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Compound Time: 10 Hours A Week That Will Change Your Life

In the recent article, Why Successful People Spend 10 Hours A Week on Compound Time,” entrepreneur Michael Simmons asks: What’s the difference between those people who manage to become world-class leaders and change the world, and those that … well, don’t? Why do some continue to achieve greatness and some plateau?

The answer might surprise you.

Simmons suggests, “Slow down.” He calls the phenomenon “compound time,” and here’s his explanation: “Despite having way more responsibility than anyone else, top performers in the business world often find time to step away from their urgent work, slow down, and invest in activities that have a long-term payoff in greater knowledge, creativity, and energy. As a result, they may achieve less in a day at first, but drastically more over the course of their lives.”

He uses examples like Warren Buffet (Forbes fourth wealthiest person on the planet), who swears that he spends only about 20 percent of his time working and the other 80 percent reading and thinking. More knowledge allows for better decisions.

The writer breaks out six “compound time activities” to start incorporating into your daily life to see if you too can get more out of your days, weeks, years and eventually your life. They are:

  1. Keep a journal. Some of his examples include: writing down items you are gracious for, outlining complex problems that you can try to simplify, outlining ideas or observances from your day, or even more to the point — taking stock in your day and asking yourself, “If this were my last day on Earth, is this what I would want to be doing?”
  2. Take a nap. Yes, his second recommendation — take a nap. Modern science suggests that an hour to an hour and a half nap is equivalent to a perfect 8 hours of night sleep. This rest for your brain actually allows you to be more productive and more creative. (Please don’t nap on your laptop right now. Well, unless you’re George Constanza and already have an alarm clock, pillow and cozy space under your desk in which to curl up.)
  3. Take a walk. It’s suggested that simply 15 minutes a day will refresh your mind and body thus increasing creativity — not to mention the health benefits include extending your life. Put the headphones in, and take that next important meeting while walking around and see if you don’t feel, think and react better.
  4. Read more. In his research, top performers in all areas of life take in books at an astounding rate. He lists billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, Arthur Blank and Bob Iger who read 2-3 hours per day. Reading the knowledge of someone else’s lifetime in a few short hours will greatly expand your knowledge, and is suggested to improve memory, increase empathy and reduce stress.
  5. Strike up a conversation. The author notes the book, Powers Of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs, where the case is made that the foundation of creativity is social, not individual. Simmons shows academic research on this and focuses on the achievements of creative duos like Gates and Wozniak and psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky— which were highlighted in our recent blog about the Psychology of Prediction. These conversations should not be between you and one other person — many greats built large groups of friends and experts to converse with, like Theodore Roosevelt’s “Tennis Cabinet.” (A favorite of mine being an avid tennis player. I’m going to have to talk to my team about stepping our conversational game up from Serena’s pregnancy and Nadal’s impending hair issues.)
  6. Experiment. More experiments equals more success. The author references Amazon founder Bezos, and I think his explanation says it best: “Given a ten percent chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten. We all know that if you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’re also going to hit some home runs. The difference between baseball and business, however, is that baseball has a truncated outcome distribution. When you swing, no matter how well you connect with the ball, the most runs you can get is four. In business, every once in awhile, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs.”

Simmons’ article points out, it’s not just real experiments with financial or time investments (like Edison’s failed 9,000 experiments before he made the first light bulb) but mind experiments too. Let your brain wander and explore possibilities and new solutions. You’ll be surprised at the results.

So when you’re finished with this post, don’t hop on to Outlook, don’t pull that report, don’t shut your laptop and run off to your next meeting … take a walk, surf the web for more blogs, order a book you’ve been meaning too, or grab your officemate and strike up a conversation.

Take a minute (or 60) for yourself and work on compounding time. If you start now, you might just end up with an invitation to Ellen’s future “Tennis Senate.”

By Ellen Stubbs, Vice President of Marketing, Capture Higher Ed

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