More About the 96 Minute Rule – Insight from Chris Crouch, and others – (with update)


Let’s revisit.

We are all distracted, more and more, all the time.

Walk into any gathering anywhere, and before, after, and in-between sessions, people are glued to their SmartPhones. They look down, not at each other.

If you are sitting at a computer screen, to do your “knowledge work,” chances are you have trouble staying on task.

One solution is so clear, so simple—so powerful. It is the 96 Minute Rule.   I first wrote about this back in June, 2013 in my post: 5 Rules of Personal Productivity – This Really is How You Get More Done.

Harvey Schachter, a writer for Canada’s Globe and Mail, picked it up and wrote this column: The 96-minute rule, and other timely tipsIn his column, he included these lines:

The 96-minute idea comes from corporate trainer Randy Mayeux. It’s not completely original, nor are the other splendid ideas he has for increasing your productivity. All he knows is what he reads in books. Back in 1998 he created, with a partner, the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. Every month since then he has offered a tight summary of a popular business book for an audience over breakfast, and spring boards off those presentations to offer corporate training.

He’s correct about the “not completely original” part. I’m not sure I have ever come up with a truly original idea. And I always try to give credit. Sometimes, I forget where I read or heard something. Sometimes I just don’t dig deeply enough for the “first” source of an idea.

{I remember back in my preaching days, I used an analogy in a sermon about going on offense instead of playing defense. A friend said to me that he knew which book I had gotten the idea from. Turns out, he was right. I had read the book, and as I looked, I rediscovered the passage with my underlinings and even a note in the margin. But, I had read it quite a bit earlier, and had no memory of the passage in the book. But, my sermon analogy was definitely prompted, forgotten-by-me, from this one short passage from this book).

So… back to the 96 Minute Rule. I really don’t know where I first read/learned/heard about it. But it is a rule that I really, really like, and I try to follow it pretty diligently. It makes sense to me. It works for me. I’m glad to have learned it.

Again, here’s my description of the rule from that first blog post I wrote:

Rule #1 – The 96-Minute Rule.
I really like this, because it is so simple, so clear.  First, remember the 80/20 rule – people get 80% of their work done in 20% of their time.  Now, consider the theoretical 8-hour work day:  480 minutes.  Now, how many minutes do you need for 20% of your work day?  96 minutes.
So, this rule says to get in your best “place” to work, turn off all distractions, and immerse yourself into your most important task for 96 uninterrupted minutes.  96 minutes a day of focused, uninterrupted, intentional “work” gets a whole lot done.
This rule has plenty of support – ideas which reinforce this wisdom.  Peter Drucker talked about 90 minutes being the minimum chunk of time to do meaningful “knowledge work.”  And here’s advice from Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson:
If you’re constantly staying late and working weekends, it’s not because there’s too much work to be done.  It’s because you’re not getting enough done at work.  And the reason is interruptions…  you can’t get meaningful things done when you’re constantly going start, stop, start, stop. 
Instead, you should get in the alone zone.  Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive.  When you don’t  have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done. 
During alone time, give up instant messages, phone calls, e-mail, and meetings.  Just shut up and get to work.  You’ll be surprised how much more you get done.
Get in the “alone zone,” block out all distractions, and follow the “96 minute rule.”  Use 20% of your time, every work day, with great, uninterrupted, productive focus.

In that earlier post, I linked to this post by Matthew Cornell: Productivity Group Experiment: The 96 Minute Rule. In this post, he referred to an experiment:

If you’re interested in ways to get more productive, check out Chris Crouch’s new group experiment, The 96 Minute Rule.

And now, that 96 Minute Rule has sort of entered the vocabulary. The most recent appearance was for an insert in the Times of India:  96 minutes of productivity by Palak Bhatia. You can see why!   In a world of constant distractions, we all need some serious focused-work time. The 80-20 rule kind of sets the parameters.  And it turns out that Chris Crouch actually put the idea to the test, naming the rule, and demonstrating its value.

It is a good rule.

So… let’s recap. You are distracted. You should work on fighting those distractions. Set your goal – 96 minutes of uninterrupted (knowledge) work every day – 20% of a typical 8-hour work day.

Who first came up with this? Well, the 80-20 rule comes from the Pareto Principle:

Management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.

Peter Drucker added to our understanding. Chris Crouch came up with the actual number of 96 minutes (pretty brilliant – simple, and brilliant – the best kind of brilliant).

And now, it is up to you – and me. Will we organize our days to carve out 96 minutes of interrupted time – will we follow the 96 Minute Rule?

It is a rule worth following, I think.   And, I’ve tested it long enough to believe that it is worth following.

———-

update:

Chris Crouch described this rule in the 9th chapter of his book Getting Organized:  The chapter is entitled The 80/20 Rule  He wrote:

Get a timer and set it for 96 minutes.  Focus, without interruptions, on your No. 1 priority for the day.  Try this as early in the day as possible…  Most days, these 96 minutes will be more than enough to call it a highly productive and successful day.  

(Getting Organized was published in 2004; the e-book was published in 2005, which I am now reading on my Kindle app).

I keep finding other references to the 96 Minute Rule.  In July, 2005, Kathy Wells Paauw blogged about it with this post: 96 Minutes a Day That Will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. In her post, she recommended that a person get to work with these 96 minutes of productivity at the top of the morning:

When I enter my office, take 10 minutes to review my tickler file and clarify the three most important areas of focus for the day. Then spend the next 96 minutes* (8:30-10:06 AM) focusing on those three areas. Do this before checking email.  Do not answer the phone during this focus time.

I suspect as I keep digging, I will find even more references to the idea. It really is a good idea.

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