Sacred Hours

By Restoring the Soul of Business Archives
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Every weekday contains 168 hours, of which 100 hours are spent asleep and at work allowing for the rest of life to fit in 68 hours. For many the remaining 68 are filled with a hurly burly of responsibilities from child to elder care, cooking, cleaning, errands, medical appointments, commutes and more. The few free minutes in between are often buffeted with headlines, social media streams looking to colonize our minds and a dozen competing claims on our time and attention. No wonder that so many feel stressed, fatigued, and frenzied.

As William Wordsworth wrote: "The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers …"

A special hour every day

Some of the most contented and satisfied individuals, regardless of their station in life or the pressures on their time and attention, have found a way to create an oasis of stillness and a special sanctuary that helps center and grow them, and makes each day meaningful regardless of what the world of commerce and competition might bring in setbacks, challenges and pressures. They set aside an hour every day for themselves -- not for their work, not for their families, not for all those who clamor for it, nor to tackle a list of never-ending to-dos which when allowed to will absorb all free time.

Rather, it is an hour earmarked and blocked by them to spend on themselves. It might be spent learning, reading, exercising, thinking, meditating or walking. It is solitary and it is special. A sacred hour.

Some may think of this hour as a selfish hour -- but is an hour that allows individuals to be effective and productive in all the remaining hours of their day, whether it be at their jobs or tending to their family and social obligations, truly "selfish"?

Finding seven hours a week for oneself

Surely one cannot be serious that one can find almost a working day of hours for oneself every week? While not easy there are a combination of four different tactics that one can utilize to free up much more time than seven hours a week depending on one's responsibilities and flexibilities.

The four tactics are:

  1. Zero-based calendaring to eliminate the unnecessary.
  2. Delegation to mitigate the pressures of the necessary.
  3. Reduction of frequencies of meetings.
  4. Compression of time allocated to a task.

Zero based calendaring

In "A Moveable Feast," Ernest Hemingway's love song to the incredible city of Paris he writes, "If you could keep from making appointments, each day had no limits."

There is nothing as invigorating as an empty calendar. It does not mean that one is not needed but that one has the freedom and liberty to spend the day in the way that is most meaningful versus being shackled to a merry-go-round wheel of motion and action that often feigns to be important, special and essential.

What if one begins with an empty calendar wiped clean of all appointments and then transfers only those that you really believe are critical to this new clean calendar? Ask your colleagues and bosses how many of the meetings are just habit and are not necessary or could be a memo or held less frequently.

Just like work expands to fill time available appointments occur to fill one's calendar. Start with zero and build back versus trying to trim bursting-to-the-seams calendars that resemble a barnacle-encrusted underside of a ship.


The best leaders run positive "Ponzi" schemes. They surround themselves with people better and more competent than them and hand down as many of their responsibilities that they can and encourage them to do the same to the next level.

Everybody is stretched and growing, and their bosses can stretch and grow to the next level. If one is doing too much it may mean that the people around us are not good enough or we are not growing and stretching them and so in time we will lose them.

We should delegate and do less. Focus on one's superpowers, growing others and thinking about the long term.

Reduction of frequency of meetings

Business reality requires budget to status to board meetings for a variety of reasons from the fiduciary to the necessary. But can the weekly meeting be moved to twice a month or maybe once a month? And does everyone have to attend every meeting?

If presence at a meeting is the way a pecking order is established at a company, we should wonder if this attracts talent or insecure politicians. Less is more.

Compression of time allocated to a task

One of the silver linings of the tragedy of COVID is that one can move from meeting to meeting by moving one's "mind parts" without physically moving one's "meat parts." This saves a lot of time in travel and other logistics.

Most boards now meet once every six months in person while meeting virtually in between.

In addition to reducing the need for physical presence at all meetings we may also want to consider reducing the time for each meeting by a third or half. Pre-reads and tight management can significantly cut the time allocated without any significant loss in impact.

Personally, we might shave off a few minutes from our social media usage or Netflix use to enable finding time for our sacred hour.

How to make the most of one's sacred hours

With a little discipline one can find an hour a day for oneself and often more. How one spends it depends on each one of us but blocking out an hour for oneself every day and ideally utilizing it as early as possible before the pressures of the day make one lose control of the best laid plans is ideal.

If every individual looks after themselves, they can do a much better job at their jobs and caring for others -- because in the end time is all we have and the way we spend our time is the way we spend our lives. Living our lives as pinballs in a game where someone else is controlling the flippers may be filled with the excitement of velocity and blinking lights -- but is it our life?

For a few sacred hours let's make it so.

Photo at top courtesy of Rishad Tobaccowala

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