The productivity proverb Parkinson’s Law dictates that work expands to fill the time available for completion. If you are given a week to complete a short two hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more unnerving. I experienced this phenomenon myself, and I see it frequently with real estate agents. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there is more work added to the task, but rather the addition of stress and tension about having to get it done. By limiting the amount of time to complete a task or assigning specific deadlines, we get back more of the most precious resource we have: time. Taking this approach also reduces the task’s complexity, associated stress, and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Here are some personal tips I’ve learned over the years to address Parkinson’s Law.
Make a daily list of your tasks
I like to use a legal pad in part, because it can run away from me like an electronic task manager. Each day I identify the top three to five tasks that must get accomplished (no excuses). I also use this paper method to list my daily appointments, take notes from phone calls, and to document anything that prevented me from accomplishing my task (more on that later). Below is an example.
Give yourself deadlines
When starting out, give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete a given task, but don’t go overboard. As you develop the habit of implementing time constraints with your task, the next step is to start drawing down on the allotted time for each task to increase your efficiency. Using the countdown timer on your smart-phone’s clock app can really help you with this.
Document barriers to completing task
Tracking distractions and barriers gives you insight into the activities, or lack thereof, that rob you of time. Documenting these daily will help reveal patterns that need corrective action to help you stay on task. One of the biggest distractions I’ve found is checking email, voice mail, text messages, facebook, twitter, etc while in the middle of a task. Each week review the barriers that you documented, so you will be aware of the time robbing bugs you need to squash.
Ultimately, your goal is to gain more of your time back by becoming more efficient, but be conscious of the fine line between ‘bare minimum’ and ‘not enough time’ – what you’re aiming for is efficiency and less stress, not a disaster that’s going to cost you transactions or clients.