One of the motivations behind most of my good-for-me habits is that I enjoy the process of self improvement. That’s why I run marathons from time-to-time, wake up early most mornings to write, and am a sucker for “brain strengthening” apps like Lumosity.
Even so, I have plenty of bad-for-me-habits, too. For example, even though I’m usually brewing coffee by 6 a.m. to get a head start on my day, by 8:30 I’m scrambling to get my things together for work.
I try to leave by 8:30 every morning, but a lot of times I can’t find my keys. I need to pack my gym bag. I forgot to iron my shirt. It’s not until 10 or 15 minutes later that I finally make it out the door.
I’ve struggled with this before and have vowed to prepare everything the night before. I tell myself I’ll pick out my outfit, pack my gym bag, prepare my lunch, and do whatever else I need to do so I am ready to go. This works for a few days, and then I slip. The problem is that I’m not a “night” person and all of that takes too long. I’m often too exhausted from my jam-packed day to get organized at night. I just want to go to sleep.
My new 15-minute rule
I recently made myself a new rule. I will be ready to go by 8:15. Sometimes this works and I am actually out the door on time. Sometimes I don’t leave for work until 8:30. But that’s fine. By trying to leave early, I will almost always never be late.
The benefits of these 15 minutes are amazing. I don’t feel as rushed on my commute. There are fewer bodies on the El, so more space to move. I get a few extra minutes once at work to get settled and go through emails. These extra 15 minutes save me so much stress and help me start my workday on the right foot.
Why self improvement often doesn’t work
When we’re trying to make a positive change in our lives, whether it’s to lose weight, prepare more healthy meals at home, or go to the gym more, we’re tempted to make extreme changes. To lose weight, we vow to go gluten free. We buy a week’s worth of groceries with the intention of cooking every single meal from scratch. We promise to go to the gym every single day after work.
But it’s really hard to make extreme lifestyle changes and stick to them every single day. Ultimately we end up going back to our old habits. And then we’re frustrated because we’re right back where we started.
Real self improvement starts with 15 minutes
Instead, I challenge you to make 15-minute changes in your day-to-day life. What can you do today in 15 minutes that will help you with your health and fitness goals? How can 15 minutes help lower your stress today?
- Go on a 15-minute walk at lunch
- Spend 15 minutes cutting veggies for snacks
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier
- Spend 15 minutes less on Facebook
- Hop on a machine at the gym for just 15 minutes
- Watch 15 fewer minutes of TV
- Grab 15 minutes on the phone with a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile (Or take 15 minutes to write them an email)
- Take 15 minutes to write down things you’re grateful for
What other 15-minute ideas do you have to make positive changes for your health?
Betsy Mikel | betsymikel.com