I’m always on the lookout for the next productivity hack that’ll make my workweek shorter. But even with all that time spent experimenting with lists and apps, I still had that window each week when I was pretty much just running out the clock.
Maybe, for you, that window is when you’re easing into work on Monday. Or during that funky 3 PM to 5 PM window right before the Friday finish line.
Whenever it is, it’s exactly when you should dive into Entrepreneur Sol Orwell’s Research-Plan-Connect (RPC) activity. It’s just what it sounds like: a block of time away from deadline-driven work to focus on these three categories: researching, planning, and connecting.
Ever since learning about it, I started setting aside time on my schedule to work on things that get me ahead, rather than things that just hit deadlines. And after doing it for three months, I’ve found that I’m actually reading all those articles I save and emailing the people I’d been meaning to reconnect with.
I’ve been able to accomplish big things, while also building my skills and network in ways that would’ve taken me much longer if I’d simply followed my old “I’ll fit it in here and there” approach.
Want to give this a shot? Here’s what you might do during your new RPC time:
I’m a reformed article hoarder. I used to have weeks when I saved industry articles with all the intentions of reading them—and just never gotten around to it.
Looking back now, it seems pretty obvious to block out time to, you know, read them. But setting that time aside—specifically—makes all the difference.
Or, if you’re not sure where to start, investigate the things that’ll help out you on the job. These could include anything from new tools or resources, to conferences you’re considering attending, or workshops you feel would benefit your team.
If you can book a skill-boosting webinar during your research window: perfect.
And that potential client you’ve been cyber-stalking? Yeah, that’s actually just research.
I set Google alerts for topics related to my industry. This way there’s a curated round-up of news ready for me to absorb each week. It’s how I stay fresh and “in the know.”
Type A’s: rejoice! And non-type A’s, I promise you’ll find this worthwhile, too.
If you RPC on Fridays like me, planning for the week ahead during this block will be a no-brainer. But it doesn’t have to be on Fridays, and it doesn’t have to involve your weekly planning, either.
When you need to, seize the time to outline big projects or your goals for the quarter.
Maybe even use the time to review your personal development plan—and think about how you’ll meet larger goals to advance in your career.
Use your planning window to break that Herculean task you have coming up into small, manageable chunks; and when you get back to it, you’ll have a real, live step one (and two and three).
Connect time is all about warming and building key relationships with co-workers, clients, business partners, work friends from previous jobs—the list goes on.
I’m not suggesting you suddenly jam all of your coffee dates into back-to-back meetings and come back to work jittery, or stare, unblinking at LinkedIn. (Though, if you’re always putting those things off for “when you have time,” this is a window to do them—within reason.)
It can be as old-school as popping a thank you note or birthday card in the mail, or as informal as sending out a heartfelt tweet. One-on-one brainstorm sessions, chats with your mentor, and Friday happy hour mingling all count too!
Finally, if you want to be truly successful with this approach, remember: Don’t kid yourself.
While you don’t want to be a stick in the mud (like telling your networking contacts you’ll only meet during this window, their schedule be damned, or feeling like you have to split each block into perfect thirds), you do need to be honest about the difference between making it work for you, and pretending that cat videos are “research.”
If you use this new work schedule for all those career-boosting activities you typically back-burner, you’ll find yourself looking forward to—and benefitting from—what were once the least-productive hours of your week.