How spending just 13 minutes a day on self care changed my life

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A couple of months ago, I plopped into bed. As I reviewed my day, I realized that I didn’t do anything for myself all day (yet again). 

No exercise: The most movement I had all day was walking to the kitchen.

No “me time”: The only minutes I had to myself were the short bathroom breaks throughout the day.

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No real money management: Due to stress and mental health issues like depression and anxiety, I was spending carelessly and lost the habit of checking in with my finances. 

As the world seemed to be going from bad to worse, I felt the toll on my mental health. Being self-employed, work only ever seemed to get tougher and more precarious. I had the feeling I always needed to be working and I was burnt out.

The term “self-care” comes with so much baggage and has been hijacked by brands to try to sell us something. But if I’ve learned anything in therapy, it’s that if I’m not well, nothing in my life is. So I knew I had to do something to engage in self-care that was meaningful, easy and free. 

I wanted to start small and commit to something that required minimum input with maximum output.

That’s when I decided to create the Mental Health and Wealth Challenge. I decided to focus on mental, physical and financial health as these pillars are the foundation for so much in life and when they’re out of balance, everything else seems to be, too. 

The Mental Health and Wealth Challenge

In an effort to get things moving in my life, both physically and mentally, I decided to start my challenge with The New York Times’ 7-minute HIIT workout. True to its promise, in just seven minutes it got my heart pumping. 

I had tried to get a meditation practice going to ease my anxiety, but I’d been sporadic at best. So for my challenge, I asked: What if I could just commit to five minutes of meditation?

To round out the challenge, I wanted to focus on personal finance and start reviewing my financial situation again. 

Once the pandemic hit, everything has gone haywire. (Here are common behavior problems kids are experiencing due to the pandemic—and what to do about them.) Checking in on my finances was put on the back burner. So for one minute, I’d comb through my bank transactions and expenses to see where my money was going. This was just the start of getting back into a routine, but in just one minute, I could at least build the habit. 

So I resolved that every day I would start with:

  1. Seven-minute workout

  2. Five minutes of meditation

  3. One minute checking my bank transactions 

That’s only 13 minutes. 

I used technology to help me pull it off: I downloaded a seven-minute workout app (there are a ton of them), the free meditation app Insight Timer for a five-minute meditation (you might choose something similar as well, like Calm or Headspace) and Charlie to comb through my finances (you could also use something like Mint). 

To measure whether this challenge was making a meaningful impact on my life, I rated my mood before my morning session and after, on a scale of 1 to 10. 

One Week of Daily Self-Care

I took notes throughout the challenge. Here’s a breakdown of how it went. 


Day 1 

I am feeling pretty ready to start this challenge. I know I can commit 13 minutes to myself! As I start exercising, I realize I am moving parts of my body that haven’t moved in months, and it feels good. During the meditation, I feel like it’s hard to stay still but closing my eyes feels good. I check my finances and am OK with the numbers but realize I could get less takeout. 

Mood before: 7

Mood after: 9

Day 2 

Today I am tired as I didn’t sleep that well. I am not feeling as motivated as Day 1. The exercise feels hard but I remember it’s just seven minutes. I think to myself, I can do this, I can get through seven minutes. The meditation feels like a treat after exercising. 

Mood before: 5 

Mood after: 7

Day 3

I am getting into the groove and ready to take 13 minutes for myself. As I do the seven-minute workout, my body is starting to wake up. I am feeling the progress of doing it three days in a row. The meditation centers me and focuses my unwieldy thoughts. When I check my finances, I see a recurring charge that I should cancel. 

Mood before: 7

Mood after: 8 

Day 4

I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. The onslaught of bad news about the economy and lingering effects of the pandemic feels like too much. I don’t want to do anything except stay in bed. I force myself to do the 13 minutes. I hate it the entire time but remind myself I can do anything for 13 minutes. 

Mood before: 2

Mood after: 3

Day 5

I am feeling better than the day before after a good night’s sleep. The exercise is getting easier and the meditation is, too. I feel empowered by keeping tabs on my finances and knowing where my money is going. This simple act is helping me build positive habits and making me more mindful of my spending and what changes I want to make. 

Mood before: 6

Mood after: 8.5

Day 6

I am starting to get into the habit of this. I wake up and look forward to spending 13 minutes on self-care. Today the exercise burns a little after so many days of consistent workouts. I’m surprised how much I feel after just seven minutes! Today I choose a meditation around focus to start the day. Not much has changed in my finances but I feel good making sure there are no instances of fraud or any errors. 

Mood before: 7

Mood after: 8

Day 7

I am starting to feel the cumulative effects of taking just 13 minutes for myself. The exercise feels harder today and I hate doing the plank. But it’s just 30 seconds and then the next exercise. Before I know it, it’s time to meditate. Today I find a five-minute meditation centered on getting rid of stress and learn a new breathing technique. I am starting to notice the trends in my spending. I tend to spend the same amount at the grocery store each week and get take out a couple of times a week. This week my coffee spending is up and I’d like to cut it in half.  

