Why Doing Nothing Will Be the Most Productive Hour of Your Week

It's called a 'Schultz Hour,’ and there are three simple rules

April 19, 2017 9:00 am

A few months back, your correspondent opined about the joys of being unreachable on an airplane:

“For a few fleeting moments of my life, I am truly off the grid — and that’s when I get my best thinking done. It’s called batching, or the art of blocking out time to focus on projects undistracted, and practicing it will help you complete big things and give you time to reflect and daydream, two exercises that greatly increase your creativity.”

This isn’t a novel concept. In fact, George Schultz actually schedules an hour of “batching” time into his calendar every week, according to New York Times editorial published this week.

Who’s Schultz and why should you care? Oh, just President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State. And a former Secretary of Labor, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and President and Director of Bechtel. So, not a man with loads of free time on his hands.

And yet, every week he schedules one hour to daydream, because, as reported by the Times, “it was the only way he could find time to think about the strategic aspects of his job. Otherwise, he would be constantly pulled into moment-to-moment tactical issues, never able to focus on larger questions of the national interest. And the only way to do great work, in any field, is to find time to consider the larger questions.”

There’s a good chance you feel similarly hindered, what with the constantly checking your email, replying to Slack chats and texting friends. The smartphone may be an ingenious device, but it’s also responsbile for distracting you 24/7, which research suggests is literally making you dumber. Stepping away as much as possible will make you happier and more productive. I recently gave up Facebook, and it’s given me at least an hour a day back. I’m not necessarily advocating you do that, but I do suggest you adopt the “Schultz Hour.”

Here are his guidelines:

  • He books one hour a week into his calendar
  • He instructs his secretary to interrupt him under only two conditions: a phone call from his wife or the President
  • He always keeps a pen and paper nearby for collecting his thoughts

I book my hour on Friday afternoon between 3 and 5 p.m. — I work remotely from the West Coast and most people in our New York office have left for the weekend by then, so it’s guaranteed quiet time. Saturday and Sunday are also great times to do this type of work.

And yes, it’s work — not a nap — you eternally busy man, you.  

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