Adding A 'Shultz Hour' To Your Day Could Be Key To Gaining Control Over Your Life

There are 168 hours in a week. It turns out that dedicating at least one of those hours to quiet reflection can make a big difference. Allow us to introduce you to the "Shultz hour," a concept that gets its name from the late former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, who accredited much of his abilities to this weekly habit.

A Shultz hour is simply dedicating one hour to sit alone with just a pen and paper and no distractions. During the hour, you let your mind wander and jot down whatever comes to mind. This gives you uninterrupted time for deep reflection to make sense of things going on and decompress. In a 2017 interview, Shultz told The New York Times that this quiet hour of reflection gave him time to think deeply about "the larger questions" that came with his job. He said he would only interrupt the hour if his wife or the president called.

It's important to find time to reflect on the bigger questions in your own life, like what you envision for your future, whether you're in the right career, or any issues in your interpersonal relationships. Being pulled in every direction with work and the stressors of life can make it difficult to catch a breath. If you're feeling like you need a moment to come up for some air, adding a Shultz hour to your week may help you get a grasp on the crucial things.

Alone time is good for us

Though humans are inherently social creatures, we all need some alone time once in a while. This is especially true if you're constantly surrounded by people throughout the week at work. A Shultz hour can give you an allotted moment to yourself during a busy week (per The New York Times). If it's difficult for you to even find that one hour, that may just show how much you need one.

Research has shown that alone time can boost creativity. For instance, a 2017 study in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences examined different types of social withdrawal and found that unsociability was associated with creativity. In other words, those who purposefully spent time alone encouraged high creativity to cultivate. This isn't to say that we should be alone all the time, as long-term isolation is harmful. But making space to spend time with yourself may help new ideas flow.

Additionally, a 2020 study published in the Nature Communications journal found that when there's a lack of social stimulation, there's an increase in brain activity related to imagination. Our brain finds a way of filling "the social void" by being creative and spilling out ideas and thoughts. You might notice how the lack of distractions and people allows you to explore more during your Shultz hour.

The 'Shultz hour' is a form of journaling

Along with giving you some time to yourself, a Shultz hour could help you get started on your journaling journey. It allows you to engage in what's known as a brain dump, also known as writing down anything that comes to mind on a blank page. When we're constantly going and going without leaving any room to reflect and ponder, we may feel burnt out and lost. Journaling helps negative or stressful thoughts escape in a healthy way. As clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, tells Healthline, writing these thoughts down "creates space and distance to consider them in a more objective way." In other words, getting them out and seeing them on a page helps you separate these thoughts from yourself rather than letting them consume you.

There have been numerous studies relating to the mental health benefits of journaling. In particular, journaling is a fantastic stress reliever. In a 2020 study published in The Permanente Journal, researchers recruited patients, family members, and healthcare practitioners at a children's hospital for a writing exercise, which included writing three things they're grateful for, their life story in six words, and three wishes they had. All participants reported lower levels of stress, and 88% of patients and families found the activity useful. Regardless of how you choose to do your Shultz hour, you'll likely feel better afterwards and learn more about yourself in the process.

Spend time away from screens

Our phones are often the first things we look at when we get up in the morning and the last things we see before bed. We likely check them several times a day. After all, so much of our lives are packed into our devices — work emails, important messages, social media connecting us with loved ones, and non-stop news. Similar to how a 'dopamine detox' can help you break your worst habits, a Shultz hour can give you a needed break from your screens. This way, nothing else can interrupt you.

Even if you typically write on a computer, go for a pen and paper instead. In fact, there are more advantages to physically writing with a pen or pencil compared to typing on a keyboard, like being in a better mood during learning, according to a 2021 study from the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal. Rather than scrolling and typing as soon as you get up or before bed, try a Shultz hour to get the brain flowing in a healthier way.

Structuring your 'Shultz hour'

While it appears George Shultz didn't quite have a set prompt or structure to his one hour, as per The New York Times, it can be helpful to go into it with intentions to help you get started. First, eliminate all distractions and take a deep breath. Write down the first thing that comes to mind. If you're stuck, ask yourself about the week so far: What went well versus what didn't? Do you have any new ideas you've been meaning to write down or share? What made you feel good or bad this week? What are some goals you have in mind, and how are you working to achieve them?

Shultz liked to shut himself in his office, but your hour doesn't always have to be spent in a room. It can be anywhere you are comfortable, whether it's a park bench, your favorite café, or the library. Start your day with this practice, decompress with it after work, or do it somewhere in the middle. As long as you eliminate distractions and dedicate the time to yourself, you're good to go.