Mood before: 5

Mood after: 8

How 13 Minutes of Self-Care Changed My Life 

When I started, I wondered if 13 minutes would actually make a difference. But after one week of focusing on my physical, mental and financial health I can unequivocally say yes. Every single day, I felt better after doing the challenge. Some days more than others, but there was always an increase. 

Now that I’ve felt the positive effects, I have committed to taking care of myself every day. If I spend more than 13 minutes on Instagram, I can certainly invest, at a minimum, 13 minutes on self-care. 

Are you a busy parent at the whim of crying children and other demands? You might try squeezing these 13 minutes into naptime or breaking up the three components (physical, mental and financial) over the course of the day whenever there’s a spare moment. If your kids wake up too early for you to feasibly fit this in as a morning routine, you might also try this challenge as a wind-down routine before bed.

Because being a parent involves so much taking care of others, it’s especially important to invest a little time in yourself, too. 

Now that I’ve been doing this for a couple of months, I feel more steady and stable and less like I’m dealing with a roller coaster of emotions. I feel less resentful about work, too. 

Some days, I do even more and include a walk and 20 minutes of reading at some point throughout the day. The beauty is that it doesn’t have to be consecutive. It can be broken up into chunks throughout the day. My biggest takeaway has been simply to remember balance in my life, and do what it takes to pursue it.

If you’re having trouble summoning the energy to really set this time aside, try just a few days and keep a journal to see for yourself—if my experience is any indication, I bet you’ll always feel better afterward. 

This article originally appeared on Fabric and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Yes, you really can increase your productivity. Here’s how

Yes, you really can increase your productivity. Here’s how

It’s time to talk productivity! Partners in Fire is all about helping others achieve financial freedom, and for some of us, that means learning how to be more productive in our daily lives. 

Productivity is a buzzword that’s often thrown around with efficiency and time management. Many of us only consider productivity at work to be important, but personal productivity really is one of the keys to building a better life. 

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In a nutshell, being productive means doing a lot. But it goes deeper than that. You could do a lot of lurking on Reddit, or a lot of gaming, but does that mean you’ve been productive?

Maybe – if you’re a Reddit moderator or trying to build a Twitch stream. But, if not, it probably doesn’t count. Being productive is more than doing a lot – it’s doing a lot towards a specific goal. The specific goal doesn’t matter – it can be losing weight, writing, completing chores, self-improvement, professional development– pretty much anything that you consciously set your mind to and want to accomplish.

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There’s no doubt about why it’s important to be productive at work – we need to keep our jobs, right? But when it comes to being productive at home, the lines are a tad bit blurry.

Why do we need to be productive at home after we’ve worked an eight-hour shift? The truth is that you don’t. There’s no requirement to be productive in your daily life. If you want to work, then come home and recharge– that’s perfectly fine. If you’re content with your day job and your work-life balance, this post probably isn’t for you – and that’s okay! We all have different goals and different aspirations.

But, if you hate the fact that you get home from work and don’t get anything done, or waste your weekends away doing nothing – this post is for you. We will teach you how to be more productive in your life so you stop wasting that time and start getting stuff done. This will help you be happier with your life overall. 

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Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to make yourself productive. You have to specifically tell yourself the things that you are going to do, and stop yourself when you get distracted.

I’ve found a few things that help me be productive on a day-to-day basis. 

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Have you eaten? Used the restroom? Let the dog in or out? These small things need to be handled before you can even start to be productive. Stopping every five minutes to tend to small things like this can destroy your vibe and get you out of the zone.

Imagine trying to get anything accomplished if you have to get up and use the restroom, then go get a glass of water, then check the mail, then switch the laundry over. Your hour of productive time is going to be gone before you even get started.  Making sure that you and your surroundings are ready is one of the first steps you can take in ensuring productivity.

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Journaling isn’t usually seen as one of the biggest keys to productivity, but it has helped me immensely! I use my daily journal to express gratitude, log my workouts, and write down the things that I’m going to accomplish in a day. 

It’s nice to be able to look back over a week or a month and see just how much I have to be thankful for in my life and to see how much I’ve accomplished.

The journal definitely helps me stay on task. If nothing else, I’m going to do the three things I listed in that sucker. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable.

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Sometimes, we are so overwhelmed with everything in our heads that we can’t focus on the most important task. We might not even be able to determine what that task is!

A brain dump can help with that. It’s a system of getting everything that’s floating around in your head out on paper. This will help you organize your thoughts so you can stay focused on what is really important. 

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Is making a list the same thing as journaling? I mean, you’re writing stuff you need to do down in both, right? But they aren’t the same, and it’s important to do both for the sake of productivity.

