Sadly, for most people, the ability to focus on one thing for an hour is a challenge. The world we live in is becoming more and more distracted thanks to the perpetual stimulus of social networks, notifications, and other distracting websites. Because people can’t manage their attention and they struggle to manage their time. As a result, they make no progress towards their most important goals and cause the kind of long-term damage that turns them into the cognitive equivalent of an athlete who smokes.
What most people don’t realize is that productivity is not about the quantity of time you put into something. It’s about the quality of that time. And uninterrupted creation is high quality.
A few weeks ago I was watching a documentary about Jack Canfield who told the story about his first meeting with W. Clement Stone. One of the first things that Stone asked him was how many hours a day he spent watching TV. After encouraging him to watch less TV, he then passed on a rather profound lesson. He referred to television as “an income reduction box on which you are watching other people get rich.”
The modern equivalent is Facebook. Every moment that you spend on Facebook is one in which you are making Mark Zuckerberg and the shareholders of Facebook rich while potentially reducing your own income. It’s a high price to pay for dopamine driven feedback loops that temporarily entertain you, perpetually dissatisfy you and keep you coming back for more.
There’s been plenty written about why you should stop using Facebook. I’m not going to go that far. It’s been a great way for me to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. It’s also how I’ve stayed in touch with some of my family members that I don’t see regularly.
But if you can reduce the time you spend on Facebook, and reallocate that time to one focused hour a day of uninterrupted creation time, you’ll get an exponential ROI on that time.
It Leads to Flow
As Steven Kotler said in an interview on the Unmistakable Creative, “flow follows focus, the state can only show up when your attention is in the here and now.” There’s a rarely a day when I sit down to write and I’m inspired. I usually just open my writing software and start typing. But if I type for 30 minutes without any interruptions, I’ll enter a flow state, and easily come up with ideas for things to write about. That’s exactly how I came up with the idea for this article.
It Builds Your Deep Work Muscle
Cal Newport has said that deep work is the equivalent of a 21st-century superpower because it’s becoming rare. And who doesn’t want to have a superpower that could make them happier, more successful and more fulfilled? But the ability to deep work is not like a light switch. It’s not something that you can turn on and off. It’s more like a muscle that has to be built. The easiest way to build that muscle is having scheduling uninterrupted creation time for at least an hour a day.
It Increases your Creative Output
Before I started writing this article, I was reading a book called The 4 Disciplines of Execution for the second time. As I’ve said before, there are many hidden benefits to reading a book more than once. One of my goals this year was to have 50,000 subscribers on our email list by the time my next book launches in August. But I would have to do certain things on a daily basis to have a shot of reaching that goal. These are known as lead measures, which basically are activities that are in your control, can be influenced and can be measured. I knew that there was one thing that consistently leads to more subscribers to our email list: writing new articles. The thing that results in new articles: the hour I spend writing every morning. Therefore my lead measures were writing every day and publishing 3 new articles a month.
If you write 1000 words a day over the course of a year, that’s roughly 365,000 words, the equivalent of 6 books. Of course, that doesn’t take into account that much of what you write will be unusable. But even if you manage to write one book a year, that’s more books than most people will write in a lifetime. Why does this matter? Because your cumulative output matters more than any individual piece of work combined.
It Makes You Happier
The combination of flow and accomplishing a daily goal inevitably will leave you feeling happier and more fulfilled. When you’re not caving into distractions, it’s much easier to compare less and create more. Rather than the unsustainable high that comes from the variable rewards of swiping right, checking your email, or seeing who’s commented on your latest status update, you get a much more sustainable sense of satisfaction.
We underestimate the value of an hour each day because it doesn’t seem like very much time. But added up over the course of a year that’s 365 hours. If you spend 365 hours working on any goal, it’s inevitable that you will make meaningful progress towards that goal. The ROI is exponential.