The 20-Minute Solution - How to Change Your Life in 20 Minutes a Day

By Lorie Rosenberg

With today's hectic lifestyle, there really doesn't seem to be a lot of extra time to add one more thing on your plate. Yet, is that really true?

Are there activities in your life that you're doing every single day, that are really unimportant or useless...that you might be able to cut out or at the very least, minimize each day?

Think about it. How much time do you spend checking your Facebook account? Or posting a picture or status? Do you get sucked in watching funny YouTube videos? How many hours do you spend watching television...during the day, month or year?

Most of us spend way too much time doing unimportant, trivial activities...when we could be making changes in our lives, trying something new, or doing something meaningful that could truly make an impact on our lives or on those of others around you.

Last year wasn't one of my all-time favorite years. I felt I didn't really accomplish all that I wanted to during the year. I lacked direction, and I didn't achieve the goals I had set earlier in the year. I felt that everything around me was taking up way too much of my time and I couldn't get traction on the goals I wanted to accomplish. It seemed as if everything in my life was getting in the way of my goals and aspirations.

The problem is that I let it happen to me. I allowed other crises, tasks, and useless distractions pull me from working on the types of goals that would move me forward. I allowed these distractions to fill up my time and didn't make my goals and dreams a priority in my life.

Has this happened to you as well?

Each of us has responsibilities that need to get done each day...tasks we do almost automatically...grocery shopping, meals, cleaning, and other jobs we need to do around the house. We all have families, friends, and others who need our time and attention. So how can we get off this merry-go-round and squeeze out some time to do something we've always wanted to do and have been meaning to do for some time?

Commit Just 20 Minutes a Day!

It can really take just 20 minutes a day to make a change in your life. So let me ask you...

"Can you find 20 minutes a day to do something meaningful in your life?"

I know that most of you reading this are asking yourself, "What can I do in just 20 minutes a day?" It will take 20 minutes for me just to get started on anything!

That may be true in many instances, but there are a lot of things you can do in just 20 minutes a day. And if you can find 20 minutes a day to work on them...maybe you can find even more time to work on those other ones!

Walk 20 Minutes a Day for a Year!

This year I decided that I needed to focus on my health and well-being. I wanted to do something that I could actually accomplish - based on my busy schedule. I wanted to make sure this was a truly SMART goal...a Specific goal with Measurable objectives, one that was truly Attainable and Realistic, and one that was Timely, meaning I would have a specific time frame in which to complete it.

Creating a SMART Goal

Specific and Measurable: That's why I decided to walk for 20 minutes a day for the entire year! That's pretty specific...no ambiguity there. I use Map My Ride, a phone app, to record my walk to ensure that I walk at least 20 minutes. And there have been days when it was rainy and cold and I just bundled up, with my rain jacket, umbrella, and boots and walked 20 minutes...no more and no less!

There have been other days when I've walked farther...when it's beautiful outside and I have the time to walk 45 minutes to an hour. That's when I truly see how my walking decreases my stress and enhances my feeling of well-being.

Attainable and Realistic: There's no reason why I can't find 20 minutes a day to walk. I can do it anytime during the day. I have a great neighborhood where I can walk so I don't have to drive anywhere to do it. I can simply step out of my garage and begin my walk.

I don't need any special equipment, just a pair of good walking shoes. And even if I'm traveling, on vacation, or at someone's house, I can still allocate 20 minutes to walk. I have no excuses not to do it! And even if I'm sick or not feeling well, walking helps me feel better.

Timely: Creating a habit takes at least 21 to 30 days to become engrained in you, and if you continue, it can become a life-long activity. That's why I decided on one year for my goal because I actually want to continue this for the rest of my life.

Walking is one of the best activities you can do for your health. According to the American Heart Association, walking can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, and Type 2 diabetes;  improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels; maintain body weight, and enhance mental well being.

And it's relatively risk-free. Many people go to gyms and become injured, and then have to lay off their activity for a while. That shouldn't happen to me during a walk so I should be able to continue as long as I want.

Making Change a Happy Experience

Change is difficult for most people. That's because the behaviors they're trying to change have been engrained in them over many years, sometimes all of their lives. For them, to make any change actually stick, they need to substitute other more pleasant behaviors for the ones they're trying to change. That's not always possible for alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, or other addictive behaviors. In these cases, they probably need intervention from health professionals and support from their family and friends to help them effectively change their destructive habits.

But for most of us, if we truly want to make a change and create a long-term habit, we have to make it an enjoyable experience. I love being outside, no matter what I do. Many days I walk with someone or listen to music or motivational talks on my cell phone. I get outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun, an incredible sunset, or a cool, gentle breeze. It calms me down and settles my mood.

Keep the Momentum Going

The important part of any goal is to keep the momentum flowing. If you make an excuse one day not to work on it, then you'll find another one again and again. At this point, your momentum is broken and you'll begin to fall back into old patterns of behavior and never accomplish the goals you wanted to achieve.

As I write this article, I'm on day 25 and still going. Each of these 25 days I've walked at least 20 minutes...some days more, but never less than 20 minutes. It's something I plan in my schedule no matter what and it has become a priority.

I feel that by accomplishing and sticking to this goal, I'll be able to add other goals and use the same drive and motivation to focus and follow through on them as well. We learn and build on our successes and that enables us to achieve even more.

Keep Your Goal Visible

Make sure you keep your goal in plain sight so you don't forget that you're working on it. Refer to it when you’re determining what you'll be doing during your day. Make sure that it is on the top of your schedule. And don't let anything get in the way of completing it! To achieve any goal, you need a picture of what it looks like and how it will feel once you've completed it.

Change Happens One Step at a Time

Change is not an event...it's a process. You can't quickly or easily change habits that have been ingrained in you for years. It takes time, focus, and action! It takes dedication to work on the new behavior, forgiveness when you experience setbacks and a commitment to pulling yourself up and refocusing your efforts on the goal! Again...and perhaps again!

Change happens one day at a time...and in my case one step at a time! Decide what you want to do, determine if it is a SMART goal you can actually accomplish...and then go for it!