8 ways to change the world in an hour

I had an hour today.

Like most days, I had 24 hours today. But in the middle of the afternoon I realized that there was nothing scheduled for the next while. As I thought about that hour–coming with a messy desk, headache-medicine clouded brain, no immediately pressing tasks–I began to wonder whether I could think about changing the world in that hour.

Some people can, by virtue of their proximity to cataclysmic technology, can change the world in seconds. That’s not me. Some people can, by virtue of their proximity to communicative networks, can change the world in minutes. (A truth or a lie can travel quickly, shaping markets). I, having none of those at hand, am left with hours or more for my changes.

I let twitter know what I was doing and turned to my hour.

1. Decide to not wait for information. I can spend an hour checking email, twitter, RSS readers and back again. By not doing that for an hour, I am changing my personal time world. I’m having the opportunity to not react. Total time: 0.

2. Fix a projector. One of our video projectors was not working properly. I searched on-line for the manual, found the fix, and went upstairs to fix it. Total time: 7 minutes. World-changing potential? It simplifies life for the teacher using that projector. What he is teaching will change the world of the people in that class. [The obvious application is to look for something simple to repair that can ease someone else’s life.]

3. Rewrite a letter. I’m working on some material for an information packet, letting people know what we are about as a church. I did a draft last night, got comments from Nancy, and took time to rewrite it today. Total time: 15 minutes. World-changing potential? It helps people interested in us know what we are about. The clearer the statement, the quicker they and we discover whether we fit. That saves all of us time, not for the sake of time, but for the sake of helping people grow well.

4. Finish reminder cards for staff. In our staff meeting today we talked about 50 ways to say thank you to volunteers for less than $5. After our listing process, our boss said, “How do we move from information to application.” I took a picture of the board, put it on a card, printed copies for everyone with a message about following up. Time spent: 5 minutes of my hour. World changing potential? First, I finished something. That always rocks my world. Second, as our staff look at them and then follow-through by thanking volunteers specifically, the work being done to change lives will be fostered. Third, the behavior we are modeling will cascade.

5. Send three emails. Short emails clarifying information. 1 answered a question allowing someone to follow-up. 1 took care of a scheduling question. 1 allowed 2 people to stop worrying about a problem. Time spent: 4 minutes.

6. Make a list of next projects. Write a thank you note, rearrange your desk so you can find things, identify tomorrow’s tasks. These aren’t things that get DONE in the hour, but they change how I plan to interact with the world after the hour is over.

7. Make a list of several ways to change the world in an hour. Teaching people is always a way to help. By documenting what I did, I can help you figure out incremental ways to change your world.

8. Discover that by making the announcement on twitter, I started conversations with people around the country. @paulswansen, @beckymccray, @stumark all were checking on me. Stepping away made stepping back feel good. And talking to them changed my world.


If you read closely through that list, a number of things aren’t done. Things are revised but not finished, not distributed, not available. Tasks are planned but not done. Equipment is fixed, but not in use. In a sense, the world didn’t change at all in that hour. In fact, unless I follow-through, I run the risk of being worse off than before because I THINK I got something done.

Or that’s what a productivity cynic would say.

I think I did pretty well. And so can you…if you take an hour and try to change the world…rather than just spending that hour at work.


5 responses to “8 ways to change the world in an hour

  1. Thanks, Jon, for the reminder… Most of us think “change the world” always has to be some “big thing”, accompanied by much fanfare and pomp. But your post reminded me that even the tiniest things can change the world – eventually.

    A kind word at the right time; a quick note to a friend in need; these and others are what “changing the world” are actually made up of.

    Again, thanks for the reminder!

  2. Robert, thanks for stopping by. And thanks for the affirmation.

    It was good to put a voice with your written voice over the weekend.

  3. Pingback: Monday list. « Levite Chronicles

  4. Been thinking about this one for a bit.

    My belief is that we would all be better off if we stopped grading our performances. Not just other’s performances, but our own as well. I’m not saying “Don’t use judement,” but rather, “Don’t be judgmental.” – In other words, instead of “This was good,” or “This was bad,” try “This worked,” or “This didn’t work.”

    I believe that we get this from school, from constantly having our performance judged, either by our teachers or our parents. While I get it that grades will always be a part of schooling, I assert that they serve no useful purpose outside of the educational sphere. They only serve to fuel our paranoia and our self-consciousness. What good can come of that?

    …just a thought…

  5. I read about a group yesterday who has this kind of evaluation/analysis in the fabric of their work. They were consistently asking “is this working” and if it wasn’t, changing it without criticism and if it was reinforcing it.

    You say it wonderfully well, Stu.