on task, and two, a list of criteria to assist in evaluation if an object would be tossed or saved.

    I also find it valuable to make a rough sketch of the room or garage where I will begin and the direction my cleaning will take as well as where I will store those items which my criteria list indicate are worthy of keeping.

  7. Robin Perini says:

    Hi there, Cousin! Yep…I’m not so much into the polishing sink stuff, but the idea of twenty minutes and then stopping. That I can deal with :-).

    You are the smart one! Love the advice and your two lessons!

    I’m trying really hard to remind myself what the important things in life are. Faith, family, friends, taking care of me (health, serenity, etc.) have to top the list.

    Part of that is living my dreams. but some other things have had to fall off the plate. There’s what I’d like to do, and what I can do. And you’re right. I’m growing up a bit. Who knew :-).

    Thanks SO much for stopping by. Love you!


  8. Tammy Baumann says:

    Hi Robin,
    Great blog! We can do anything, no matter how unpleasant, for just twenty minutes!

    My house looks a little like your garage after having 85 people this weekend for my daughter’s graduation party. I think I’ll tell my hubs I’m only going to clean for twenty minutes at a time and he can do the rest! ;0)

    Happy Memorial Day everyone!!

    • Robin Perini says:

      Hey Tammy…Man…85 people. What a night! Congrats on the graduation, btw! So terrific!

      I love the idea of cleaning for 20 minutes. Especially if he does the rest LOL!!!!

      Have a great day! Let’s all do the unpleasant 20 minutes 🙂

  9. Karen says:

    Robin, Great Post!

    I”ve done the Slob Sisters (flylady started with them) approach off and on for several years. But I am so much afraid of my perfectionist tendencies that I avoid starting at any cost. SO, I’ve recently started again. They have cards that I’ve adapted for my life and assigned dates on my iPad calendar so I don’t have to have the cards all the time. We’ll see if it works.

    So far, not so much! But since I have a goal of preparing to move (not in the picture right now, but who knows?), I keep coming back to it.

    Interestingly enough, as the Slob Sisters have grown to close to retirement age, they’ve come to the conclusion that dejunking and then attacking the house in 20 minute bursts each day is a better approach than daily obsessing.

    BTW 20 minutes is the exact time I’m most comfortable using Write-or-Die, learned when I was doing NANOWRIMO last year.

    20 minutes… do I see a recurring theme here?

    Again, Robin, great post. Keep us updated on the garage clean-up!


  10. Robin Perini says:

    Hi Karen–

    So glad you popped by! 🙂 20 minutes seems to be the right amount! Glad to know it’s working for others. Gives me hope!

    Good luck on the efforts. I am learning that I can just finish ‘parts’ of things these days. There’s only so much time! 🙂

    Robin (the recovering perfectionist!)

  11. Mona Karel says:

    I’m trying to pack to leave in the morning for the Saluki National–four days surrounded by my beloved breed of dog, plus selling shirts and other items. In the past I’ve driven myself into the ground before even leaving, going non stop to do everything perfectly. This year I’ve taken on your twenty minute idea. I work on packing for a while, then on something else. The house won’t be spotless for the housesitter, and I’m going to bathe dogs once I get there. Since I’ll be stopping at good campgrounds I’ll have Internet access, and will also be able to give twenty minutes to my WIP.
    That’s the plan, anyway!
    Great post thanks

  12. […] than write on her book.  Hmmm.  This same suggestion came from LERA’s own very successful Robin Perini and also in a reply on Kristen Lamb’s fabulous blog  This many very smart women can’t […]

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