● By Siew Ching
Ready, set, go.
TikTok seems to be the place for viral tips these days… so when it came to increasing my productivity, it didn’t surprise me that I found my best tip on this popular social media platform. Credited to San Francisco-based advertising copywriter Laur Wheeler, it’s called the Scary Hour where you set a timer for one hour and work on completing tasks you’ve been avoiding because it scares you to finish them whether it is anxiety or just plain old procrastination. You don’t do anything else – no answering emails, no looking at your phone, nothing. For more in-depth explanation, here’s how Laur describes #scaryhour.
I extended that definition of tasks to also include important things I needed to complete – from admin work accumulated from my freelance work to completing that project submission I needed to just sit down and get it done.
It all came about when I had a looming deadline that was creeping up and before I knew it, I had only one day left to complete three submissions – yikes. Enter Scary Hour. I set my timer for an hour, put my phone far, far away, and got down to writing. Fifty-five minutes in, I completed what I had been procrastinating and if I could even say it, I was really proud of what I had finished! Yay me!
It Really Works – Try It!
So how does Scary Hour work? Honestly, it’s been in the scene for a long time and called many other names – Power Hour, Focus Hour, and is pretty similar to the super popular Pomodoro Technique wherein you work in a set timeframe with all your focus, attention, and energy. Whatever it’s called, the idea is the same – you are encouraged to pay all your attention to a particular task and nothing else.
If you’ve not noticed, your work hours are often interrupted by menial things that unfortunately rob you of important focus time. Imagine this scenario: You sit down to finish your report. Two paragraphs in and you get an email asking if you’ll be able to attend Sharie’s farewell party. You type OK and ask if you can bring anything to the party. Then your mind shifts to a list of things you might want to contribute to the party, like a cake. You might even type in “best orange butter cake recipe” on the Internet to see if there’s a recipe you can try. You go through a few sites, pin the one you’re interested to try, and before you know it, it’s been 30 minutes since you last worked on your report.
No wonder some of us can’t seem to get things done! Now imagine if you have Scary Hour on: You sit down to finish your report. Two paragraphs in and you get an email. Except you don’t know what that email is all about because you’ve turned off notifications for emails and messages for that one hour so you can focus on the getting the task done. You finally complete that report, it’s been an hour or so, and you go back to replying the emails you missed during that hour, including the one for Sharie’s farewell party.
How to Implement Scary Hour
Obviously, we’d all prefer the second scenario so how do we get there? Say you want to implement Scary Hour every day to get down to finishing up the hard tasks or tasks you normally procrastinate on – try scheduling it for once a day, and make it the same hour every day. Perhaps you can schedule your Scary Hour for the mornings where you are more alert and motivated to achieve your to-do list. Kick off Scary Hour at 10am to 11am. Preferably, have a list of tasks you want to complete the day before so you can spend Scary Hour just focusing on the job instead of thinking of what you need to complete for the day. Make sure to turn off distractions for that hour – no WhatsApp messages, emails, or calls – block them all out. Now, give it your 100% to focus on that singular task or list of things you want completed!
Or you can opt to schedule Scary Hour whenever you find yourself drowning in work or need to work on an important project. The duration of Scary Hour can be pretty flexible too – my husband needed to finish up an important presentation and gave himself two hours to complete the task. He scheduled in two Scary Hour sessions to get it done, and yups, you guessed it, he completed it within that time frame with a few minutes to spare to look through his work.
Try it for yourself and tell us @Graduan how it worked for you!
Photo by Parker Byrd on Unsplash.
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