Setting deadlines & and making them real
for any of you who have read the four hour workweek by tim Ferriss you're already familiar with the idea of Parkinson's law. For those of you who haven't, I strongly strongly recommend it and have linked it in the course, outline and supplemental materials. It's an essential handbook on productivity and efficiency and this course is heavily influenced by tim's teachings, combined with my own tricks and tips for implementing them. In any case Parkinson's law is the idea that work expands to fill the time allotted when we feel like we have all the time in the world, work drags on and on and expands. We decided to add more details to triple check unnecessarily and so on. In reality, our brains are really, really effective at synthesizing what is and isn't important, especially when we're in a rush or under pressure if you were ever that student that waited till the last day of the semester to write your term paper and accomplished weeks worth of work in an evening, then you've experienced...
Parkinson's law. In fact, many people are baffled to find that they do their best most productive work in spurts just like this. If this is true, then why not hack the psychological force behind Parkinson's law, why not set artificial deadlines for how long we will allow things to take after all. We've all had days where we hardly managed to finish a few hours of work by five PM while paradoxically we finish an entire day's worth of work when we know we have to leave early. In fact, many students have reported to me that when they became parents, they actually became much much more efficient at work because they suddenly had to give up working overtime on nights and weekends personally, I found that it's actually quite difficult to set artificial deadlines because deep down we know that they're fake and meaningless. See I read about Parkinson's law years and years ago in the four hour workweek and I completely failed to implement it until I discovered my own little hack making the deadlines real. In his book willpower doesn't work. My friend Benjamin hardy refers to something like this as a forcing function, forcing functions are a way of using external pressures to make yourself do what you want to do. The example Benjamin gives is of a pianist who has developed a powerful forcing function for writing albums in half the time. The day he decides to write the album, the pianist immediately books time at the very expensive recording studio for exactly three months in the future. Half the time it would take most artists to write an album. Then for good measure, he announces the album release date to his fans making the deadline for writing it very, very real. I use this hack all the time and I find that the pressure of being late and the unpleasantness of disappointing others is highly effective for me. I bet that throughout the day there are dozens of things that you simply can't push back, such as picking the kids up from school, a meeting with your boss and so on. So when those things happen and you have small blocks of time, you can pick a task that should take twice as long and try to sandwich it in. You can also do this on a much bigger scale with projects that should take weeks or months. Worst case your work quality isn't quite good enough and you have to revisit it. But even if that happens and it probably won't, the surge of productivity will be astonishing. And you can always apply a deadline to the revision work as well. I encourage you to experiment and play around with Parkinson's law and set some deadlines for work that tends to drag on and on or have no deadline and see how it goes. Instead of letting your email take as long as it takes. Set yourself a maximum of half an hour, you'll probably cut some corners. But those corners probably won't be all that important or even worth the time that they would take. In fact the majority of the details in reality aren't important in a lot of our tasks. But that's the subject of another lecture altogether