There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. You can feel like you’ve been busy all day but then look back and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. Sometimes you can be more productive when you spend an hour in the ‘zone’ than sitting at your desk all day – keeping busy, but not necessarily being productive.
I often think of the weekend as a time to get caught up on projects, run some errands, take some time to relax, clean my apartment, organize a closet, do some painting, read a couple of books… I don’t know if you do this, but when planning out my day or a weekend, I often make a big list of things to do and might get through half of it. Bill Gates said that we tend to overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in ten years, but I think we do the same in the short term – we overestimate what we can do in one day and underestimate what we could do in one hour of productive work. Since I’ve been practicing the ‘if you can do it in 2 minutes, do it now’ rule, I’ve been finding that outer order really does lead to inner calm. It’s amazing how much these little things can nag at you when they can be taken care of so easily. When I tidy up the counter, take out the recycling, or organize and put away my mail right when I see that it needs to be done, I find that I get a lot more accomplished and don’t waste the time worrying about it.
On Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Podcast, she suggests another idea that I want to start trying: Power Hour. First of all, even the name sounds exciting and productive. Once a week (or maybe once a day or once a month, depending on what you’re working at), you schedule a ‘Power Hour’ to dedicate to a project that’s been on your list. For that hour, you stay completely focused on that one task and do as much as you can in the time that you have. When you’re really in the zone and know that you only need to be focused for a short period of time, you’re a lot less likely to check e-mail, Twitter, or get distracted doing something else. Something I like to do is to keep a pad of paper with me if I’m working at my desk and write down any distracting thoughts so that I can get to it later or look it up during my break.
Think of your Power Hour like a power play – you have one goal in mind and a set amount of time to get as much done as you can. Your Power Hour could be to sit down and write for one hour, to clean the garage, organize your clothes, work on your photo albums, do some work, or maybe even read. Our minds are often jumping around between so many things, and having a set period of time where you are only focused on one can make you productive, not just busy.
Game Plan: Create your own version of Power Hour. Maybe you choose to be more deliberate about your time at work, focusing and being in the zone for a period and then taking a scheduled break. Maybe you’re more realistic about planning one main weekend project and doing what you can to make progress in an hour or two. If you’re feeling that you’ve been having a lot of busy days but aren’t necessarily being productive, it’s important to be intentional about your time and schedule periods to be in the zone. Don’t forget to schedule breaks!
Quote source: Tim Ferriss