4 Steps to Learn Anything in 20 Hours

Have you ever wanted to learn a new skill, but felt like you didn't have enough time?  Maybe you have been wanting to learn how to play the guitar, make an app, or even build a computer.  What if I told you that you could learn a new skill in only 20 hours?  According to the author of The First 20 Hours, Josh Kaufman, you can learn anything ... faster than you think!

As an educator, I am passionate about helping students become independent, lifelong learners.  One of my goals is to help students become more "knowledge-able" by teaching them how to acquire new information and skills on their own.  And after watching Josh's TED Talk - The first 20 hours, I want to share this inspiring idea with other teachers and students.

In order to learn any skill in 20 hours, Josh offers a four-step process with advice from his own experience.  In his TED Talk, Josh demonstrates how he learned how to play the ukulele by following his own learning process.  I hope to take his advice in the near future by starting my own 20 hour project ... which should only take about 45 minutes a day, for one month.

Deconstruct the skill

The first thing that Josh recommends to do is to deconstruct the skill.  By analyzing the skill and breaking it down into smaller parts, it is easier to identify and learn the building blocks of the desired skill.  For example, if I wanted to learn how to program a robot, I might want to learn about electricity, a specific computer programming language, and the basics of physics. By learning this smaller set of skills, I would be more prepared to achieve my desired complex skill of programming a robot.

Learn enough to self-correct

In the event of learning a new skill, independently, it is important to learn just enough to be able to self-correct. Being able to identify errors and fix mistakes is a critical assessment tool when trying to learn something new.  Therefore, Josh recommends using about 3-5 resources to use as a reference for whatever it is that you're trying to learn. These resources could be books, websites, YouTube videos, and other people.

During this process, students will also need to consider where they will find the information needed and how they will learn it.  This could be a powerful learning opportunity for students by connecting with others in order to share ideas and resources about how to learn their desired skill.  Students could use communication technology such as social media, video chat applications, or even simply meeting in person.

Remove practice barriers

Another key part of this process is to remove practice barriers that might interfere with the learning. In this case, a barrier could be considered anything that would be a distraction to practicing the skill. Some barriers could include watching television, playing on cell phones, listening to music, or just hanging out with friends. Therefore, it is important to set aside undivided time that is dedicated to practicing the skill.  However, Josh would argue that the biggest practice barrier to skill acquisition isn't physical, or intellectual, it's emotional.  Lacking confidence or willpower can be a huge obstacle when trying to learn something new. Therefore, approaching this learning goal with a growth mindset is essential for success.

Practice at least 20 hours

The last piece of advice that Josh offers is to simply practice at least 20 hours.  Based on his research, he has found that 20 hours is the magic number to become proficient in a skill.  He later mentions in his TED Talk - The first 20 hours, that it takes about 10,000 hours to become a leading expert in any field.  But, it only takes 20 hours to acquire a specific skill.


  1. Thank you for sharing this idea. I have many things I want to learn. 45 minutes a day is suitable for me.

  2. Informative blog, thank you. Great post


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