As an extension to my last post on the Micro-Work Mindset, I thought I would discuss the broader idea of Per Unit of Time. While the Micro-Work Mindset certainly uses the Per Unit of Time concept, the concept itself has much larger, further reaching applications.
While Per Unit of Time thinking applies to Micro-Work sessions, it goes far beyond that. It asks “How much can I generate/improve/grow during block of time X?” Per Unit Time thinking makes statements such as such as “I will practice X for the next year consistently” or “I will spend the next six months focusing on my running technique.”
The main idea is that we are working on a challenge or goal over a block of time. The time blocks help structure and focus our efforts. As a personal example, I intend to practice my paragraph transition sentences over the next four weeks. I could say I will work on transitions generally, not over any structured block of time. Without the time block, however, I lose the “bin” in which I do the work, and thus the challenge loses priority. I may continue to practice transitions after the four weeks (I likely will), but the four week time frame gives me a mental block to focus those skills.
The Per Unit Time philosophy is not about deadlines. Deadlines are great for productivity, no doubt about it – they also help maintain constant focus and attention. However, Per Unit Time is more concerned with:
the exertion of effort over a span of time.
There very well may be a deadline at the end of the time block, especially if the blocks of time are smaller and represent Mirco-Work tasks (i.e. “how many equations can I write in the next 30 minutes?”). But when extending out goals/achievements/tasks for longer periods (weeks, months, yes even years), the focus shifts from “How much of X can I complete by Y?” to “How often can I practice during the span of time ending in Y?”. It is a shift from what I will have achieved in that time period to how often or hard I will practice during that period.
As a prime example of the difference, look at weight loss. Most people will say “I want to lose X pounds by the end of the month.”. This is a great goal and one that is certainly achievable. But Per Unit of Time suggests we restate our goal – “How often can I exercise by the end of the month?”
The moral of the story: put a time block, regardless of how long, over the next challenge you have for yourself. Then, ask yourself how often you can practice that challenge given the block of time.