If you are human, you’ve struggled with procrastination. For some of us, it’s situational. We may find it is harder to get work completed when the task offers a limited immediate reward, or when we feel less-confident about our performance. For others, the tendency to procrastinate is systemic. These people may struggle all day, most days, to stay focused on their responsibilities. Any text, social media post, phone call, or coworker becomes the proverbial squirrel – something they feel compelled to jump up and run after. Procrastination is a popular topic on the Configuration Connection blog because it is so prevalent – and costly. It can crater personal productivity. But, there are proven tactics to overcoming procrastination, and a highly efficient and totally doable one is the “power hour.”
The Power Hour Defined
In her book The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin discusses the power hour as a set-aside allotment of 60 minutes to complete those nagging tasks one is procrastinating on. It is a type of time blocking. The idea behind the power hour is to remove the drag uncompleted tasks have on us. And, execution is simple – segment out the time, then commit to the process. With some self-awareness and honest personal assessment, you’ll be able to quickly identify the types of tasks best suited for your power hour. (Hint – They are generally the ones that sit on your to-do list uncompleted or remain rolling around in your head as a distracting “Oh, I need to….”)
The Composition of Your Power Hour
For your power hour, Rubin recommends slotting in those tasks with “no deadline, no accountability, no pressure.” She explains that these tasks are often ones that fall to the wayside as we procrastinate. No one is waiting for their completion, but completion is necessary or important. These tasks might be:
- paying the bills
- cleaning or organizing
- scheduling appointments and routine maintenance
- scanning or filing important documents
- business development / networking activities (following up, checking in, touching base)
- whatever it is that keeps hanging out on your task list as incomplete
Try keeping a running list for capturing power hour activities when they come to mind. Not only will this provide you with your agenda for your next power hour, but it will also help you with procrastination outside of the power hour. For example, cleaning off your desk may have strong appeal when the report you’re working on seems daunting and a deadline is looming. Or, another example, stopping mid-project to call the dentist to make that appointment you’ve been putting off is going to result in cognitive disruption, a.k.a. the cost of task switching. If the desk needs cleaning, log the task for an upcoming power hour and stay focused on the report. When you remember you still haven’t made that dentist appointment, log it on your power hour to-do list and stay focused on your project.
Scheduling Your Time
Some find daily power hours work best. Others may schedule one or two a week. Whatever you ultimately choose, make it a recurring event so you can plan and utilize the process. You might, for example, decide a weekend power hour enables you to better enjoy the downtime of the weekend. Or, you may find Tuesday mornings work well because you can work through your most pressing matters on Monday to kick off the week knowing other tasks will be handled Tuesday during power hour.
Think about where you are procrastinating. What do you keep putting off? What deadlines are you sweating? How often are you feeling angst due to incomplete tasks? The answers to these questions will help you determine the frequency and composition of your power hours.
Preparing for Success
Scheduling in your power hour is the first step in taking a formalized, purposeful approach to productivity building. The time is set aside. It’s cordoned off. Protected. For some of us, it will make sense to schedule our power hour in line with our personal energy level cycle. If our power hour tasks require less brain power, we might choose a time outside of our more traditional cognitively demanding working hours to protect that productivity. Or, if we know we have a tendency to be distracted by nagging tasks, we might schedule the power hour for early in the day. We can knock the tasks out and then ride the wave of feeling accomplished, better focused on the task at hand.
Before your power hour begins, prepare yourself for success. Spend some time honestly assessing what distracts you and make a plan for negating the destractions. We’re all different, but your preparation might involve:
- Setting expectations with children. I’m going to be working for one hour. I’d like you to play in your room quietly.
- Turning off notifications, or even putting your phone in another room.
- Getting a bone for the dog to chew on.
- Using the restroom before you sit down.
- Grabbing a cup of coffee or glass of water before you start.
- Setting a timer so you can work without watching the clock. Commit to staying on task until time is up. What you don’t finish can be slotted for the next session.
Rewards Beyond the Hour
One great thing about the power hour is that it generates returns outside of the designated hour as well! Not only are you getting the focused productivity for the 60 minutes you set aside, but your sense of accomplishment is going to fuel you for the rest of the day. Productivity breeds productivity. It’s that, “I’m on a roll!” feeling we get. Once you’ve knocked out what you needed to do, you’re able to focus. You’ll feel a sense of empowerment over your day. A better sense of control over your time.
Try It – You’ll See
Leveraging the power hour is a strategic way to overcome procrastination. I encourage you to try a power hour this week. Start with just one day and see what it does for you. I’m going to bet the results will be incentive enough to do it again. Schedule it in. Identify your tasks. Take a run with it. Get it done!