Have you ever decided to refresh your resume, only to see what should be a 30-minute job take weeks? Believe it or not, this has little to do with the nature of the challenge itself, but more your outlook and the amount of time that you allow for completion.
In this post, we will talk about the importance of mind-set and how you can become more productive when completing non time-sensitive tasks.
Parkinson’s Law: work expands when your give it too much time
The key to improving your productivity and avoiding procrastination is to understand Parkinson’s Law, which is an old adage which declares that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’. It is a psychological principle that has inspired numerous studies and pieces of literature, and one that underlines the potential dangers of setting arbitrary time-frames that have little or no bearing on the task in hand.
In practical terms (and expanding our previous example), this means that you may allow yourself a week to complete the task of editing your resume. This is despite the fact that the majority of the required information is already included in the document, while tasks such as refreshing dates and proof-reading should not be particularly consuming.
Of course, you may set the arbitrary deadline of a week in order to alleviate any pressure that you are feeling, or simply because you need to submit a job application at this time. Affording yourself this unnecessary amount of time is actually counter-productive from a psychological perspective, however, as this increases the perceived complexity of the task and makes it seem more daunting. As the work expands to fill the time allotted, the task becomes harder to complete and in some instances this may even have a detrimental impact on the quality of your input.
Set time box for your every task
The main principle of this law is that the work expands to fill the allotted time, so the establishment of time limits and deadlines is the most effective. This is a process that must starts before tasks are started, as you analyse the requirements of each one and determine a reasonable (but time-frame for completion. As prominent life coach Karen Strunks says, you need to be proactive and determine precisely how long individuals tasks are going, as “if you allow yourself two hours for a task, it will take two hours”.
This is an important mantra to remember, and in practical terms it should encourage you to establish clearly defined time boxes for every task that you have to do each day. This will help you to instantly accomplish more within a shorter space of time, making your more organised and productive as a result. If you find that some projects are too large to complete within the predetermined time-frame, you should compartmentalise these into smaller tasks that are allotted their own time box.
When it comes to time-management, we have a tendency to allow more time than in necessary to complete relatively simply tasks. There are numerous potential reasons for this, but Parkinson’s Law suggests that this causes the work to expand and fill the allotted time, becoming more complicated and unmanageable as a result.
Understanding this is the first step to becoming more productive, however, as from here you can be more tenacious when setting time boxes for specific tasks and allow yourself to accomplish more within a short space of time. With this in mind, who knows what more you can achieve in your everyday life simply by adhering to a simple, but often overlooked, psychological principle.
|Bootbcamp Media: Interview with experienced life coach- Karen Strunks
|Medium: The Secret to Getting More Done in Less Time