Your journal entry is going to be much broader than what’s on your to-do list. For example, there are tons of things you need to do if one of your goals is to publish a blog post. You need to write the post, create photos, focus on SEO, create a killer headline, do social media shares … and the list goes on.

List-making can also help you accomplish more than just your three main daily goals.  My journal only lists three main things I’m going to accomplish that will help me achieve my goals. I don’t worry about chores or smaller mundane tasks when I’m journaling. The to do list shows me all of those other tasks that I need to get done. 

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It’s hard to be productive all day every day. But it’s a whole lot easier to be productive from 4pm to 6pm! Or whatever time works for you on a daily basis.

Set yourself a specific time of one to two hours where you dedicate yourself to being productive. Who knows, you may get so engrossed in it that you end up spending even more time on it!

This is the basic idea behind the Pomodoro technique. With this method of time management, you set a timer for a specific small amount of time.  Then you focus completely on a specific task for that timeframe. When the time is up, you can take a break of move on to something else. 

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A giant hindrance to productivity is people wanting you to do things for them. I understand that it’s great to help people out on occasion. But when helping others becomes such a drain on you that you aren’t able to accomplish your own tasks, it might be time to say no. 

Ask yourself if the person who needs assistance really needs it, or if they just want company. Put headphones on to minimize interruptions. Don’t let other people waste your time. Saying no and focusing on what’s important to you is a great way to boost your own happiness and productivity. 

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Focusing on a specific time each day for productivity works even better if you make it a routine.  I’m a morning person, so I’m at my most productive levels first thing in the morning. I like to spend some of that energy working on my blog. Every morning, after I get ready for my workday, I spend about an hour working on blog stuff. I don’t even have to think about it anymore, it’s my morning routine. 

Setting a daily routine like this will help you be more productive. Set a specific time every day and do your best to keep to that schedule. Eventually, it will become a habit, and being productive during that time will be second nature to you.

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Distractions are one of the biggest productivity killers out there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been super into writing … Ooh, a new post on Reddit! Or getting ready to start….wow look at this Twitter notification! There are so many distracting apps, and they are huge wastes of time. But, we can find ways to stop ourselves from procrastinating with distractions.

The biggest distractions usually come from our phones – so turn off the notifications and put them away! Put it someplace out of reach for the next hour or so, and don’t go looking at it.  You can even set a timer that will tell you when you can look at your phone again.

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It feels so good to get a big, important task off of our to-do list, so prioritize whatever that is. Once you knock that huge task out you will feel incredibly productive – it will be like a weight off your shoulders! 

This will give you the energy to complete some of the smaller things on your list as well. And, even if you don’t have time for those smaller things, you can feel proud knowing you got that monster one finished.

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It’s hard to increase your productivity when you’re tired, hungry, or otherwise unfocused. Take some time for self-care. Make sure you get enough sleep each night. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Take a nap if need be. Doing these things to take care of yourself is not only motivating but will also boost your productivity in the long run and prevent burnout. 

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What’s the point of productivity if you don’t get anything out of it, right? So reward yourself! Reward yourself for achieving your daily goals, for big milestones, and for being creative. I’ve been addicted to Animal Crossing lately, so I reward myself for accomplishing my daily goals with an hour or so of playtime.

You may want to reward yourself with a favorite snack, some downtime to read a book, a relaxing bath, or anything else that motivates you. But remember, you don’t get that sweet sweet reward until after hour allotted time of productivity!

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Being productive is hard. But thankfully, there are tons of resources available to help you!

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My favorite is the Ultimate Productivity Bundle from Ultimate Bundles.  This pack is loaded to the brim with amazing resources that will help you be more productive with your time. It’s got 12 e-books, 31 courses and 29 workshops & printables – all specifically designed to help you be more productive in your life. That’s over seventy products for under seventy dollars! Less than a buck a product! 

This bundle contains loads of resources on time-management, multi-tasking, and other hacks to improve your productivity. If you struggle to get into a productivity mindset, this is an amazing tool for you. 

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I know bundles aren’t for everyone. Sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned book, right? My favorite book on productivity is “Getting Things Done – the Art of Stress Free Living” by David Allen. This book is all about improving your day-to-day productivity, which will in turn improve your overall productivity.

“The Four-Hour Work Week” is another great read (and one of my picks for the best finance books!) because it discusses optimizing your overall productivity and using that to create a dream life. It’s more of the big picture on productive than the day-to-day, but I love the message so I had to include it. 

For more books and resources on how to be productive, check out our list of the top 10 books on productivity. You will definitely find a book on this list to help you!

Read more: 

The best jobs for people who want to be their own boss

Part-time jobs that still pay really well

This article
originally appeared on 
PartnersInFire.comand was
syndicated by
MediaFeed.org.

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