My personal variation on the Power Hour.

There are seasons of crazy and seasons of growth, and this season is crazy.

The summer-to-fall transition is always a little nuts; this year that is truer than ever.

I forgot how much work back-to-school season is, with its errands and meetings and paperwork and unfamiliar routines. Before we finished the laundry from our summer vacation, we were already prepping for fall travel. Living without a kitchen sink (because of our remodel in progress) is not helping.

Even though this season is crazy, I’m determined to keep it from feeling like it. One of the ways I’m doing that is by scheduling time to practice old skills and learn new ones—that personal growth stuff—even though in previous years I would have told myself I didn’t have time.

I’m adopting a trick I learned from Gretchen Rubin called “the power hour” to grow my skills, slowly but steadily.

In her book Happier at Home, Rubin describes her “power hour.” She schedules 60 minutes each week to tackle those those small, mildly unpleasant tasks that are important but not urgent, and therefore, likely to not get done at all—like replacing her broken office chair, or donating outgrown clothes to a thrift store.

I loved the idea, and scheduled my own—although I tweaked it. In my own weekly “power hour,” I’m focusing on tasks that usually belong to a season of growth: the ones that help me grow my skills, master new tools, try new things.

It’s only September 7, but so far it’s working.

Unless something truly extraordinary is happening (a move, a vacation) I stick to my weekly hour. (If I skip one week, I’m likely to skip the next: I need the routine.) In a season of growth, I can devote more than one hour a week to courses and classes, but in a season of crazy, I’m thankful to get that hour. (An added bonus: ironically, I feel like I have better control of my schedule when I spend time each week focusing on the long-term and not the urgent.)

I’ve discovered another funny thing: taking time out to learn new skills and master new tools is often—not always, but more than I expected—saving me time in the long run.

I thought I didn’t have time to learn Lightroom—which I’ve been meaning to do for years, no joke—and finally signed up for an account on a whim, when a friend was over and said she could show me how to get started in 15 minutes. She helped me overcome the hump that is getting started, and showed me tricks for taking and processing photos that started saving me time immediately.

I thought I didn’t have time to really learn Scrivener—a robust but notoriously complicated writing program—but I finally coughed up the money to buy Learn Scrivener Fast, spent two hours working through tutorials, and am immediately reaping the benefits.

This fall, I’m planning on using my power hour to work through the resources I picked up in the Digital Photography Bundle, take a Craftsy classes (I downloaded one as a bonus from the recent Bundle sale), and catch up on a bunch of my saved TED talks. (Heads up—another Bundle goes on sale this week.)

My power hour specifics change as I learn new skills and take on new challenges; it even changes with the season. Everybody’s power hour will look different: for you it might look like reading Jane Austen (that would make me so happy), or designing a new tote bag, or trying a new recipe, or learning a new kettlebell workout.

I’d love to hear if you set aside time or find another way to learn new things. Do you have your own power hour, or its equivalent? 

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  1. Jess Townes says:

    I love this idea! The transition to fall always feels a little crazy compared to the slower pace of summer or long, cold nights in winter when you can’t be bothered to leave and might as well read/knit/draw/write. I think I might need two power hours per week, both Rubin’s concept AND yours. That’s not too much to carve out, is it? Happy fall!

  2. Linda Stoll says:

    Anne, I’m resonating. In the middle of the crazy and unsettled, I’m trying to figure out new rhythms that revive and energize.

    The biggest need I have right now isn’t taking care of business, but sitting still, quieting my soul, listening to that still small Voice that’s trying to grab my attention.

    When I do this well, all the other must-do’s seem to fall into place …

  3. Jaina Kirke says:

    I have totally lived without a kitchen sink during our own remodel. I feel your pain! (On the plus side, never have I enjoyed washing dishes more than when I first got my sink back. It is a frabjous day.)

    I need to try scheduling myself to do things weekly, instead of daily. My day-to-day schedule is super varied, but my weekly schedule is a little more predictable. I think I might actually be able to make that work.

  4. Jenn says:

    I’m so going to steal this idea. I need to work on technology. But always find a way to put it off. I can’t say it will be fun but it may make my stress less to settle down and just do it.

