How To Exchange 15 Minutes Of Your Time For Something Of Value

Michelle iphone photos July 2014 033If we don’t consciously choose how to use our time, those precious spare moments or hours will be lost to unrewarding filler.

Time slips away, whether or not we choose to use it wisely. Even a window of 15 minutes can bring rich rewards if spent consciously. Whilst there are some more obvious ways of spending 15 minutes wisely, like meditation or perhaps  breathing exercises, there are other activities just a little outside the box that I know you will find worthwhile.  Here is a list that I think is a good trade for 15 minutes of my valuable time.

Pick from the menu below to find your own fair exchange. Perhaps you are looking for connectedness, stillness, efficiency, fitness, love and more. They are all available at the very low price of 15 minutes of your time. Ready to trade?

1. $15 for 15 minutes

I recently went to one of those drop-in-for-a-quickie places for the first time. I had 15 minutes to spare before collecting the after-school gaggle and, in desperate need of some body work, I scanned the menu for 15 minute options. Fast forward a mere 15 minutes and I was transformed. The quiet, the smell of rose-geranium, the firm but nurturing hands of the therapist made this a value-packed 15 minutes.

2. Write.

No planning, no over-thinking, just start. Blurt it all out. Have a whinge or have an epiphany. It is all great. Writing helps us sort and order our thoughts. It also helps us get in touch with ourselves and ourfeelings. By expressing ourselves in an unedited environment we can tap into self-guidance and experience the therapeutic effects of journal writing.

3. Write a love letter.

This helps you to get in touch with the positive feelings associated with love and gratitude. Dwell in those feelings for 15 minutes by writing a love letter to someone. You may choose to deliver it (in the mail or tucked into a lunch box) or not, but by spending the time and staying in this mind space for 15 minutes you are reinforcing these loving experiences and pathways in the brain.

4. Trade 15 minutes with a friend.

This works well over the phone on days that you need a pick-me-up, someone in your corner who is cheering you on when you can’t do it for yourself. Let them know in advance you need some loving-kindness, or a good laugh or a boost of ‘I-know-you-can-and-here’s-why’. This works best with friends who know you well and whom you can be vulnerable with.

5. Spend 15 minutes ONLY on a task from the to-do list.

It is often when I have a small window of time left before I need to walk out the door that I notice the place needs a tidy.  I can somehow make a mere 15 minutes incredibly productive. I move like a woman whose mother-in-law is heading down the driveway and can get a huge amount done knowing that it will all be over in 15 minutes when I need to leave. The daunting task gets done in  a much less imposing time frame.This is also a good time to make that appointment you have been putting off or clearing out ONE drawer. Less time to contemplate means the mind is less of a hindrance in the process of attending to stuff.

6.Take 15 minutes to photograph your kids, your pets, your neighborhood.

This is an active way of appreciating and actively noticing the ones we love and our surroundings. It helps the mind become more present focused when you fully engage with your subject and look a little more closely. Take the time to dwell in the small details.

7. Take 15 minutes to put together an outfit for the day.

Our clothes are like costumes. When we wear our old jeans and most loved t-shirt we are setting ourselves up for comfort. And whilst this is exactly what we need some of the time what about setting yourself up for an adventure, for being noticed, for self-expression, for trying a new approach (wearing heels always makes me feel like someone else, and I like her). This 15 minutes can breathe freshness into your whole day and maybe even beyond.

8. Done right,15 minutes of exercise can pack a punch.

1 minute squats + 1 minute pushups + I minute plank + 1 minute skipping + 1 minute back extensions. Repeat x 3. Done.

9. Draw to quiet the mind.

No artistic qualifications required here. Take the time to just involve yourself in the process and let your mind relax. Take a pencil in your left hand, close your eyes and slowly make lines all over the page. When you are done open your eyes. You may look for images amongst the lines and flesh them out, or enjoy coloring in your doodle. You may also enjoy doing this activity to music.

