Fitness corner: Change your life in 20 minutes a day

Pritam Potts

A while ago, I wrote a Fitness Corner column about weeding. Appropriately titled “Wisdom from weeds”, it detailed how much wisdom came from having to weed my own yard. Weeding is something I have always loathed to my very core!

Strong words, but very true for me, because there are few things I dislike as much as weeding. However, it reminded me back then that we can learn a lot from unpleasant but necessary tasks in this life, if we’re open to it. Also, because this is life, it is a lesson I am continually learning.

In fact, although I managed to successfully weed my yard back then, I have still preferred to avoid weeding as much as possible, whenever possible. Ugh! Until last year, out of necessity, when I had to take a much larger role (again) in caring for my yard.

I couldn’t have imagined that a year later, not only do I not hate weeding any longer, I’m actually beginning to embrace it!

How could this possibly happen?

In my previous column, describing the wisdom of which I had found myself reminded, I wrote: “Doing a little bit more frequently. This makes it way less overwhelming. About 15-30 minutes a day is totally doable vs. an eight-hour day (will not happen!)”

So, when I knew I had to get serious about yard care last year, I came up with a decision to do 20 minutes a day, which I decided was a non-negotiable number. No more, no less, just 20 minutes. 15 minutes was too short, 30 minutes overwhelming (that would’ve lasted about three days.) It was the only way I could force myself to do this horrible chore. Anyone can survive 20 minutes of something they loathe, right?

The first couple of weeks were tough. I was in a rage against the evil weeds! I felt so much negativity and resentment that I almost quit many times. But it wasn’t about the task itself as much as it was about the 20-minute commitment I had made to my home, my yard, myself. I did not quit! As the results of my small amounts of work began to add up to cleared space, my feelings gradually morphed into satisfaction and accomplishment.

It dawned on me that I didn’t need to stop with the most overgrown areas of the yard. If I just kept going outside, every day for 20 minutes a day, I could get (and keep) my entire yard in shape. Once I realized this, I felt empowered instead of powerless.

I did not, however, spend 20 minutes a day in my yard for the last year; in fact, as soon as I could stop, I did. It takes a while to build a habit, plus neither of my previously broken wrists were cooperating with my plan.

It was the right decision to allow my wrists to recover (healing always takes priority!). However, it meant I had to re-start the process in the spring of this year as the weeds came roaring back with a vengeance. But I found it much easier this time around and I was able to implement the same process without the same negativity.

The biggest surprise has been that the consistency of this activity has brought me not just a nicer-looking yard but also a much-altered perspective:

I enjoy the accomplishment. I enjoy moving around, feeling active. I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing my yard without the unkemptness of weeds. I enjoy the routine I have created. I enjoy being outdoors; I had forgotten how good it is to spend time amongst plants and trees (not just walk or run past them during exercise). I enjoy taking ownership and responsibility of something I have long hoped someone else would do. (Even my amazing yard people can’t keep up with these weeds!) I enjoy feeling empowered in an area that for many years has rendered me powerless.

Even more incredible, I didn’t accomplish all of this by forcing myself to do this every day. If I missed a day, I missed a day (or two) and got back out as soon as I could. There was no self-disparagement, or disappointment. I stepped outside most days, and that was more than enough.

I began to see how this could be applied to many other aspects of my life.

Strength training (indeed, you can realize gains in a short consistent amount of time). Learning something new (why yes, I am now spending 15-20 minutes a day learning a new language). Writing. Reading. Running. Biking. Stretching. Clearing out a drawer. Catching up with friends. Folding laundry. Dealing with paperwork. The possibilities of change, growth and accomplishment are truly endless!

We can all find 20 minutes daily (most days) on our calendars. Perhaps we can even find more than one 20-minute spot in our days. Yes, we can.

This year, I am certain I will be continuing with my weeding “practice” because, well, I’m rather liking it now. I could not have imagined this of myself, ever! And all because I found 20 minutes most days to tackle this horrible chore.

Because of this, I have changed my life.

If I can do it, anyone can do it. The power of just 20 minutes a day to usher in tremendous and enduring change is endless.

— By Pritam Potts

Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After many years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at and

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