  5. Velma says:

    What a great idea! This is just what I need to do. I have classes and resources that I’ve downloaded but haven’t made time to go thru and learn. I have set aside an hour every week on my calendar and plan to start doing so this week. Thank you for your inspiration.

  6. Sandy says:

    What a wonderful idea! Of course, one hour a week seems impossible for me right now with an 19 months, 6 years old and 12 years old… I suppose it is all about which season in life you are:) Love to hear some updates later for encouragement!

  7. Sarah Beam says:

    I try to always be “taking a class” in something, especially during the seasons of crazy. It gives me focus when I feel like my mind is going in 15 directions. Right now, I don’t have time to actually schedule a class somewhere (I wanted to take an 8-week aerial yoga class, but alas, I don’t have access to childcare during the class time), so I’m working through The Artist’s Way (in book form) and doing A Beautiful Mess’ Blog Life e-course. The time I spend on those activities in the evenings quiets my soul and makes me feel like all is not lost right now while our calendar is so overfilled.

  8. Gail says:

    My power hour is taking an hour a week to sew, to attack that pile of mending, to finish some sewing projects, to create something for me or for others. I am trying to slow down to speed up, in other words focus on not only my to do list but on my to do relationships. I am in the season of purging and organizing and have come to realization that for me living in a world of clutter and stuff is overwhelming. I spend way to much time upkeeping my chaos instead of living in the moment.

  9. Suzanne says:

    I heard Gretchen speak about her power hour on her podcast and it resonated with me too. I can really glom onto the line you wrote here that speaks to getting over the hump of getting started. That’s me! I want to make yogurt at home. It’s not rocket science but tomorrow I’m going to grab the friend who encouraged me to make it to have her either talk me off the ledge or push me.

    My power hour is still evolving but I know it will come to fruition. As a side note, I have worked very hard this year to adopt a maker schedule and avoid being backed into a manager schedule. It’s helping with my productivity a lot. Thank you for planting that seed.

  10. Kitty Balay says:

    Just read Better Than Before & love this idea. Thank for the reminder.
    On another note: I just watched the BBC Sense & Sensibility (2008) and LOVED it. I was wary because I love Emma Thompson’s version so much, but I was won over almost immediately.

  11. Marie says:

    Great idea. I think I will adopt it to finally start organizing our family photos. The last photo to enter an album featured a baby who will soon turn 12. I know many people like online albums, but I work in high tech, so I’m going to enjoy the unplugged aspect of this!

  12. I’ve read two of Gretchen Rubin’s books this year (Happier at Home and Better Than Before), and I loved the idea of a Power Hour. However, I have yet to implement it! I think that my first project would be similar to hers–make a photo album. We are notoriously bad about taking pictures or doing anything with the ones that we do take. So, it overwhelms me to even think about it. But, surely I can do an hour a week, right?

  13. I love this idea! I don’t have anything like this yet. I just try to fit in time for things like that here or there, or when my kids can do it with me (like painting and cooking). But this seems like a great idea to incorporate some self-care into my weekly routine. I love that you’re using your time to learn new skills and do things you have wanted to for a long time. I’m sure I could come up with a pretty long list of my own if I sat down and thought about it…

  14. Maryalene says:

    I heard about the Power Hour on the Happier podcast but haven’t been able to make it happen for me yet.

    But what I really want to hear more about is Scrivener. I’ve heard people raving about it, but I can’t wrap my mind around how it’s used. I’ve been happily writing in Word for years. What is the benefit of Scrivener?

    • Anne says:

      I’ve been using scrivener for over a year, but I am only touching the surface of what it can do. For me, it’s really great with organization, searchability, and flexibility.

  15. Lucy Rose says:

    Thanks for this inspiring post. I am intrigued by this concept. I am a busy college student. Right this minute I am up at 5 AM to work on an assignment for a class I am auditing. I am not required to do an assignment, but I got up early to work on it because I felt so inspired by the class. I think this is kind of like a power hour for me–I am doing something that is enriching to me, but not strictly necessary.

    <3 LR

  16. Peggy says:

    Love this idea of a power hour! The first thing that came to my mind was a skirt I have in the making but never seem to get a chance to work on. That will be my first, then there is the front door that needs paint, pair of socks needs knitting and…….

