When it comes to shifting into action, your focus shouldn’t be on cramming more into your day. Instead, a key productivity strategy is maximising and prioritising 10 key hours in your week, and using this time wisely.
Like with a jukebox, you get to program what goes in during these 10 hours, so that you enjoy what comes out. If you don’t program this time, you’ll be left listening to Kenny Rogers on replay. Honestly, if you give me 10 hours of your best, it will change your life – big claim I know, but stick with me .
Once you have these 10 hours every week, you can then divide them up into five ‘rock and roll’ hours, three ‘alternative listening’ hours and two ‘easy listening’ hours – hence the jukebox.
Rock and roll hours
The first 5 hours to schedule into your calendar each week are your ‘rock and roll’ hours. This is the time for pedal to the metal, all effort in, mass productivity. This time is about getting rid of distractions and just getting stuff done. Aligning these hours to the times when you are most alert and awake will ensure that your biology is on your side too.
Because each week is likely to be different, at the start of your week spend time going over your calendar and schedule in these rock and roll hours. Shift and schedule this time around meetings and other commitments.
The following are key tips to help get the most out of these rock ’n’ roll hours:
Shut your door. Get rid of all the distractions
People can come flooding back in when you’re done. Get the most out of the hour, and it will repay back to your team tenfold in terms of you being able to be completely present with them, because you know that what you needed to get done has been done.
Leave your phone behind
If you work in an open-plan office or you can’t shut the door, often you need to find another space for these rock and roll hours, but as soon as you leave the office, people ring you to find out where you are. Divert your phone, leave your phone behind, let people know, go somewhere else, and do what needs to be done. Sometimes your rock ’n’ roll hours are networking or connecting with people. This rule still applies. Give them your full attention. Don’t have your phone as a distraction and a reminder of what else is waiting back at the office.
Set a clear time frame
Make the time you schedule in no less than half-hour blocks because you need at least this length of time to get immersed in an activity. Set the clock, stay to the end. Then the full time you’ve allocated is a race and a frenzy — you’re not fluffing around for the first 10 minutes, or being proud of yourself for what you’ve achieved for the last 10 minutes. Once the time is up, step away.
A habit becomes ingrained when we get a reward at the end. You need to have a solid transition and a solid break. It might even be for a couple of minutes, but go and grab a coffee, go for a quick walk around the office, or duck outside for a moment.
Alternative listening hours
Your ‘alternative listening’ time is 3 hours in your week where you explore alternative ways and perspectives — a bit like a professional swimmer who does yoga as an alternative training. It’s about you thinking about alternative channels and different perspectives on the work that you need to do.
Here are a few ideas for places to explore new ways of thinking:
- TED Talks – 20-minute presentations from experts and thought leaders from around the world on various topics and the latest research.
- Podcasts – check out the top podcasts on iTunes.
- Slow thinking time – clarity requires space, so give yourself enough time for ideas to bubble up.
- Play ‘Apples and Oranges’ – compare an industry different from the one you are in and look at what they do that you could incorporate into your world.
Easy listening hours
The 2 ‘easy listening’ hours each week are for active, planned relaxation. This is actually about creating white space in your week because, really, how often do we have it? We never do. We jump in the car and we’re either on the phone or we’re listening to the radio. We’re constantly in contact with people from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall into bed.
So here are the rules for your easy listening hours:
- They must not be part of your regular routine. If you normally go for a walk or do yoga in the morning, these hours are not part of that.
- Vigorous exercise doesn’t count. The hormones produced when we’re doing vigorous exercise, although great for our body and our mind in a whole range of different ways, aren’t about providing downtime for your body or your brain.
- You should feel energised and refreshed afterwards. After these hours you should feel like you’ve had a massive night’s sleep, recharged and ready to get back into it.
- They should be tech-free. Leave the devices behind so you can quiet the mind.
For all of the hours in your jukebox, focus is the key and being the watchdog of your time is critical. Avoid the trap of cluttering up your calendar with commitments that derail your focus. Carve out the time to get the key actions done in order to make progress.