The power of 15 minutes

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Those of us who have been planning to organize the basement or clean the garage know how daunting the prospect of it is. We make it feel like a huge undertaking and keep putting it off, week after week. But you don’t have to dedicate 8-10 hours a day to a project to get it done. Instead, do a little every day and, before you know it, you will see significant progress.

Productive Zen Mama - The Power of 15 Minutes

Consider opportunity cost of what you are doing: what opportunities are you missing if you engage in a particular activity (such as surfing Facebook or watching TV)? Use that information not to instill guilt for choosing sub-optimally, but to motivate yourself to accomplish something of value to you.

Think of it this way: someone might come home and fall into their routine of watching TV for 3 hours. If you instead spend 15 minutes on your garden and 15 minutes exercising, leaving yourself 2.5 hours for other things, you are already ahead of the game. Add these efforts up throughout the week, and you will have a distinct result; whereas if you choose to just collapse on the couch upon getting home every day, you would be where you were a week ago, if not further away from your goal. Moreover, if you do dedicate a few minutes each to various endeavors, you’ll soon find that you’d rather do something productive than veg out, and you might also find that switching between different activities gives you more energy. You can then choose to spend this energy in other productive or relaxing ways.

Have you ever played The Sims? It’s so gratifying to arrange the furniture just so, to plan the garden, and to govern their lives. There is a sense of accomplishment as they keep their plants healthy, exercise regularly, and climb the skill ladder in sciences and arts by studying a bit every day. I used to love doing this. And then it hit me: if, instead of trying to achieve virtual goals by performing repetitive virtual tasks, I put my energy into achieving my own goals in real life, I might be more skilled in something that matters to me, in a few weeks. I never looked back, and playing Sims became meaningless: why simulate the same reality I can build in real life? I can get way more satisfaction from putting my mind and my hands to tangible projects.

Just as with The Sims, when you miss bill payments, exercise, study sessions, or maintenance tasks in real life, your skills deteriorate, belongings get repossessed, and neglected plants and fish die. Consistency is key. That doesn’t mean that your day must become a rigid routine of 15-minute tasks performed every day in the same sequence. It means that you can resolve to put a certain amount of time during the week into each project that currently excites you, find ways to make it fun and invite your family to join you when possible. With the growing sense of accomplishment, you wouldn’t want to go back to doing nothing. Instead, you’ll be excited to take the projects further and to start new ones in the future.

There are lots of things that can be done in 15 minutes to further your progress. Choose to learn new things, explore a new game with the kids, try a new yoga routine, go out for a walk on a new route, spend some time with yourself, read a chapter, sketch a picture, water flowers, declutter a drawer. Each activity brings a change in perspective and lets us rest from the day’s work and recharge while getting closer to our goals.

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