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How you can reach your most ambitious goals in 20 minutes a day

In an ideal world, you’d have at least an hour everyday to devote to achieving your biggest goals. But in the real world you can probably only find 20 minutes or so. Here’s how to make the most of the time you have.

How you can reach your most ambitious goals in 20 minutes a day
[Photo: hxdbzxy/iStock]

Let’s face it. It’s easier to accomplish ambitious goals when you consistently have an hour or more to focus on them. But for many people an hour or more of time only sporadically comes around. That’s why, yet again, they’re making no progress on the goals that they’ve made for themselves.

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To break this cycle of failure when it comes to tackling your biggest goals, I’d like to suggest a counterintuitive approach. Don’t wait for a large stretch of time; instead give your biggest goals 20 minutes a day.

This approach will require radical clarity. Trying to get something done in 20 minutes when you have a limp plan will be about as compelling as a limp handshake. And this approach requires consistency. You can’t afford to skip a lot of days when you only invest 20 minutes at a time.

But with this 20-minute strategy, you can do everything from getting in shape to writing a book to learning a language to getting your finances in order to decluttering to improving your relationships to tackling a daunting work project.

Ready to give this a try? Here are a few strategies that could help.

Goal: Get in shape

In 20 minutes a day, you can improve your cardio, build muscle, and benefit your mental health. But you need to be strategic. Choose activities with minimal transition time, such as doing a workout video or following an app exercise routine at home or start a run as soon as you walk outside your door. To save more time, do this right before you would naturally take a shower.

Goal: Write a book

Many people want to write a book, do art, or engage in some other creative project and they never do. You can break that cycle by taking 20 minutes of consistent action, but you need to have a thoughtful strategy. What I recommend is deciding by the day before what you want to write about the next day. Then in the time before you actually sit down to write for 20 minutes, think about what you want to say. You can do this during your commute, while you’re taking a shower, while you’re eating lunch, while you’re on a walk, or while you’re in any other “in-between” time. Think through what you want to write so then when you start typing, you will quickly get words on paper. If you don’t prep, you’re likely to take 20 minutes to just think and be left with a blank page.

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Goal: Learn a language

Learning a language seems like a big task, but it can happen in as little as 20 minutes a day. Thankfully with the help of language learning apps, it’s easier than ever. Apps like Duolingo and Memrise make language learning portable and allow you to pace yourself. You can listen to 20 minutes in the car or while you’re getting ready in the morning.

Goal: Get your finances in order

To tackle the finances backlog, the trick is breaking down the project into simple-to-execute steps that you can do in 20-minute increments. I recommend making a list of everything that you need to accomplish and then ticking things off. For example: Going through bank statements, filing medical receipts, opening a savings account, and making a retirement deposit. Do what you can in 20 minutes and then come back for 20 minutes more.

Goal: Declutter your home

If you try to clear the clutter from your house in a day, you’ll get tired before you even start. Instead, put yourself on a 20-minute timer and see what you can get done in that time. Maybe it’s cleaning a drawer. Maybe it’s pulling a few books off your bookshelf to donate. Maybe it’s throwing out expired food in your cabinets. Whatever it is, 20 minutes matters.

Goal: Improve your relationships

Daily investment in your relationships can make a world of difference. Instead of thinking you need to do a grand getaway, make time for the people who matter most to you daily. For example, with your significant other, spend 20 minutes a day intentionally doing something together without phone or TV distractions. Be present. Be available. And pay attention to where they’re at that day.

Goal: Tackle daunting work projects

If you have a work project that’s just going nowhere, break it down into little steps—like with finances—and then knock it off in 20-minute increments. One day, you might read a background article. Another day, you might make a call to a colleague. And yet another day, you might put together the first few pages of the deck. Every bit counts.

You can’t do everything all at once. But you can accomplish almost anything in 20 minutes a day. Go get ’em.

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