👋 Hey Friends,
Welcome back to the 30-Day Productivity Challenge by the famous YouTuber, former doctor and now writer Ali Abdaal.
I have recently found myself in the dilemma that I started writing a longer blog post about quantum mechanics, but I couldn’t find any way to finish it. I have brought many subtopics into the mix. This caused me to feel anxious about not delivering a great product.
In today’s episode, we are going to go over a method on how to stop procrastinating on finishing a certain project.
It is a commonplace observation that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
This is the opening to the world-famous essay on how time and work interchange to create stress, and how the time we set for a task has direct reference to how we fill it. The essay was written by Northcote Parkinson, an active participant in the British bureaucracy. What he observed was a changing resolution, which was going to be known as Parkinson’s Law.
He showed that if one works on a task, let’s say one has to write an essay and one has to finish it by the next month, one tends to fill the whole period with the work.
In combination with the enemy of productivity, procrastination, one doesn’t see a reason to start working on the essay right when it is assigned. This leads to paradigms like cranking an all-nighter one night before the deadline.
After this incredible observation by Parkinson, researchers studied this phenomenon in the following years. It was found that there is a direct correlation between the efficiency of our work and the deadlines we have for it.
Let’s say we are given a deadline for an essay a month from now, but we are capable of writing it within a week. It follows that without giving ourselves a certain personal deadline, we will not work on the essay until time is running out. This follows the reason that work expands to fill the time viable for its completion.
💡What to take from Parkinson’s Law?
When we know that work expands to fill the time viable for its completion, there is a simple solution to make your work more efficient. From the graph seen above, we can see that we just need to decrease the amount of time we allocate to one task and increase the effort of it. In short, this means:
Set yourself a deadline for the thing you want to do.
By setting yourself a personal deadline, you create a sense of urgency for the task you keep on procrastinating.
Here are the best methods I use to implement this rule:
- 💶 Pay a friend if you don’t finish in time. My girlfriend and I challenge us to do what we want to be doing. If she fails to Journal one day, or I fail to write 1,000 words one day, the other receives 2 Euros. It’s not about the money, but about the feeling of necessity you create for your task.
- 🌐Announce your work publicly. Nearly two weeks ago, I committed myself to writing every day for 30 days, and I did so publicly. This creates an obligation in my head, which increases the chance that I do write.
- ⏱️Set timers. Think about how long you need for specific tasks, and then give yourself 25-50 % less time for it than you think you’ll need. This creates a need for high effort and increases your overall efficiency.
Last but not least Ali recommends that we do not see our deadlines as additional stress. Rather, think about them as a little game. Ali writes:
🕹 Try to beat personal best times for tasks you’ve done in the past.
🕹 Guess how long a new task will take and try to complete it in that time.
🕹 Reward yourself with a fun activity when you crush a deadline before expected.
Use Parkinson’s Law in your life, and you’ll be surprised how fast and efficiently you can finish certain tasks!
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