Your 20 Minutes of Awesome

If you’re anything at all like me, your time is very valuable to you. You only have 24 hours in a day and ostensibly only a portion of those hours are yours to use for productive things, so you do your best to make the most of them, cut out the chaff, and increase your output the best you can.

Needless to say, this kind of mindset is not conducive to breaks, naps, lallygagging, or friends (just kidding on that last one…or am I!?).

But despite my own and your propensity for productivity, I want to propose a non-intuitive method for increasing effectiveness, alertness and mental health. I call it 20 Minutes of Awesome, and I’m going to tell you why you should utilize this method every single day.

The basis of 20MA rests with the idea that if you work for 45 minutes and then rest for 15, your mind will have time to digest what you just did and you will be more likely to store that information in your long term memory, rather than just your short term. It also stems from my appreciation for yoga, meditation, and other body/mind connection exercises that I’ve found to be incredibly therapeutic and effective, even when I’ve been incredibly stressed or lazy.

Here’s what 20MA entails:

  • Take 20 minutes from each day to sit quietly, not doing anything with your body, not playing Tetris or doodling or reading or listening to music or watching TV. Just sitting (or lying down, if you think you can stay awake).
  • Stare off into space, unfocus your eyes, and let your mind wander. I find that my mind generally goes first to the important items of the day, which is fine. It doesn’t matter what you think about, just that you know you’ve got some time to think, so tangents are allowed.
  • Let your friends and family know that while you’re enjoying your 20MA, you would prefer not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. Turn off your phone and close the door.
  • You will be sitting there for 20 minutes, so use the time or don’t. If you just need some time to empty your mind and think about nothing, that’s perfectly fine. If you want to do mental calculations for your taxes, that’s cool too. It’s your time.

I find that after I take my 20 minutes, I feel refreshed, motivated, and ready to go. Sometimes I’ll just let my mind wander in circles, but generally I will first think about my responsibilities, current projects, long-term and short-term goals, etc. Many times during my 20 Minutes of Awesome, I’ll remember something that I dropped the ball on and need to get to right away, or recall a name or idea I had been trying to remember (without success) while in ‘productivity mode’ earlier that day (or week).

Taking your 20 Minutes of Awesome is a really simple but effective method for organizing your thoughts and topping off your energy levels.

What do you do to focus and de-stress? Let me know in the comments below!

Also: Discover Magazine concurs

Update: April 23, 2016

This is still one of my favorite chunks of time each day. It’s still just as valuable to me now, seven years later, as it was back then. Perhaps even more so. And there’s even more data today about the benefits of this sort of practice.

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