Because I am so much less than I’d like to be, self-improvement is always on my mind.

I want to become a better writer. I want to be a better husband and father and friend. I want to be better at speaking Spanish and playing the French horn. I’d like to continue to improve my Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, I want to be better at just about everything I do.

Except golf. I’ve happily given up trying to improve my golf game…

Admittedly, I get a ton of things done every day. Way more things than I ever imagined I could do before I developed the time-management system I now use. But I am still bound by that cursed 24-hour limit to each day.

And so, despite my best efforts, I’ve had to accept the fact that I will never have the time I need to get better at everything.

Until recently, that is, when I came up with my “60-second solution” to the problem.

Let me take yoga, as an example. Because I spend 4 or 5 hours every week wrestling, my body needs a contra-exercise to stretch me out and open me up. Yoga is the thing. Ideally, I’d spend 30 minutes doing yoga for every hour I spend with Jiu Jitsu. I don’t have time for that. But I do have time to spend a minute or two practicing yoga every day. So that’s what I’ve been doing. And though my mini yoga sessions are hardly equal to what I could do in half an hour, they are far better – physically and mentally – than doing nothing at all.

Meditation is another example. I know from experience that it is very good for me. It calms me down and puts me in a better, more productive mood. There is no doubt I’d get ideal results if I meditated for 20 or 30 or even 60 minutes a day. But my schedule doesn’t allow it. Instead, I’ve begun meditating for just 3 to 5 minutes. I do it first thing in the morning before I even get out of bed. And I do it whenever I feel stressed and almost always before I go to sleep.

These micro-meditations are less powerful, of course. But they still work! In fact, I was pleased to find that there are several apps out there that allow you to adjust the timing of a guided meditation to whatever you like. Some days, I do 10 minutes. Some days, I do 5 or even 3. I know more is better – but some, I’ve found, is better than none. (By the way, I’ve tried a dozen apps. The one I prefer is probably the best known: Headspace. I love that guy’s voice!)

I apply the same strategy to working out. My standard workout is very vigorous and takes about an hour. My current schedule allows me to do it twice a week, which is really (at my age) all that my body needs. But when I’m traveling or when I miss a workout, I can do a micro-workout. I have two versions. The 1-minute version consists of 25 pushups and 25 Hindu squats. The 2-minute version adds 30 seconds of abs and 30 seconds of back/biceps.

A minute or two of hard exercise can’t compare to my standard workout. But when I can’t do that, these micro-workouts are very helpful in maintaining my fitness.

My morning routine these days consists of four micro-exercises.

First, after waking up, I sit on the side of my bed and meditate. I do it for as long as it feels comfortable. Although my objective is only a minute or two, I typically do it for at least 5 minutes.

Then, after showering, I do a micro-workout and then a micro-yoga session. And while brushing my hair, I do a micro-smiling session. (Smiling isn’t something I am very good at. Forcing myself to grin in front of the mirror each morning boosts my mood.)

These micro-exercises take such a ridiculously short amount of time that they pose no psychological threat to me. I never feel, as I often do with more ambitious self-improvement exercises, that I don’t have the energy or the time.

I’ve been doing them for a while now and I can tell you honestly that (a) I have never missed a day, and (b) it feels great knowing that I’m doing these things that I was hoping but failing to do in the past.

And now I’m asking myself: What other neglected self-improvement goals can I reduce to micro-exercises?

How about singing? I can certainly find a minute or two every day to practice the scales.

I can do the same with languages. There are dozens of apps that I can use to improve my vocabulary or grammar in just a few minutes a day.

I know, already, that this is going to be fun.

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Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.

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