“Success is sequential, not simultaneous.” - The ONE Thing, Gary Keller
For years, I have struggled with developing healthy habits. And I know I am not alone here.
There are a few books on this topic that have inspired my exploration. Two of my favorite ones are The Power of Habit and The One Thing. After reading both, I started to think about what kind of habits would be most beneficial for me in my life. I also asked myself, what’s one thing I can do every day that would bring both productivity and joy?
As part of my mental health practice, I’ve learned that consistency is key. It builds discipline, confidence, productivity and allows for steady growth. In all my years of research, I have learned that baby steps, taken daily, lead to massive impact.
How do we find consistency and what is the true benefit of having a consistent daily practice?
Last year, I was going through a rough patch and finding it very hard to feel inspired to do anything. My days lacked structure and focus. If you’ve ever had too much time on your hands, you know what I’m talking about. In theory, a lot of time seems like a great idea, but in reality, too much time often leads to restlessness and a lack of productivity. This is where our mental health suffers.
One night my friend shared that he has been practicing the guitar for just 15 minutes a day. He said that in only a week, he saw tremendous progress and was excited to wake up in the morning because he knew exactly what he was going to do. This created peace and stability in his mind, and these were two things I was lacking and desired. I began to ask myself, what do I love that I can practice for 15 minutes?
My answer was clear: I would draw. I would start tomorrow and set a timer for 15 minutes. And I would see what happened.
Why 15 minutes?
It’s important to choose an amount of time that feels doable. Committing right away to do an hour-long activity, for example, is too much for most people. But 15 minutes is a time frame that most people can work with, so that’s where I began as an experiment.
What’s been the impact?
Almost a year later, I proudly share that I have created more art in the last year than I have in the previous 31 years of my life. My 15-minute a day activity helped me build my creative muscle and has impacted every single area of my life in a profound way.
I started with 15 minutes. I would set a timer and start. I would draw my feelings. One day I would draw, “everything is going to be ok.” Another day it was, “today is hard.” Every day, whichever way I was feeling, I would draw it. Soon, 15 minutes turned into an hour. About a month in, I found myself drawing for 3 hours. It was fun. It was exciting. It was productive.
Soon, other areas of my life were affected. After drawing, I felt accomplished and inspired. I started to take walks. I started to write more. Somehow, a simple 15-minute activity, repeated daily had inspired the discipline I’d been missing for years. The more I saw the impact of my 15 minutes, the more activities I added on. Looking back now, I’m in awe of how much I accomplished through 15 minutes of focused work.
I am currently working on a book called, “15 minutes” in order to raise awareness for mental health. Drawing every day gave my life purpose and meaning, and has allowed me to tap into creativity. My art book is a testament to the power of a daily habit/ritual/routine.
A few of my 15-minute drawings:
How to find your 15-minute a day activity:
1. Ask yourself: What do I love?
Your activity doesn’t have to be creative. You can take a 15-minute walk. You can practice an instrument. You can meditate. You can read a business book. You can journal. Choose something you’re drawn to and simply do it for the sake of doing it! If you need help brainstorming, start a "happiness list" and work from there. There is nothing to accomplish here other than consistency!
2. Find a time of day that you can consistently sit down for 15 minutes
Doing something at the same time every day is a great way to build the muscle of consistency and discipline. As these muscles strengthen, you can apply them to other areas of your life.
3. Start today
Life is busy, and it is easy to not prioritize your mental health. It’s important to start today and find the time. I suggest you start in the morning because once you’ve finished your mental exercise, a sense of accomplishment will drive you throughout the rest of the day.
4. Continue for at least 100 days
Once you find an activity you love, do it for 100 days to show yourself that yes, you can. I have now done a 100-day practice with swimming, meditation, and drawing. It’s not about what you choose, as much as it’s about building healthy habits!
Enjoy your 15-minute practice, and please share the impact with your friends, family and colleagues. Now is the time to support one another on our mental health journeys.
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