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How To Learn Anything You Want In Just 20 Hours

It Takes 20 Hours And 10 Steps Not 10,000 Hours To Learn A Skill

By Emma RandyPublished 9 months ago 8 min read
How To Learn Anything You Want In Just 20 Hours
Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

In his famous book all winner! understanding the logic of success (in English outliers: the story of success) Malcolm Gladwell explains that to become a true expert in any field, we must practice an activity at least 10,000 hours.

According to the latest research, this is about the time that the world's greatest champions and experts have practiced to become excellent in their field.

Let's face it, 10,000 hours is a long time. If you practice one area for eight hours every day, it would take three years to reach 10,000 hours.

This method is perfect for people who are passionate about their field and really want to become professionals.

However, it is not suitable for those who want to learn multiple skill areas without necessarily mastering them perfectly.

In this article, you will discover an effective method to acquire any skill quickly. You will see that it is not necessary to go through 10,000 hours of practice.

The 20-hour method

What if you are interested in several things and want to master them quickly?

Because we may very well want to learn more about several areas, without wanting to become a great expert in each of them.

Often we want to learn for the love of it, to improve ourselves or simply to find a solution to a problem. All that matters in this case is to have a sufficient level of competence.

This is where Josh Kaufman, author of the Personal MBA, provides the solution in his book The 20 Hour Method.

According to Josh Kaufman, we can learn any skill in 20 hours, unlike the 10,000 hour method, you won't become a great expert, but you will have the basic skills you need.

If, for example, you just want to learn how to play chess well for fun, without trying to become a champion, use the 20-hour method to get a decent level.

Learning a skill is a matter of strategy

It is not enough to simply jump into learning.

Many people start without clarifying their goals, they buy books without reading them and training courses only to not finish them. They suffer from the "shiny object" syndrome, which means that they will show a brief interest in one area and as soon as they get bored, they will move on to another area.

Collecting knowledge is not useful if you don't know why you are doing it. Skill acquisition requires preparation, strategy and clarification of your goals.

Before you learn anything, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to learn this skill?
  • How will I use it?
  • Do I really need to learn it?

Answering these questions will help you clarify your learning goals and set up your strategy. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a fog.

The 20-hour method is an effective strategy for learning any skill quickly, as long as you put it into practice. Let's see how.

The 10 Steps To Acquire A Skill Quickly

By Kirill Tonkikh on Unsplash

1. Choose an exciting project

The first step is to look for a skill that is of great interest to you.

For Josh Kaufman, rapid skill acquisition requires choosing a problem that you absolutely want to solve or an exciting project that captivates you.

The more interest you have in a skill, the easier it will be to learn.

2. Focus your energy on one skill at a time

The most common mistake most people make is trying to learn multiple things at once.

This is the problem of those who are interested in many areas and want to learn everything at once.

Acquiring a new skill takes time and energy, and by trying to learn several disciplines at once, you end up learning nothing.

You will go much faster if you choose to focus on one skill. Once you have mastered the skill you are learning, you can move on to the next.

3. Define your target performance level

Ask yourself, "What is the level of mastery I want to have in practicing this skill?"

By establishing the level of performance you want to achieve, you will have a clearer idea of what you really want.

Each of us has his or her own reasons for learning a skill, and it is according to these that we should set the level we want to reach.

If, for example, you want to learn English just to get by when traveling, you may well set your goal at A2 or B1, rather than C1. To book a hotel or ask for a cab, this will be more than enough.

Once you have reached the desired level of performance, there is nothing to stop you from continuing to improve if you wish.

4. Break down your skill into sub-skills

A skill is nothing more than a set of sub-skills. For example, learning English can be broken down into other sub-skills such as speaking, writing, reading and listening.

Once you have defined the target skill to learn, break it down into smaller skills, this way it will be easier to prioritize the sub-skills that are most important to you, postponing the ones that are not.

This way, you will avoid getting overwhelmed. Sometimes practicing a skill as a whole can be discouraging, especially if you don't immediately see the results of your efforts. It is therefore more efficient and faster to learn a little at a time.

5. Get the tools you need

What tools, components and environment do you need to have in place before you can practice effectively? How can you get the best tools you can find and afford?

Taking the time to think about the tools you need will save you valuable time. Is it a computer tool like a software program, or is it material resources like a notebook and pen.

By taking the time to get the tools you need to practice, you will ensure that you are in better conditions to learn.

6. Remove barriers to practice

As you practice, you will encounter certain obstacles that will hinder your skill development.

Some of the major barriers include:

  • Significant effort before practice: misplacing your tools, not making the necessary adjustments or not having the right tools...
  • Resources not always available: having to borrow equipment, or relying on equipment that works every other day...
  • Distractions caused by the environment: television, smartphone notifications, emails...
  • Psychological barriers: fear, doubt, embarrassment...

Each of these elements makes it more difficult to start a practice and therefore slows down your progress. Rather than having to fight against them constantly, plan a time to eliminate them before you start. You will then be able to learn smoothly.

7. Make time for practice

Some people never find the time to do what they want to do. Many mistakenly think that they can learn new skills when they find the time. Unfortunately, that never happens.

We can't save time, just as we save money. But we can avoid wasting it.

The best way to free up time is to eliminate unnecessary activities and then dedicate a little time each day to learning that skill you have chosen.

Once your schedule is organized, track your progress over the course of your twenty hours of practice. Regularly assess your level of mastery through exercises or tests.

8. Arrange for quick feedback

When you practice a skill, you need feedback on your ability to master that skill. This feedback can be either from others who observe your practice, or from yourself if there are objective ways to assess your performance.

If, for example, you decide to play golf, you need a coach to adjust your practice and correct any shortcomings, and you will evaluate your performance yourself through the number of strokes per round.

When this feedback occurs quickly and frequently, skill acquisition progresses very quickly.

9. Practice at any time in short periods

It can be difficult at first to estimate how long a practice session will take. Often, when we first start learning a skill, we overestimate how long it will take us to learn it.

It always seems long at first, because we are not competent and we feel that we will have to practice long hours before we get a correct result. The trap is to "over-practice" to compensate for this impression.

The solution is to time yourself. Take a timer and set it for twenty minutes, during which time you should concentrate exclusively on your practice. Then take a break for a few minutes before resuming.

By working intensely in short periods, you will progress faster in your learning.

Set aside three to five practice sessions a day and you will notice big changes fairly quickly.

10. Focus on quantity and speed

It can be tempting to want to do everything perfectly, but that's the best way to get frustrated. Generally, you won't get it right the first time.

More than quality, it is quantity that will make the difference when you are starting out. Remember, you have everything to learn. You have to get your body and mind used to mobilizing all their resources to record this new way of doing things.

Rather than striving for perfection, focus on the number of practice sessions over short periods of time. Once you have gained a reasonable level of mastery, you can then improve the quality of your practice. Think of it like making pottery, you start by creating the form, then once that is done you correct the imperfections little by little.

Skill reacquisition

This method will also be useful if you want to relearn a skill that you have lost.

For example, if you haven't played tennis for several years and you want to play it again, use the 20-hour method.

Since this skill is not new to you and you have mastered it before, you are not starting from scratch. In fact, your brain has stored the entire process of performing this task in its memory. This is called the relearning economy discovered by Ebbinghaus.

It will therefore take you much less time to get back to your previous level of tennis. This is of course valid for any other field (computer, music, construction, artistic, etc.).


Learning new skills is essential for our personal development, the more we learn new disciplines or knowledge, the better we become.

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About the Creator

Emma Randy

Sharing the best self-improvement tips and personal growth ideas that will help you build a fulfilling life.

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