- I’m a messy person who hopes to wake up to a clean house one day. Magic!
- I’m a graduate student who would rather cram an ice pick in my head than cram for my upcoming exam.
- I’m a newbie entrepreneur who is building a business on nights and weekends while juggling a day job. I pray nightly to the Caffeine Gods.
- I want to get in shape but it takes way too long to choose a cute running outfit, stretch properly, and do a warm-up.
- Every time a friend asks me how my [insert creative project here] is going, I always have the same answer: “Oh yeah. That.”
We are all very busy people — sometimes too busy to remember to grab lunch, greet our family with a hug and kiss in the morning, or wash our hands after using the bathroom. (Although I hope you’re rarely too busy for that last one. Eew!)
But one of the best ways to get things done is to give yourself less time to do it. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But if you give yourself too much time or flexibility to complete a task, the tendency is to procrastinate, lose focus and concentration, overestimate how much you can get done, and end up unsatisfied with how little you were able to accomplish by the end of the day.
The “Power Hour” In Action
The Power Hour is what I call a small amount of time set aside to complete a specific task. Sometimes it’s a literal hour, other times it’s thirty minutes. But what matters is that I devote this short amount of time to very focused work that brings me closer to an important goal, whether it’s improving my cardio (you can never be too prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you know), maintaining this website, or keeping my house clean. Whatever is completed by the end of the Power Hour is all that gets done. Period. I move on to the next part of my day, accept what was completed, be glad that I put in the work, and trust the process.
Case Study #1: The Panicked and Boy Crazy Grad Student
A few weeks ago, a friend in her last semester of law school sought my advice on a big problem. Here were the details:
- She had 4 days to study for a final exam of a class she barely attended. (Tisk-tisk!)
- She had boy drama — the kind that makes you look through all the text messages in your phone from him, analyzing every word instead of studying for your final exam.
My friend had been spending the week in the library trying to cram for her exam, but most of her time was spent worrying, daydreaming, and obsessing over her love life.
That’s when I told her about the Power Hour: Spend the remaining 4 days of the week alternating between a very focused hour of studying, followed by an hour of doing nothing but worrying about her love life. Then do another Power Hour, followed by another hour of clowning around. Rinse and repeat.
The results? She got more studying done in 10 hours (only of 5 of which were spent studying) than she had in the 3 days of locking herself in the campus library. And more importantly, the exam was a breeze and she’s now one step closer to becoming a lawyer. Bam!
Case Study #2: Me — The Brain Dead Blogger
Confession: For some reason it took me HOURS stretched over a course of DAYS to write today’s blog post. Weird — time management and productivity are far from the most complex topics to write about, but I kept running into serious writer’s block and tons of resistance this week as I attempted to jot my ideas down. This morning as I opened my crusty eyes, the first thing I thought was, “Crap. It’s Thursday morning, I don’t have anything to post on ABL, and I’ve got to leave for my day job soon. Ahhh!”
And that’s when I took my own advice. I did a Power Hour of focused writing as soon as I woke up. And now here I am, nearing the end of today’s blog post. With Mac-in-lap, I haven’t moved from my bed this morning, and I haven’t even had my morning bathroom visit yet (TMI? Sorry.) — all in the name of meeting my self-imposed deadline. (Which, by the way, ends in exactly 7 minutes.)
I didn’t drop the ball. I made it happen. A post IS going up today. The Power Hour works!
Your Turn: What time management tricks do you use to make sure that important tasks get done?