The 20 minute rule

Personal development for the rest of us

Early this year I listened to an episode of the RobCast, a podcast by the author and speaker, Rob Bell. He had Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love on the show. I don’t remember all the details of the episode, but I vividly recall Elizabeth talking about the amazing power of committing just twenty minutes a day to a task or a goal or a talent you want to develop.

It really jumped out to me and ever since then I’ve had a daily reminder in my Due app, simply titled ‘20 Minutes’. It pops up on my phone every evening at 8pm. In truth, however, I’ve not done anything with this reminder until recently.

I wasn’t sure to do with those twenty minutes. But despite going several months without ever actually completing this daily reminder, I kept it on my phone. For whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to delete it. It felt important, even if I wasn’t sure why.

What I love about the idea of committing to something for just twenty minutes each day is that, well, it is just twenty minutes. Everyone can find twenty minutes in their day. It feels realistic.

The problem with humans and goal setting is that we always over-estimate what we think we can commit to. So then we fail, and then we give up. But committing twenty minutes to something on a daily basis feels doable.

So, after all these months of having the reminder, I’ve finally found what I am committing my twenty minutes to. It’s this: writing.

My goal is to spend twenty minutes a day, most days of the week, writing. I’ve been doing it for a little while now and I already feel like I’m reaping the benefits.

I’m enjoying the daily discipline, but – and this is strange for someone who likes to complete things in one sitting – I’m also enjoying the way that twenty minutes is long enough to feel a sense of accomplishment, but rarely enough to finish something.

I’m not usually very good at leaving things half-done. But this twenty minutes a day goal has been good for me. I start writing something and then come back to it the next day – or even a week or more later. It’s such a different approach for me, but I’m liking it and feel it’s helping with my writing. It means I come back to pieces I’m working on and can see what I’ve written previously with fresh eyes.

I doubt this will suddenly turn me into the world’s greatest writer, but I hope this new daily discipline and approach will make be a better writer. And a more consistent one. I have a tendency to write in bursts. Lots of articles in a short space of time, but then nothing for sometimes months at a time.

Interestingly, I feel less of an urge to publish everything I write too. I’m enjoying just writing every day. Sometimes it is with a view towards publishing something, but often it is simply to journal my thoughts and feelings about something. As the saying goes, I write in order to understand, not to be understood.

Of course, dedicating twenty minutes towards writing each day may not be for you. But I recommend finding something to commit twenty minutes to each day that will help you develop as a person.

Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but have never got around to. It could be a skill you’ve long wanted to develop, a language you want to learn, or an instrument you want to be able to play. Simply give yourself to twenty minutes a day and in no time at all you’ll be looking back amazed at your progress.

What’s there to lose—it’s only twenty minutes?

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