Advertising

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

Advertising
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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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”.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

The One Strategy to Achieve Your Goals With Minimal Effort 6 Ways To Wake Up Early Without Feeling Tired 10 Reasons A Long-Distance Relationship Will Work 12 iPhone 6 Tricks You Probably Don’t Know But Should We Are Often Confused Empathy With Sympathy but What’s The Difference Actually?

Trending in Productivity

1 How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data) 2 10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021 3 13 Steps to Build a Positive Habit Stacking Routine 4 How to Build New Habits With An Accountability Partner 5 How to Find the Best Keystone Habits to Change Your Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

Advertising
How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

Advertising

Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

Advertising

Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

Advertising

3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

Advertising

The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next