Unplug Hour: Finding an extra hour in your day!

Working from home gives you a lot of flexibility, but not when the internet connection is down.  We found this out the hard way last week when a contractor cut our internet line and it wasn’t repaired for almost a full week.  It turns out it’s hard to maintain a business online without any internet access.  Who knew!

The funny thing was, it wasn’t just the business.  I came to realize just how dependent we were on the internet for just about everything.  If I want to make dinner, and nothing in our recipe box sounds good, I just hop on the internet.  If I’m bored, I’ll play a game on my phone.  If I want to find a new Irish step dance technique, I turn to Youtube.  All of that is sort of difficult without internet!

Since I had to rely on my phone, my Kindle Fire, and a friend’s internet connection for the week we had no access, I ended up using my new-found time to outline TSRP posts on a clipboard, finish the blanket I’d intended to finish two months ago, and a whole bunch of other things.  All of the things I got done made me realize just how much time I had been letting slip through the cracks by being addicted to my devices and internet.

That got me thinking: what would happen if I managed my time better and unplugged from my bad habits, even for just one hour a day?  Could I ‘find’ an extra hour to do the things I really want to do?

Finding the Extra Hour

You might read a lot about busy people are better at time management than most of us. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people lately.  During college, I crammed everything into my days that I needed to, with admittedly varying results.  These days, though, I find that I don’t always have as much to do as I did then, yet I feel like I have less time.

Maybe that’s you, too.

If you’ve heard of the Latte Principle in personal finance, our Unplug Hour may sound familiar.  But here’s the kicker: it works.  There are so many little things that suck up your time, like a daily latte can suck up your money, without you even realizing it.  The extra hour you want from your day is broken up and spent on things that don’t matter.  Cut out tasks you don’t need to do and gather that time together into what we call an “Unplug Hour.”

How Do I Create an Unplug Hour?

The extra hour in your day may be right under your nose.  There are a lot of things you do every day that go unnoticed.  Checking your email, walking the dog, or playing games on your phone might be things you don’t even think about.  I’ve realized lately that I spend far more time on my electronic gadgets than is healthy.  This is where an Unplug Hour comes into play.

Here are a few simple steps to start an Unplug Hour routine:

1) Take an Inventory
Make a list of all the things you do each day.  Go through a day or two and make notes of the things you do.  If you do this on more than one day, compare your notes and notice similarities.  You might realize that you spent an average of two hours throughout the day on your phone.  Checking for an important email is okay, but refreshing your Gmail app every 5 minutes because you’re bored isn’t.

You may find that there are some things you do when you’re bored that have become habits.  I play games on my phone or tablet when I get bored.  This is a complete waste of time!

2) Set Goals
Write out your goals on paper.  Not on your computer – you want to be able to tack this up somewhere and not get distracted by Facebook while looking at your goal for the day.  With this list, you have something tangible to use your extra time on.  Your goals should be things you do away from the computer.  It could be creative goals like finishing a novel or necklace; it could be more family time or exercising.  Whatever it is, keep the list somewhere you will see it every day.

3) Unplug
Now that you know you have some time available, you need to do something with it.  Take both of your lists (habits and goals) and lay them out together.  Prioritize your goals and focus on the ones that are highest on the list.  Rank which habits are taking up the most time and figure out if there’s a particular time of day when you tend to fall into these habits.

Once you know what your triggers are, you can implement an Unplug Hour.  If there’s a particular time of day when you tend to lose track of your goals, assign that time as an Unplug Hour.  Take that time to ‘unplug’ from your bad habits and plug into your goals.  If overusing electronics is your bad habit, literally unplug yourself from them.  If unnecessary multitasking is your bad habit, stop and determine which of those tasks is the highest priority and focus only on that for an hour.

4) Stick With It!
Once you have found your extra hour (or more!), stick with it.  Don’t go through the first three steps and then revert back to your old habits.  You’ll find that your productivity, and maybe even your life balance, will increase.  When I use Unplug Hours, I find that I feel a lot better about myself and how I use my time.  It has helped increase my productivity by more than I would have thought, especially when I use the time to outline blog posts on paper!

Join the conversation about unplugging for an hour on Twitter with #unplughour.  Tell us how your life changed when you unplugged from distractions for just one hour.

Co-Founder and Strategic Manager at The Spare Room Project
Having grown up near Seattle, Jenn is Washingtonian to the core, and believes that trees that lose their leaves are unnatural and snow is evil. Right now, though, she calls the-middle-of-nowhere Ohio home, having stayed after college. With a vastly varied background in creativity – from hosting a radio show to jewelry design to filmmaking – becoming the Strategic Manager and Wearer-of-Many-Hats for TSRP was meant to be!

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