Blocking out a “Movie” Worth of Time Each Day

I recently listened to a fantastic interview on The Tim Ferriss Show with Gary Keller of the real estate firm Keller Williams (KW). One discussion about productivity stood out to me. It was about the idea of carving out one “movie” worth of time every day for your most productive work.

The analogy works really well: it’s a 2-3 hour time period where you focus on one thing, turn your phone off, eat and go the bathroom ahead of time, and – in my case – grab a cup of tea.

From the interview:

It is very hard to have a perfect day every day, and as the research will tell you that willpower is on will call, right? You don’t have a steady stream of willpower. When you wake up in the morning—it doesn’t matter what time, if you got up at six, if you got up at noon. When you wake up, these are your power hours, and I used to tell people, “Look, the goal is to have a great day by noon.” In other words, get everything that matters, that is important to you, get it done. Don’t put it off, get it done, and then let the events of the morning drive your afternoon. Time blocking is just this idea of you pre-planning your time, because if you needed to exercise, and that’s what you want to do, you’re going to find the time to do it and then you’re going to have to block that out.

The movie analogy was this idea that you don’t really need to time block more than two or three hours a day around your core activity for your business, whatever that is. You’re not equally effective all day long, so what you want to do is you want to make sure that the world doesn’t infringe on the time that you know you need to give, for whatever it is is the key that makes your professional life run.

The past six months have been exceptionally challenging for me. It’s been tough to find time to get the most important stuff done. I just happen to be at the point in my life with a reasonably sized business, a 3-year old, a house, and my own personal and family matters to deal with, where it seems like there’s always a crisis. There are just too many moving parts for there not to be. There’s a critical bug on the website, or someone is out sick and their backup is on vacation, or the heat goes out at my house. It’s just nonstop.

The goal then isn’t to have a perfect 8-hour chunk of time to get things done, because that rarely happens for anyone anyway. The goal is to block out that one chunk of time, preferably first thing in the morning, where I can get as much done as possible on whatever core project I’m working on. Typically this time starts around 8 AM after my wife and daughter leave for the day, and ends around 11:30 AM when I like to check email, workout, and then eat lunch.

Everything else can wait until the afternoon, and I often do spend my entire afternoon putting out fires and catching up on things. And to be honest, I’m too wiped out to do any real work after the exhausting parenting involved in dinner, bath time, play time, and bedtime. But a least I progressed forward on my most important project. And during those little gaps in the day I’m brainstorming and taking notes on how to improve upon what I did or how to better accomplish tomorrow’s goal, so that when tomorrow does roll around I can get right down to business.

Tim Ferriss also recently wrote a post entitled Make Before You Manage where he echoes this sentiment:

The mantra that saved me during this most recent 3–4-week period was simple:

“Make before you manage.”

Each morning, before plugging holes, fixing things, calling vets, answering text messages, delegating things, or yanking out dead raccoons, this mantra was a reminder to make something.

Even the most time-sensitive items can usually wait 60 minutes, and by make something, I mean anything.

You just need to feel like you’ve pushed a millimeter ahead in some creative direction.