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Put a Deadline on It

goals productivity Apr 27, 2023

Let’s examine the topic of deadlines in a bit more depth for a bit. I have lots more to say on this subject! I know it’s one that can fluster a lot of people and cause great anxiety. Let’s see what we can do to lessen some of that. For some people, even the idea of setting a time frame can send them into a paralysis of fear. It really is a simpler thing than it seems. Just use your best judgment to make a guess of the date of completion and benchmarks for your goal. This doesn’t have to be set in stone. You can adjust them accordingly or change them entirely, if need be. In fact, as I’ll talk about in our next chapter, regular assessment of your goals is actually a necessary part of doing it right. So you can actually expect to make some changes along the way as you monitor your progress. Try not to get caught up in thinking everything has to be ultra-precise. Specific is good. Rigid is a recipe for disaster.

I’d like to introduce you to a concept you may not be familiar with. It’s called Parkinson’s Law, and it states, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” That statement might sound a little vague, but it is actually a very insightful phrase that can help you in achieving your desires within a set time limit. The statement was made by a British author and historian named Cyril Northcote Parkinson in 1955. It was the opener in an article he wrote for the magazine, The Economist. He later expanded upon the principle to create his book, Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress.

Parkinson’s observations working in British bureaucracy led him to question the common belief that working harder is far superior to working more quickly. He realized that working smarter and more efficiently is truly the superior approach. In his theory, he discussed the fact that providing more time than necessary for a task leads one to become stressed about having to get it done. They fill the extra time with unnecessary worry or by making the task more complicated than it actually has to be. Instead, setting a more realistic time frame allows one to focus on the task at hand, completing it more easily.

There are lots of practical implications for Parkinson’s Law. You can explore them on your own by following a few of my suggestions. Then tweak the concept in a way that works for you. Remember, that’s really what this is all about. What I’m teaching you about creating a vision and setting lofty goals is merely a guideline. Feel free to make changes that fit your personality, learning preferences and lifestyle.

One approach you might want to try is to set a few timelines for steps along the path to your goal. Then cut those in half, giving yourself less time to complete the task. This is just an experiment, so there’s no need to stress. Give it a go and see if you’re able to comfortably make progress in less time than you originally projected. Our own human instinct toward competition is often enough to push us to complete such a challenge and to enjoy it in the process! See how it works for you.

Another challenge that might be a little more painful for some, but still useful, is to cut down on your time spent on things like checking email and catching up with social media. Lots of us start our day this way, checking in on these tasks from time to time through our workday. You probably know what a time suck this can be, right? So challenge yourself to cut your usual time spent on these activities in half. Then see what it does for your productivity.

These exercises are just a couple of examples of ways to play with setting deadlines and being productive. They can help you to get a grasp on just how much time certain tasks take and how much time you may be wasting on others. This knowledge will help you greatly when it comes to setting those deadlines, completion dates and benchmarks necessary for an effective action plan.

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