Why You Need "Untouchable" Days to Save Your Sanity

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A good portion of our work lives can be spent going from one meeting to another, to a couple hours of phone calls, to answering emails and spending all the time in between (if any) preparing for said meetings or extinguishing small fires. But this isn't sustainable for your career or for your sanity. This doesn't leave a lot of time for meaningful work or creative outputs, which means work hours stretch on and on into evenings and weekends, leaving you little time for rest and play. 

Neil Pasricha, author of The Happiness Equation came up with a solution: Untouchable Days. These are days he marks on his calendar to ensure the entire day can be spent on creative output. During these days he makes himself fully unreachable, creating an interruption-free day of creative flow. 

"As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, the scarcest resource for all of us is becoming attention and creative output," Pasricha writes in the Harvard Business Review. "And if you’re not taking time to put something new and beautiful out into the world, then your value is diminishing fast."

Measured by how much he is able to write, Pasricha says he is up to 10 times more productive on untouchable days versus days filled with meetings.

Here's how his untouchable days work: 

  • Look ahead in your calendar (Pasricha goes 16 weeks ahead!) and block out one day each week to mark as untouchable. 
  • Mark the day in all caps, ensuring it can "scream out at me."
  • Make yourself as unreachable as possible. "My cell phone is in Airplane Mode all day. My laptop has Wi-Fi completely disabled." If your meaningful work or creative output requires Internet access, turn off all our notifications and use an app like SelfControl to block out websites like Facebook and Gmail. 

Of course, there are no perfect untouchable days. Pasricha says he often turns his phone off airplane mode for a few minutes to call his parents or friends when he's hit a wall in his productivity. Or, he's made himself available to his wife during lunch hour in case of emergencies. Sometimes, he has to reschedule his untouchable day because of an opportunity that he can't pass up on, but he always ensures that he has one untouchable day a week, even if it has to get bumped to the weekends.