The ‘Shultz Hour’ Is the Productivity Tip We All Need

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We can all relate to trying to get work done amid endless distractions — your colleagues interrupting you, nonstop notifications on your phone, that very important cat video. The challenge comes in trying to find an effective way to tune them out. Enter the “Shultz hour”: 60 minutes of designated alone time designed to tell your brain (and coworkers) that it’s time for deep focus, David Leonhardt writes in his most recent New York Times column.

The hour is named for former secretary of state George Shultz, who reserved one hour a week to hole up in his office with pen and paper and instruct his secretary not to interrupt him unless his wife or the president called, Leonhardt writes. Shultz, now 96, tells Leonhardt that the hour was a time for him to think about big picture problems without getting bogged down with “moment-to-moment tactical issues.”

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It also shows that you don’t have to appear busy to be productive. The glorification of busyness has been exacerbated by technology, but Leonhardt notes “even before the smartphone this country’s professional culture had come to venerate freneticism.” The Shultz hour is a way to slow down, take a step back and understand that our best and most productive work never comes from working ourselves to exhaustion.

Taking one hour a week for deep thought feels like a no-brainer, but if you don’t incorporate a full hour of solitary thinking into your schedule, you can adopt a Shultz-ian mentality in other areas of your life by unplugging more often. Leondardt suggests waking up with an alarm clock in lieu of your smartphone (which means keeping the phone out of your bedroom) and designating specific chunks of time throughout the week to be technology-free.

Read Leonard’s entire column here.