When we have long-term projects or even open-deadline tasks, we need some serious time management skills to get our stuff done. Without a solid time management strategy, we tend to procrastinate until the last minute or even avoid the task all together. (You, my smart students, would never do that, right?) But seriously, there’s a reason why some students claim to work better under pressure!
So why do far-off deadlines or open deadlines make it seem like we actually have less time to complete a task?
There’s a principle called Parkinson’s Law that states that “work expands so as to fill the time allotted for its completion.” In other words, the more time we have to get something done, the bigger and more complicated we think the task is. This is a real thing! There’s a legitimate reason why tasks seem to get more complicated the longer we put them off! (Makes me feel better knowing it’s not all my fault.)
What’s the solution to dealing with Parkinson’s Law? Shorten the amount of time you have to complete your work. Enter one of my favorite time management hacks, the Power Hour …
What is the Power Hour
A power hour is a 60-minute window during which you aim to complete a predetermined set of smaller tasks or one larger task. Your task could be anything: homework, cleaning your room, organizing your papers or computer desktop, writing emails, etc.
How to structure a Power Hour
- Look at your calendar and block out 60 minutes of uninterrupted time. Tell friends and family that you’re unavailable during this time so they don’t distract you.
- Write a list of tasks that you need to (or want to) complete.
- From your list, pick a few smaller tasks or one larger task, and gather any materials you will need to complete this task(s).
- Set the timer for 60 minutes. Seriously — set a timer!
- Go! Work on your task for 60 minutes straight, without stopping.
Why the Power Hour works so well
The Power Hour is such an effective time management hack because it counters the Parkinson’s Law. By limiting the time you have to complete a task, we work fast and more efficiently. And furthermore, by completing the task so quickly, we don’t allow ourselves time to freak out about what we have to do, which only exaggerates its complexity and importance.
How often and when to use a Power Hour
Plan a Power Hour whenever you have nagging projects or tasks that are giving you anxiety because they are not yet completed. You can do a Power Hour once a week, once a day, or even more than once a day if you have a lot going on. And tip for knowing when you need a good Power Hour is the moment you feel like you have no time.
Time management hacks: Power Hour vs. Pomodoro Technique
If you follow my blog or watch my video tutorials regularly, you’ll know that one of my favorite time management strategies is the Pomodoro Technique. You can learn more about the Pomodoro Technique here, but the gist of this time management hack is to time yourself for 25-minute sessions, followed by a 5-minute breaks: repeat until the task is done.
As far as a time management hack, the Power Hour is similar to the Pomodoro Technique in that you are rushing against the clock (a ticking clock is a huge motivator!!), but unlike the Pomodoro, the Power Hour is a one-and-done deal. Personally, I go back and forth between the two time management strategies when I’m feeling overwhelmed with work, or even when I’m feeling playful. (I’ll admit that it’s fun to race against the clock!) I recommend that you experiment with both time management hacks for different scenarios and see what works for you.
Extra time management resources:
- Are you a chronic procrastinator? Then follow my tips for ending procrastination.
- Do you struggle with time management because you really do have so much on your to-do list? Then follow my tips for creating a study schedule.
- Always running out of time? Follow my tips for finding time to get your homework done.