10. Brainstorm

Pick a prominent nagging dilemma and spend 15 minutes coming up with a list of creative solutions. Whether the problem is work related, organisational, social, creative, etc. give your self a big piece of paper and a time limit and without the opportunity to procrastinate or perfect you will have created the ideal environment for your ideas to flow.

11. Organise fuel for the day

Eating wholesome, nourishing food is key to our health and feeling at our optimal best. Nourishing ourselves helps our mind and body function well but it is also an act of self-care. Many of us intend to eat well but never quite follow through. Preparing healthy food needn’t be a roadblock to health and feeling great. A 15 minute investment in the preparation department here can mean the difference between a sugar and coffee fueled afternoon slump and ending the day with some pep still in your step. A fair and worthy trade here I think.

I would love to hear what you find is a rewarding exchange for 15 minutes of your time.

Drop me a  comment below.

4 easy steps to a healthy lunchbox

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What kids eat over the course of the day has the potential to set them up with good energy levels, good concentration and a good mood, if done right.

I am pretty conscientious when it comes to healthy lunches. I aim to include minimally processed whole foods and homemade snacks most days.  The closer it is to nature the better. I also prefer to use all organic produce where possible (thus reducing the pesticide load and impact of added hormones on growing bodies). Add to this a drink bottle filled with plain water and we are setting our children up with healthy food habits and a healthy future.

My able assistant here is the lunchbox itself, which serves as my guide. I use those lunch boxes that have 4 neat little compartments, 2 of which can conveniently hold sealed containers. Not only do they provide the perfect tool for wrapper free lunches (look for BPA free and check they are made from recyclable plastic –  my kids seem to go through a few each year) but more importantly they are the perfect tool to create a balanced lunch. These 4 compartments are my best friend in the don’t-have-time-for-too-much-thinking morning rush, and can be yours too.

The perfect school lunch in 4 compartments

1. Main course

2. Fruit and vegetables

3. Something savoury

4. A healthy sweet treat

Making sure kids get a balance of healthy fats and protein alongside energy-giving, wholegrain carbohydrates will help to keep blood sugar levels stable, ensuring good concentration and mood. It is important to keep changing it up too. Adding variety from one day to the next ensures the necessary balance of nutrients over the course of  a week. This also helps our children develop their palate. I have never prepared separate meals for my children and whilst they have their favourites, they are enthusiastic about new foods and dishes.

Main Course

The main course should provide a combination of lean protein,  healthy fats and carbohydrates. These carbohydrates should take the form of vegetables and minimally refined whole grains.. Good fats to include are avocado, nuts and seed butters  or a drizzle of olive oil. Some proteins that are lunchbox friendly include legumes (whole or as the base for a spread), organic meats, eggs and dairy.

  • Sandwich/ wraps – (sourdough, stoneground, organic breads for sandwiches or flat breads/ nori sheets for wraps) with eg. fetta and avocado/ tahini and miso
  • Leftovers that work really well  include nasi goreng, stir fry, quinoa based salads, vegetarian curry with grain, pasta-style salads
  • Homemade pastry triangles
  • Nori rolls/ sushi
  • Frittata muffins
  • Burgers

Fruit and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of the diet as they provide a wide range of nutrients as well fibre to help the digestive system function properly. Try to serve a rainbow of colours and as much variety as possible over the week.

  • cherry tomatoes
  • carrot / cucumber / celery sticks/ snow peas/ etc.
  • fresh fruit: berries / cherries/ pear / apple / stone fruit pieces

Something savoury

This includes either a savoury snack or a protein (depending on how much protein is already included in the main course)

  • boiled egg
  • cubes of marinated tofu
  • edamame (young soy beans)
  • cubes of cheese/ dip with rice biscuits or vegie sticks
  • nuts
  • small container of chick peas
  • homemade popcorn
  • rice cakes with protein based spread: nut butters, miso paste, hummus

A healthy sweet treat

  • fresh dates
  • date and coconut rolls
  • homemade bliss balls
  • homemade muffins / biscuits (sugar content reduced by 1/2)
  • dried fruit
  • pureed fruit with yogurt
  • oven roasted pear sprinkled with cinnamon

It doesn’t take much effort to create healthy school lunches. The key is being organised with a stocked fridge and pantry at the start of the week and then it is just a matter of mixing and matching  to create nutritional balance.

