A few days ago George Pratt Shultz passed away at the age of 100. Shultz was an American economist, businessman, and politician. He was also the Secretary of Labor (1969 – 1970), Secretary of the Treasury (1972 – 1974) and Secretary of State (1982-1989) of the United States. He worked closely with President Ronald Reagan. He graduated from Princenton University and received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
One of the peculiarities of the way he worked was what is known as “The Shultz Hour”. Once a week he devoted an hour of total tranquility to reflection. He would sit in his office with a pencil and paper and spend time thinking and reflecting on his most important tasks and challenges. During this hour of reflection, he indicated to his secretary not to interrupt him unless “his wife or the president called.” Shultz, in several interviews indicated that this time was really essential in his work to think about those more strategic aspects of it. He also said that most of his tasks were focused on tactical, urgent aspects, but he never had time to think about really important issues, long-term issues. And for this reason, he decided to invest at least one hour a week to this kind of strategic thinking and long-term work.
This way of working of Shultz, fits very well with the theory of the psychologist Amos Tversky (collaborator of the renowned psychologist Daniel Kahneman) who indicated that “The secret to doing a good research job is to always be a little underemployed.” He claimed Tversky the importance of not focusing so much effort on urgent tasks and devoting time to think strategically. As he himself said “People waste years by not being able to waste hours.” He clearly defended that hyperactivity is not only not advisable for health or to be happy, but it is also very negative for productivity.
And this way of thinking, of having a calmer work rhythm and having time to devote to thinking, is in stark contrast to most professionals, who have a hyper-accelerated pace and hardly spend time thinking. In addition, many of these professionals boast of their extraordinary activity, despite the fact that it seems to me a total stupidity from the point of view of health, productivity and even happiness.
For this reason, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU BET ON INCORPORATING THE SHULTZ HOUR INTO YOUR WEEKLY ACTIVITIES. Think about the best time to spend an hour with your full attention thinking strategically. Find the right place to think. Disconnect from your networks, your calls and focus all your attention on thinking about those important challenges. Use a pencil and paper (or computer, or voice notes …) to write down the interesting ideas that you are going to generate. Our brain needs spaces of disconnection (also called spaces without tasks) to be really creative, to find great ideas or to solve problems that at other times seemed unsolvable.
So, think carefully about how and when to fit your Shultz Hour into the week. I am fully convinced that it will be very productive for you. Because as Shultz himself said “You’ve got to dream a little bit if you’re going to get somewhere.”