Why I meditate for either 21 or 43 minutes — no more, no less

Takeaway: The next time you’re resisting your meditation practice—or any other task—ask yourself whether you have time to watch a TV show instead. If you do, you have the time to meditate—your brain is resisting the ritual.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minutes, 37s.

I often write about the wonderful benefits of meditation—including how the practice will make you more focused and productive. I’ve had a daily 30-minute meditation ritual for years, and each day I’m sure I make this time back a few times over.

Lately, instead of taking 30 minutes for the practice, I’ve been meditating for either exactly 21 minutes or 43 minutes. With this simple change, I find I’m meditating more than I have in years.

These numbers aren’t random: 21 minutes is the length of a 30-minute TV show without commercials, and 43 minutes is the true length of a typical hour-long episode.

Watching TV is effortless, and something our mind doesn’t resist, even when we’re tired. On the other hand, we resist meditation. Our mind tells us we don’t have time for the ritual, even though we could probably dedicate the same number of minutes to watching TV. The average American watches over four hours of TV every day—and that doesn’t include time spent in front of other screens.

Now, whenever I try to justify my way out of an otherwise beneficial meditation session, I’ve asked myself: would I make time to watch an episode of The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones? If I could, I have more time to meditate than I think—43 minutes, to be exact.

If I don’t have time for one of those episodes, I’ll ask: could I watch a quick episode of a shorter show, like Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother, or Friends? If I could, I have time to meditate for 21 minutes.

When we say we don’t have time for something, what we’re really saying is it’s not a priority, or that we don’t want to do it. This simple mental swap helps you cut through that noise—whether you’re resisting meditation, reading a book, or going for a run. The clock is ticking, and it’s up to you to decide how to spend that time.

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