I challenge you to devote nine hours in the next nine days to breathing new life into your productivity. Just one hour per day for nine days.
Image by Ed Schipul
Sometimes we get into a rut with the way we are using our time and energy. This nine-day challenge is designed to help you break out of your productivity rut.
The goal behind the nine-hour challenge is not just to accomplish whatever you might accomplish during these nine hours. Ideally, you’ll renew and inspire yourself in ways that will unblock your productivity in the future, opening the way to change how you approach your work and your life.
Here are the nine hours of challenges.
One hour for you
The more vibrant and whole you are, the better you can do your work and care for others. Plus, you are simply worth taking care of. Knowing this is not the same as practicing it, a distinction I myself know all too well. So here is an hour for you to practice.
Invest one hour doing passionately fierce or sweetly gentle self-nurture. In what way have you been most neglecting to take care of yourself? What has your body, mind, heart or soul been craving? What have you been avoiding because you miss it so much that you fear the pain of starting only to stop? What did you used to do and love that has somehow slipped to the eternal bottom of your list?
Do you need to dance like a maniac in your living room? Go for a hike in nature? Take a long bath and read a trashy novel? Make a healthy meal or go to the gym? Call the best friend whose jokes make you laugh out loud? Enjoy your hobby or make some art? Take your journal to the park or coffeeshop and dream with your pen? Go to a yoga class? Pray or meditate? Some combination of all of the above? Go do it, for an hour.
Is your self-care so out-of-whack (or maybe just so totally awesome!) that nothing comes to mind? Try taking a moment for yourself and see what your intuition prompts you to do next.
One hour of exciting work
What project gets you talking a mile a minute every time you think of it? What idea gets you misty-eyed and daydreamy when you ponder making it real? Choose a project that might or might not be on your actual list of active projects right now, but it’s the most passionate and exciting piece of work you could do.
It doesn’t have to be something big and meaningful. It could be something small and frivolous, too silly to normally spend time on. Whatever it is, spend an hour working on it and try to have fun. If your project is just in the idea stages, you can start by brainstorming and outlining, but try to spend at least part of your hour making something tangible and visible that you can show to another person in some way.
One hour of making space
What can you cross off your to-do list that is obsolete, no longer important, or so low-priority that you know in your heart you’ll never get to it? Cross off everything on your to do-list that you know you won’t or shouldn’t do.
What requests in your inbox can you say no to or choose to actively ignore and delete? What stuff do you have in piles that you can file or at least box up until you do file them so that you can reclaim your desk or floor? What else can you find to say no to? What other clutter can you let you go?
Letting go of the things that don’t belong in your life makes room for you to do more of what matters.
One hour spring-cleaning your to-do list
What are the persnickety little things that are important, non-urgent and piling up? Get yourself set to sprint through the small stuff and trim your to-do list down to size again with a novel strategy: focusing purely on number of items and how you can zing through a bunch of small tasks quickly.
This time isn’t about getting things done because they are important, but simply making the number of tasks you are tracking smaller to free up still more space for more important matters.
One hour facing your fear
I’m challenging you now to spend one hour working on the project or task that most fills you with dread… to the point that you have been desperately avoiding it. You know it’s important, perhaps vitally so, and you want the results that will come from taking care of it. Yet you are ignoring it out of fear, hoping against hope that the dreadful task will somehow just go away by itself.
Spend on hour working on this project, whatever it is. You don’t have to finish it, merely work steadily at it for one hour. Tell your fear that you are doing this only for one hour. If you feel anxiety rise up, take deep breaths. It’s okay to feel fear, but for this hour, you are choosing to make progress on this work despite these difficult emotions.
Commit yourself to one hour of forward momentum. Ask yourself, what is the very next single thing that I need to do to move this forward? And if you finish that task, ask again, until you’ve spent an hour or you are finished, whichever comes first. Sometimes you will be surprised that an hour can make so much progress on a task that loomed so large in your psyche. Forward motion can release an astonishing amount of power.
I know this is the hardest hour I am challenging you to complete. You can do this, for just an hour. And it will be worth it. You will feel so much lighter afterwards.
One hour investing in the bottom line.
What is the one thing you could do that would directly improve your cash flow in the near-term? (If you’re not self-employed, what’s the one thing you could do that would improve your company’s cash flow or otherwise really delight your boss? Or what’s the one thing you could do to bring more income into your household or easily cut expenses in the near-term?)
Again, if the task that would accomplish this goal will take more than an hour, that is okay. You don’t need to finish it right now. Simply sit down and make an hour of solid forward progress.
Keep asking yourself, how can I move this forward? You might find that the one thing you can do will actually take you less than an hour. That’s fine too. Sometimes small tasks that have large returns still get pushed to the bottom of the list. Take the time now to invest a bit in yourself financially.
One hour focusing on the future.
If you could choose one project that would have the biggest positive impact on your life or business in five years, what would you choose? Spend an hour dedicating your time and energy to moving that project forward. Again, you may choose to spend some of this time noodling about with ideas, but try to balance any brainstorming with taking action in the world.
One hour giving to others
Give the gift of time to your spouse/partner, a friend, your child, a neighbor, or someone you don’t know. Find at least one way that you could devote a little more time than you normally do to making someone’s day brighter. It might be making a phone call and being a good listener, doing a chore for someone, or going to an activity with someone.
Step back from the busy day-to-day world for a moment and enjoy the pleasure of an extra little dollop of generosity.
One hour making your systems more efficient.
Have you been meaning to create a filing system that will be faster to use? Set up filters in your email system to help you prioritize your inbox? Add some formulas to your expense tracking spreadsheet or revamp your email list manager? Get your address removed from commercial mailing lists to pare down your snail mail?
Whatever passing ideas you’ve had that would make life more efficient, jot them down and start working on them, one at a time. The only rule is that you must complete any given item from start to finish before moving down your list to another. No skipping around!
Once again, if you don’t have time to finish your idea within the hour, that is okay. Just make an hour of progress.
The tenth hour
I encourage you to spend a tenth hour in reflection after you’ve completed your nine hours of work. Here are some starting places for learning from the challenge:
- What did you learn from each of the challenges?
- Does anything feel unblocked and freed up?
- Where did you feel unexpected ease, or surprising resistance?
- Are there parts of your life or work that you feel need more or less attention than you’ve been giving them?
- Do you have any projects or tasks that you want to let go, or take on, as a result of what you have learned?
Starting the challenge
If you’re taking the challenge, commit to yourself. Set aside nine hours of time on your calendar right now. And come find me on Twitter, Google Plus or Facebook to let me know how it goes. I’ll be doing the challenge too and will share some of my own experiences as well.
If you’ve found the nine-hour challenge helpful or intriguing, please click on the “share article” link at the bottom of this post and pass it on to your friends. Thoughts and impressions? Please share in the comments.