Ever feel like there is not enough time in the day? Do you find that some the basics are not getting done? Are you feeling stressed and anxious because of this?
I have a way of helping this, if you are prepared to be brave.
It will stop tasks becoming unmanageable and you will crush deadlines like a boss.
As a result you will be successful, learn about what you are capable of and achieve more as a result.
12 Months Is OK, Right?
I led a project to create a succession planning guide.
The business I worked for already has a succession plan strategy in place via the usual HR team
My attempt was to craft something bespoke for the Dept I worked in.
In hindsight I should have just lifted what already existed and tweaked it for our own purposes.
What I did was create something from scratch.
I felt I could get mine finished within six months.
After three months I had not made a start, other than having a few conversations to spark ideas.
The deadline came and went and for many different reasons it was still not complete after 12 months!
I look back and cringe. Why was I so inefficient? It should have taken half the time at most.
I’ll tell you why. I was not aggressive enough with my deadlines.
Allow me to explain.
Let’s say I ask you to complete a task and the time you need to spend is roughly seven hours work. I tell your deadline is this time next month.
You do some initial work and continue to add bits to it. Over the course of the month you complete the task. Checking back on the time spent you ended up working 16 hours, some 8 hours more than required.
Why would anyone create double the work for themselves?
It is Parkinson’s Law coming into effect.
Welcome To Parkinson’s Law
The definition of this law states ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’
In other words, if you have a lot of time you are more likely to create a lot of work which may not be necessary.
Take the earlier example. If I give you a new deadline of six months, rather than one, imagine all the extra work you would create!
You also see this when people work crazy long hours.
They believe working longer and harder is better than working smarter. In reality they are often in work creation mode to justify the extra hours.
So, why do we end up working longer than necessary and causing more work for ourself?
Well, we are bad at guessing.
Studies show that we are poor estimators of time.
No doubt you will have examples where you thought something would take a few hours and it took 30 minutes.
You also have examples that should have taken 30 minutes but has taken several hours to complete.
If we are poor at estimating time what can we do about Parkinson’s Law?
Create New Laws
You can reshape how you work and in doing so you will crush deadlines like a boss.
It is 4.32pm and you have 28 minutes to submit a proposal to your boss.
You have had all week to do it but you have flat-out with other tasks. You have left it to the last-minute again.
You hit send just before 5 pm and your boss catches you on the way out ‘Hey, I’ve just glanced at the proposal. It looks great.’
Rather then spend all week working on it you have created a solid piece of work in under half an hour.
When tight deadlines are set we get the job done.
You can apply this to any time of the week and achieve similar results.
Try the following:
- Take one item on your ‘To Do’ list
- Estimate the time it will take to complete. Done? Good.
- Now cut the time in half.
This is your new deadline. Be brutal with your approach and work flat-out to achieve the time.
Do this with all the other tasks and aim for a 50% reduction in time spent every single time.
You may not hit the mark with every single task but I promise you will succeed far more than you fail.
In doing so you will achieve far more and remove the obstacle of time from your daily thoughts.
You know what I’m talking about here.
Switch off your phone, shut down your e-mail and leave the internet alone.
If you can’t do this then turn the phone on to silent. Put it in a draw or somewhere that is not in view. Turn off instant notifications and don’t have your browser open.
Immerse yourself in the moment and what you are working on.
This will help you achieve brutal deadlines. It will also make the most of the Pomodoro Technique – see below.
Set Stretch Goals
We can achieve far more than we believe.
Think about the time you smashed a sales target or scored a personal best at work.
Chances are this down to setting a stretch goal. Something outside of the norm but still achievable by pushing yourself on a daily basis.
You can take the same approach in how you approach time.
The great thing about stretch goals you are still likely to achieve more than if you just set out to achieve your regular target.
Use it to enhance your focus on deadlines, getting stuff done and also rewarding your hard work.
Don’t Bring Work Home – Ever!
We have all done it. Bringing work home serves to increase stress and disrupt sleep. If the latter happens then check this post out for help.
Working harder and longer is a badge of honor for some. They enjoy telling people how late they stayed up. Working long hours does not equal better performance.
The more productive people have a better balance and enjoy life out of work. An enriched working and personal life means you attack the working day and minimise the risk of burn out.
Don’t bring work home – Ever
Be Accountable To Someone Else
If you want to change how you approach time don’t keep it a secret.
Tell someone what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Share with them what you are working on and the time limit you have set yourself.
They will check in on you, support you and keep you honest.
They may even become curious and adapt how they work.
Crush Deadlines Like A Boss
Following the above hints and tips is not about reducing the quality of your work, this has to stay the same.
What it is about is challenging your use of time. It is about pushing yourself to achieve more than you believed possible. It is about improving your well-being.
Trial the approach for a week, review what went well and then refine it.
I would love to hear from anyone that has tried these out or wants to share their own approach to crushing deadlines.
In no time at all you will be in control of your time, producing great work and feeling fabulous.