How To Use Your Holiday To Break Old Habits And Create Positive Change

Taking a holiday over the December/January period is a practical decision for most. Apart from the obvious being that it falls across a time of significant celebrations, it is also usually a quiet or non-productive period at work, it is a time when family and school aged children are around and it comes at the end of the calendar year when time off can feel like a well-earned reward.

All practicalities aside, I find beginning the year with a break from routine really handy timing. With new or refreshed commitments and goals in place it is the perfect opportunity to begin paving new pathways to my evolution.

In yoga these paths are known more accurately as ‘samskaras’. They are the positive and negative patterns we create in our lives that, with constant repetition, are reinforced. It is how habits and addictions are created. It may be a sugar habit that you are trying to break or a regular yoga practice you are trying to stick to. It takes a fair dose of conscious repetition to carve out a new groove where a perfectly formed old one exists, and some conscious resistance to walk a new path rather than abiding by our conditioning.

In most circumstances we prefer the familiar to the unknown. We find comfort in the world as we know it. We construct stories that we tell ourselves in order to unconsciously perpetuate and justify cyclic patterns, even when negative. It is the reason we may stay in a destructive relationship or stick with an unfulfilling job or maintain an unhealthy diet or addiction. My well-worn path is one that steers me towards busyness and setting mostly unrealistic, lofty goals. My passions, interests and creative visions see me regularly overextending myself, and yet justifying my productivity prevents me from gaining true insight, and thus fully realising the importance for change.

Here is the great segue to holidays. Having time off or, better still, time away creates an interruption to our conscious and unconscious routines. It is my experience that when our holiday is one where we create the time to slow down, open up to new experiences and take the space for reflection we are creating the ideal circumstances to experience change. We get the chance to rehearse living life differently with choices we may not feel are available amongst the demands and stresses of life at home. We may exercise more, interact and connect more with our loved ones, spend time on activities that are fun rather than purposeful, try new things that make us take notice rather than move through our lives blindly. The conditions are right for us to challenge some of our preconditioned and unconscious actions, thoughts and emotions.

Sometimes these encounters have a profound longer term impact, sometimes they may just provide a glimpse of how life could be a bit better. Either way the challenge is how to bring these gifts home with us.

One of the best ways to change samskaras is to cram out old behaviours and thought patterns with new ones. Using your time away to form new habits is the start of creating and sustaining new ways of being. These grooves are systematically strengthened over time through repetition until your new habits become so strong that they replace older, less desirable ones.

Research has shown that it takes around 21 days to create a new habit so it is important to stay focused and conscientious during this early period, knowing that it will get easier. Stay alert to moments when your negative patterns are being triggered and work with a practice to disrupt the process – perhaps something as simple as stopping to take a deep breath.

Changing our habits is often a matter of changing our minds. Yoga and meditation are great tools that can help us discipline our minds. Both of these methods provide us with the training to be less reactive to our thoughts and urges and are thus helpful in overcoming negative habits and replacing them with new, more positive ones.

So unless you can take a 21 day holiday and get closer to completion, use your time away to begin the valuable and rewarding process of adding positive changes to your life. Play and experiment with new activities, interests and routines that you can use to crowd out the old habits once you are home. It is easier to take these first steps whilst you are in a relaxed environment and under less stress with fewer negative triggers. By the time it comes to returning home changes will be underway. You will have formed new grooves in your path that can be reinforced through repetition once you return. Your holiday may have ended but you will be returning with the start of a new, improved version of your life.