  17. AH! this is what is missing in my life right now! we’re in the middle of a major re-model with all three floors of the house in upheaval … i need a bit of sanity! this kind of power hour sounds invigorating and well as stabilizing. (now to quit falling back to reading when my world is out of control) thanks!

  18. Laurel says:

    Love this idea for weekly Power Hour! I’ve been meaning to delve more deeply into photography. I even purchased a membership to Clickin’ Moms a few months ago thinking that would motivate me (as putting money towards something usually does). But I have yet to make the time. Devoting just one hour a week to it doesn’t seem so daunting and reasonable enough that it should be hard to make excuses for it. Thanks for the excellent idea! 🙂

  19. Melanie says:

    I call that a sanity break! After having three kids in three years, I needed to do something to preserve my sanity. So every week, I went to Starbucks and worked on household things like menu planning. I would also invest in my own personal development. I’ve gotten out of the habit of going every week because there isn’t that pressing need for a break like before, but maybe I need to switch to something like this. I can definitely see where investing in learning a new skill or taking the time to work on a non-urgent project would be very helpful.

  20. Kim says:

    I love reading your blog, but this is the first time I’ve commented. I absolutely LOVE this post. My husband and I and our three kids moved to France two years ago for my husband’s PhD program. Learning the language has been difficult and I still feel overwhelmed with how much I need to learn to feel truly comfortable here. Reading about the Power Hour helped me decide to sign up for a free online French course offered to spouses of PhD students. It’s busy with three kids, but I can commit one hour a week to help improve my French. Thank you for such a great idea!

  21. I love this. I like to think of the early morning hours as my “power hours” when I can muster up the strength to get up well before everyone else, get my work done, then the rest of the time is for me.

    I’m not terribly good at keeping track of all the intentional life bettering things I would like to do though. Do you?

  22. DJ Strong says:

    THIS is a great idea!!!! I’m going to try this-I love using it as a time to kill those mundane to dos which linger in my planner week after week!! I’m going to share this post on my blog for mamas at!!! Thanks for this great tip!!!

  23. Ariel says:

    I love the way you put it–important but not urgent–because we just talked about that in my business class! I think it’s originally from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective people (but obviously I remember it because it just showed up on my exam).

  24. Peggy L says:

    I love this idea as well. There are always tasks I put off, office paperwork filing – tax prep in the beginning of the year etc. This is a great idea.

  25. Jenny says:

    I love the idea of a power hour! I have started a variation of that myself. I already go to the gym during my lunch hour, which is an hour and a half, but I have started taking one week day off from the gym to spend that time working either school or improving my skills in various areas. I have found it helps so much. Once a month I am going to start meeting with other mom’s at work so we can start planning events and our mom’s group more. I’m so excited and will use the tips here to help improve myself and help others by sharing.

  26. Dana says:

    Love this idea! Started spending 10-15 minutes a day as a picking up the house and it’s been great because I do not spend a lot of time on the weekends doing it now.

    Maybe I will make a list of bigger items I want to do or learn and block out a power hour!

  27. Dana says:

    Sorry for the second post! What planner do you use for personal use? I use a Plum Paper Planner for work, but unsure if I need that fanciness for a personal planner!

  28. Valerie says:

    I’m an early riser, so I get much done in the wee hours. So my “power hour” is at 4 a.m. I get lots done. I listen to “What Should I Read Next” and get many book ideas, recently, the “Six Seasons” cookbook, that will be a Christmas gift for my sister.

  29. Kat says:

    I came up with “power hour” a few months ago not reading about it but now trying to teach others the power of it. As an entrepreneur I find it quite easy to get caught up in the hustle of work, meeting, and bigger things. Forgetting to take the time mid-day for self-care or learn something new.

    I have 3 power hours per week with different intentions. The first one of the week I focus on the little tasks for the family and home. It’s the calling to make doctors appointments, maybe putting It’s glueing a toy that broke or any little thing that you keep pushing off or forgetting about until the next week and continue to push.

    Then my other two power hours are in the mornings when my mind is fresh, ready to learn or dive-in deep. These are usually work focused and it could be nailing a presentation that’s coming up, learning a new skill/tool or powering through expenses and other book keeping that I just hate doing. Power hour is magic! I set my intentions on a sticky note and I can’t do anything but what is on it until the list is done. The trick is only putting an hours worth of tasks sometimes. 😉

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