Accomplish anything in one hour per day

By Ali
Category: Personal | Date: Sat 25 Oct, 2008

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a load of projects you’d quite like to have a go at. By “project”, I mean something biggish that you want to accomplish. That might be learning a musical instrument, learning a new language, writing a novel, running a marathon … anything which you’d be doing not for academic or employment purposes, but personal ones.

The problem with all of these is that they’re not something you can do in a free afternoon. They all need long-term, sustained effort, which puts most of us off even starting on them. After all, student life is busy enough – how can you find time to fit in personal projects too?

I’d like to get you to think about something today: you can make substantial progress towards any goal by devoting an hour a day to it.

One hour

An hour might not seem like long enough to make much progress. If you’re writing a novel, maybe you can write 500 words or 1,000 words in an hour – but that doesn’t seem like much compared to a finished book. If you’re training for a marathon, you might only be able to jog for twenty minutes to begin with. If you want to learn to speak fluent Spanish, an hour might only be long enough to master a few new words.

One of the reasons I’m suggesting an hour is because it’s a non-threatening length of time. All of us can manage to find an extra hour in the day. It might mean getting up earlier in the morning and skipping Friends in the evening. It might mean liaising with flatmates or family members to cut down on time spent grocery shopping, cooking and doing chores. It might just mean setting aside your “project hour” first thing in the morning, so that it gets priority over everything else you have to do.

The other reason for spending an hour is because it is a significant length of time. Don’t think about what you can accomplish in a single hour – think about what you can accomplish over the course of a year, by spending one hour a day on your project:

  • If you write 500 words in an hour, after a year, you’d have written 182,500 words. That’s a fairly long novel.
  • If you consistently train for an hour a day, you’d easily be able to jog eight miles in an hour after a year.
  • If you’re learning a new language, an hour a day is enough time to become fluent after a year.

Yes, a year might seem like a long time, especially if you’re keen to reach your goal sooner than that (and some projects will take considerably less time). But trust me, that year will pass anyway…

Every day

It’s really important to commit to spending an hour on your project every single day. If you want, you can pre-designate certain days as non-project days, but be clear beforehand which these are. (Birthdays, Christmas, Saturdays or Sundays might be ones you want to consider skipping.) Otherwise, it’s incredibly easy to hit a busy spell at uni, and to skip doing your writing/learning/running for that day. Once you’ve missed a few days in a row, chances are that you’ll give up altogether.

Most of the time management advice I’ve read suggests that your “project hour” should be the first thing you do in the day. This works well for me: however busy you are, you’ll find that the other stuff that needs to get done will get done. If you decide to get everything else out of the way before working on your big goal, you’ll end up tired, fed up and not in the mood to do anything but slump in front of the telly.

Some things which can help you stay motivated are:

  • Setting a mini-goal for each day, so you know what you’ll be doing during your hour.
  • Marking your calendar with a star on every day you devote an hour to your project.
  • Making a public commitment (to a friend or family member, or on your blog) to achieve your goal within a year.
  • Picking a specific time each day for your “project hour”, and treating this as a non-negotiable item in your schedule.

Over to you

Further reading:

Have you got a project you’d just love to do, but don’t think you have time for? Trust me, when you’ve left uni, you’ll look back and realise just how much spare time you did have! Why not decide to devote an hour a day to that project, until it’s complete? If you want, share your project with us in the comments … we’d love to know what you’re up to!


3 comments:

  1. Hi Ali and Paul,

    This is a great article! Very useful and practical tips for your fellow students. You are so right that an hour a day is all it takes. I heard somewhere that if you just spend an hour a day on something for 5 years, you will become an expert in that field.

    Lovely design template for your blog too, made me wish I were a student again! And yes, you are so right that you have more time now than you realise (which you will when you start work as you pointed out).

    Keep up the good work. I wish I had been as proactive and wise as you when I myself was a student.

    Dap

  2. Hi Dap,

    Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I wish I’d been a little more proactive as an undergrad; it’s a whole different ball game as a working post-grad…

    We had a lot of fun coming up with the design, so it’s great to hear you like it 🙂 Though it’s a whole lot tidier than either any real noticeboard we’ve ever owned…

    Take care,

    Ali (& Paul)

  3. What a great idea! I do have a few projects that I just can’t seem to find the time for. Hm…an hour a day…thanks!

    Jenn

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