The Extra Hour: Reclaim time to do the things you love

The Extra Hour
Image from Virgin Books
by Will Declair, Jérôme Dumont and Bao Dinh
23 August 2020

Who hasn't wished for more hours in the day? Imagine if you could reclaim an entire hour every day and find time to do the things you really care about. That's the idea behind a new book released on Virgin Books.

The Extra Hour, written by Will Declair, Jérôme Dumont and Bao Dinh, is based on interviews with more than 300 global entrepreneurs and CEOs. It offers the best strategies and secrets to instantly supercharge your productivity. In this extract they look at the role laziness has to play in productivity...

Happy are the lazy

More than anything, productivity is a question of finding the right mindset. For us, that mindset boils down to a single motto: embrace laziness. 

To clarify, we’re not saying kick back and shirk your responsibilities, we’re saying get strategic about your to-dos by looking for ways to sidestep as many low-value tasks as you possibly can. Basically, anytime you find yourself grinding away at a long, repetitive, or boring task, you should ask yourself how you might tweak the way you work to avoid having to do it again in the future. Admittedly, faced with all our more pressing day-to-day matters, making time to reflect on how we work isn’t easy. What is, and always will be, is simply to stay on autopilot and continue doing as you’ve always done. A few examples: 

  • Putting up with the same pointless meetings each week instead of taking the time to re-prioritize your schedule once and for all.

  • Wasting time on unimportant yet time-consuming tasks instead of training someone else to do them. 

  • Deleting unread promotional newsletters one by one instead of just unsubscribing from them altogether. 

What we need to do is adopt an investment mindset whereby we put in the effort in the short-term to get results in the long-term. Basically, we should be thinking about our productivity the way a business would, and invest to succeed. 

If a week goes by and you haven’t made any tweaks to the way you work, you’re probably not examining your habits with a critical-enough eye. It’s crucial to embrace the idea of continuous improvement and place this investment mindset at the heart of your routine. 

Fair warning: your gains will likely seem insignificant at first. A little tweak that makes you one per cent faster only saves you about 30 minutes over the course of a forty-hour week – hardly noticeable to you (or anyone around you, for that matter). But it’s the snowball effect of these small improvements that will eventually make the difference. If every week, you can make a change that saves just one per cent of your time, then by the end of the year, a week’s work will take you just 24 hours in total. By adopting this approach, you also stand to benefit from what economists call the Ratchet Effect, where each improvement creates so much value that a return to old ways seems almost inconceivable. To stay motivated, remind yourself that the greater your initial investments, the greater the future payoff. 

And there you have the fundamental secret to supercharged productivity: implement a series of gradual improvements that eventually add up to an enormous difference.

Despite what some might like you to believe, extreme productivity isn’t an innate gift. The people we know who finish work early, have a great family life and run successful projects on the side have invested time each and every day developing skills and implementing methods that allow them to be highly efficient. Here’s a great example: a recent study of 50,000 employees found that those who used Firefox or Chrome as their web browser consistently outperformed those with Internet Explorer or Safari. On average, Firefox and Chrome users reached their objectives 25 per cent faster than the latter group. The research team’s explanation for this: those who take the time to seek out optimal browsers – as opposed to simply sticking with the computer’s default options – are likely to be the kinds of people always on the lookout for ways to improve. 

Invest time in improving yourself and your habits slowly but surely. Making a positive difference is achieved gradually. The results may be imperceptible at first, but don’t be discouraged: one day you’ll look back and be amazed by how far you’ve come.

The Extra Hour is out now on Virgin Books

The Extra Hour
Image from Virgin Books