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If You Want To Be More Productive, You Need To Stop Work From Expanding

If You Want To Be More Productive, You Need To Stop Work From Expanding

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.

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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.

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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,[1] 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”.

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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.[2] 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.

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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.

Reference

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

How often do you find yourself procrastinating? Do you wish you could procrastinate less? We all know how debilitating procrastination can make us feel, and it seems to be a challenge we all share. Procrastination is one of the biggest hindrances to moving forward and doing the things that we want to in life.

There are many reasons why you might be procrastinating, and sometimes, it is really difficult to pinpoint why. You might be procrastinating because of something related to the past, present, or future (they are all intertwined), or it could be as simple as biological factors. Whatever the reason, most of us follow a cycle when we procrastinate, from the moment we decide to do something to actually getting it done, or in this case, not getting it done.

The Vicious Procrastination Cycle

For some reason, it helps to understand that we all go through the same thing, even though we often feel like the only person in the world who struggles with this. Do you resonate with the cycle below?

1. Feeling Eager and Energized

This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it!

2. Apprehension Starts to Come Up

The beginning stages of optimism are starting to fade. There is still time, but you haven’t done anything yet, and you start to feel uneasy. You realize that you actually have to do something to get it done, and that good intentions are not enough.

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3. Still No Action

More time has passed. You still haven’t taken any action and probably have a lot of excuses why. You start to panic a little and wish you had started sooner. Your panic starts to turn into frustration and perhaps even irritability.

4. Flicker of Hope Left

You can still make it; there is a little time left and you ponder how you are going to get it done. The rush you get from leaving your task until the last minute gives you a flicker of hope. There is still time; you can do this!

5. Fading Quickly

Your hope starts to quickly fade as you try desperately to understand why you just can’t do this. You may feel desperate and have thoughts like, “What is wrong with me?” and “Why do I ALWAYS do this?” You feel discouraged, or perhaps angry and resentful at yourself.

6. Vow to Yourself

Once the feeling of anger or disappointment disappears, you most likely swear to yourself that this will never happen again; that this was the last time and next time will be different.

Does this sound like you? Is the next time different? I understand the devastating effect that procrastination has on many lives, and for some, it is a really serious problem. You also have, on the other hand, those who procrastinate but it doesn’t affect them in any way. You know whether it is affecting you or not and whether it undermines your results.

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How to Break the Procrastination Cycle

Unless you break the cycle, you will keep reinforcing it!

To break the cycle, you need to change the sequence of events. Here is my suggestion on how you can effectively break the vicious cycle you are in!

1. Feeling Eager and Energized

This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it! The first stage is always the same.

2. Plan

Thinking alone will not help; you need to plan your actions. I always put my deadlines one or two days in advance because you know Murphy’s Law! Take into consideration everything that you need to do, how long it will take you, and what you will need to get it done, then plan the individual steps.

3. Resistance

Just because you planned doesn’t mean that this time is guaranteed to be different. You will most likely still feel the resistance so expect this. This stage is key to identifying why you are procrastinating, so when you feel the resistance, try to identify it immediately.

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What is causing you to hesitate in this moment? What do you feel?  Write them down if it helps.

4. Confront Those Feelings

Once you have identified what could possibly be holding you back, for example, fear of failure, lack of motivation, etc. You need to work on lessening the resistance.

Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move forward? What would make it easier?” If you find that you fear something, overcoming that fear is not something that will happen overnight — keep this in mind.

5. Put Results Before Comfort

You need to keep moving forward and put results before comfort. Take action, even if it is only for 10 minutes. The key is to break the cycle and not reinforce it. You have more control that you think.

6. Repeat

Repeat steps 3-5 until you achieve what you first set out to do.

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Final Thoughts

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and if you have some deeper underlying reasons why you procrastinate, it may take longer to finally break the cycle.

If procrastination is holding you back in life, it is better to deal with it now than to deal with the negative consequences later on. It is not a question of comfort anymore; it is a question of results. What is more important to you?

Learn more about how to stop procrastinating here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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