In Chapter 15 Live for Productivity from The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan, Gary Keller offers the most effective thing he did when he first began to time block, was to put up a sheet of paper that said, “Until My ONE Thing Is Done—Everything Else Is A Distraction!”
Keller’s recommends you block four hours a day for your One Thing. That’s the minimum. If you can do more, then do it.
One of the chapters in another exceptional book I’m reading Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland is titled Waste. There’s a great amount of waste in every business, as well in our lives. One of the values of Scrum’s Open View is it discovers how people actually work instead of how they say they work. There’s substantial evidence that working more hours doesn’t produce more. Indeed peak productivity falls at a little bit less than forty hours a week. Look at the graph on the right on how you can double Output by Cutting Workload.
Scrum focuses on getting more work done in less time. And instead of waiting until a project is finished, each week a deliverable is required that works for the customer.
How is your One Thing similar to this?
Simple - Answer What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? Suddenly you are on the path to productivity. When you know what this is, why would you work on anything else?
The problem is you haven’t asked and answered that question. And if you have, you’ve not time blocked your day, and week to achieve and focus on it for a minimum of 4 hours a day.
Most of us set up our week to meet the appointments we have, the tasks and the opportunities that filter into our work day. We’re not being proactive about what we want to achieve. We’ve done this for so long we’ve become immune to believing there is a better way. (It’s like the story of putting a frog in a frying pan and slowly turning up the heat – which by the way is untrue – seems even a frog is smarter than most of us!)
Try setting aside even one hour a day to start with to focus on your One Thing. Not only have I done this, I’ve discovered suddenly I’m able to focus on what I want to achieve, but also I’m having less anxiety about saying no when someone asks me to infringe on this time.
Time blocking works.
Time blocks work only if you protect your Time Blocks.
The best way to protect your time blocks is to adopt the mindset that they can’t be moved. Invariably someone will try to double-book you. It may even be you since you’re so used to giving in to others and putting off what is most important. When it happens you need to just say, “I’m sorry, I already have an appointment at that time,” and offer other options. Don’t be swayed. If the other person is disappointed, you’re sympathetic but ultimately unmoved.
Extraordinarily results-oriented people—the very people who have the most demands on their time—do this every day. They keep their most important appointment. That is with YOUR ONE THING!
Keller indicates plenty of ways your time block can get sabotaged. Here are his four proven ways to battle distractions and keep your eye on your ONE Thing.
- Build a bunker. Find somewhere to work that takes you out of the path of disruption and interruption. If you have an office, get a “Do Not Disturb” sign. If it has glass walls, install shades. If you work in a cubicle, get permission to put up a folding screen. If necessary, go elsewhere. The immortal Ernest Hemingway kept a strict writing schedule starting at seven every morning in his bedroom. The mortal but still immensely talented business author Dan Heath (Author of Switch, Made to Stick, and Decisive) “bought an old laptop, deleted all its browsers, and, for good measure, deleted its wireless network drivers” and would take his “way-back machine” to a coffee shop to avoid distractions. Between the two extremes, you could just find a vacant room and simply close the door.
- Store provisions. Have any supplies, materials, snacks, or beverages you need on hand and, other than for a bathroom break, avoid leaving your bunker. A simple trip to the coffee machine can derail your day should you encounter someone seeking to make you a part of theirs.
- Sweep for mines. Turn off your phone, shut down your e-mail, and exit your Internet browser. Your most important work deserves 100 percent of your attention.
- Enlist support. Tell those most likely to seek you out what you’re doing and when you’ll be available. It’s amazing how accommodating others are when they see the big picture and know when they can access you.
Do you want to be more productive or not? Are you seriously committed to it? Do you know and truly want to achieve your ONE THING?P If you continue a tug-of-war to make time blocking take place, use this version of the Focusing Question to ask: What’s the ONE Thing I can do to protect my time block every day such by doing it everything else I might do will be easier or unnecessary?
Do I have your commitment to this? If you’re unwilling to BLOCK YOUR TIME, you are the only one responsible for being unproductive!
Here are the BIG IDEAS from the chapter Live for Productivity
- Connect the dots. Extraordinary results become possible when where you want to go is completely aligned with what you do today. Tap into your purpose and allow that clarity to dictate your priorities. With your priorities clear, the only logical course is to go to work.
- Time block your ONE Thing. The best way to make your ONE Thing happen is to make regular appointments with yourself. Block time early in the day, and block big chunks of it—no less than four hours! Think of it this way: If your time blocking were on trial, would your calendar contain enough evidence to convict you?
- Protect your time block at all costs. Time blocking works only when your mantra is “Nothing and no one has permission to distract me from my ONE Thing.” Unfortunately, your resolve won’t keep the world from trying, so be creative when you can be and firm when you must. Your time block is the most important meeting of your day, so whatever it takes to protect it is what you have to do.
The lesson from Scrum and the graph I shared at the front end of this article is this: The people who achieve extraordinary results don’t achieve them by working more hours. They achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work. Time blocking is one thing; productive time blocking is another.
I’m going to take a detour from One Thing next blog. The book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland is titled Waste offered a plethora of additional ideas on why Multi-tasking is a complete waste of time and yes, STUPID. If you’re continuing to multitask and believe you are better for it please read my next blog. It’s time to put multi-tasking on your STOP DOING LIST, NOW!