How to get more work done in less time
“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.” – Roald Dahl
Many of us say to ourselves, “If we had more time, we’d get a lot more done.” But more time isn’t necessarily the answer, because for many people, when they have additional free time, they still get the same amount of work done. This is because of ‘Parkinson’s Law’, which means that your work expands to fill the amount of time you give it. So if you allocate an hour to deal with that advice letter, that query or writing that report, it will take you an hour – even though it would’ve really only taken half an hour. Since you allocated an hour, you unconsciously completed the task at a slower pace to fill the time.
So what’s the answer? Allocate half an hour instead.
Surprise yourself with how much you get done
A great business strategy for optimising time management in the office and engineer better productivity is to spend less time on projects rather than allocating more. You are thereby making a conscious decision about how much time you actually need, and how you will spend it. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to use a productivity timer, stopping when the timer goes off.
The results are often surprising. You’ll find that by using a timer and limiting the time you allocate to what you realistically need and no longer, you are motivated to concentrate on the task and focus your energy. For example, if you allocate two hours for writing up a report, it will take you two hours. If you allocate 45 minutes, you might feel like you’re rushing, but you’ll be surprised by your increased level of concentration while you work.
I’m doing it right now, as I write this article. I’ve set myself a time – half an hour – to write this article, unlike the previous one, which I allocated over an hour to write. Already I’m finding that I’m writing quicker and writing more, as I race against the clock.
So the next time you have an important task you need to get done, or a sequence of important tasks, set a finite – and limited – amount of time to get each of them done. Use a timer, and when the timer goes off, stop. Move onto the next task. You’ll suddenly realise that your work day and your workload look much less intimidating. Bloated work time is wasted time. Even if you run out of time and don’t finish a couple of the tasks, you’ll probably find you’ve freed up a load of time later on in your day to tie up any lose ends.
How a timer improves productivity
Using timers can improve productivity in the following ways:
- You get jobs done quicker – racing against a countdown clock can drive your attention and concentration and speed up your working. It might feel like rushing, but haste doesn’t necessarily make waste.
- You are better motivated – sometimes sitting down and getting to work on a task requires a motivation boost before you actually get going. But starting a timer forces that boost, and cuts out any dilly-dallying.
- Shorter meetings – the same process can be used for meetings. Set a timer on your watch and make sure you end the meeting on time. You’ll find that meetings are shorter and more productive.
- Put a timer on your emails – slogging through your inbox when you arrive at the office can be an immense ‘time-suck’. So use a timer and set a finite time to go through your inbox and check your emails. Then stop and get back to your priorities.
“The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot.” – Michael Althsuler
Time does fly, but not having enough time is a myth. You have the same amount of time as everyone else. The importance is in choosing what you do with it, and how you spend it. So limit your time, use a timer, stick to the times you set out – and watch your productivity increase.