Focus Your Time

Have you ever had a time where there was a self-made task, assignment, or project you wanted to accomplish? Maybe this is a once-in-a-month-thing or an everyday-thing, but the point is you’re sitting there envisioning what it feels like to have this thing accomplished and what kind of magical results it will bring to your life. You love this high feeling that you get from thinking about it, and it makes you smile and feel comfortable inside, so you go onto working or doing something else.

Then reality hits. A week has passed by, and the project and you haven’t even touched the assignment you’ve given to yourself for. Another week passes by, but it’s still there on your calendar!

“Don’t worry,” you say to yourself, “I still have a lot of time left.” Getting into this “feel-good” and “do-it-later” type syndrome, is productivity’s worst nightmare, especially when all the tasks and assignments you have given to yourself somehow links to an ultimate goal that you have in mind.

According to the 80-20 rule, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the world of productivity, this can be also seen as 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions. However, by 20%, it means we are giving it our all, whether this means total focus and concentration, during the most critical times.

For example, if you had an essay that was due in exactly one week, you might wait until the last 2 days to get started on it. The reason you might wait until the last days is because at that time, you will feel an urgent need to finish the paper. The real work begins from the time you start until the time you finish, which could really only be 8 hours of real work compared to a 168 totals hours in 1 week. Even though one week seems like a short time to finish a paper (usually college papers have due dates for 2 weeks, a month, or a quarter), it’s really more than enough time than you need.

If the paper was due in 2 days rather than one week, you would get started now. The time you would take to finish the paper would be the same (around 8 hours), except that you started earlier.

The point is, if you want to get things done faster, then cut the time in half. If anything, take off at least 25% of your time.

It’s human nature to feel like procrastinating. We procrastinate when we feel that “urgent need” to do something. If we’re going to procrastinate, why not do it more efficiently? Procrastinate, but shorten the time given to us. That way, if we are going to procrastinate, at least we’ll finish the assignment sooner, rather than if we comfortable finished an assignment that took double the amount of time given to yourself.

I think much of why we give ourselves long deadlines is that we want to ensure that it is enough time to finish. What I think we really mean is that we give us enough time to make us feel comfortable. We might look at our deadlines and say to ourselves, “Oh, there is still a lot of time when that is due. I’ll work on something else now”. And lo and behold, a week later, we start to jittery about if we can finish the task that we assigned to us, when all this time that we have “working” on something else,  could have been used on the task that matters to us.

When we lessen our time, we see that time is coming up. “Shoot,” you say, “I should get started on this…” Because we see the deadline coming up soon, we know it’s to get our act together. A sense of urgency triggers a signal in our brains that warns our body to get moving, or something bad might happen to us.

Nothing bad really happens though; it’s just a natural emotion of fear that gets us moving which can actually be a great motivator if we use it right. And the worse that happens is that you don’t finish on time, but you have at least gotten something done which is better than getting nothing done if you were to take the other route.

In conclusion, if you have an important assignment that you want to get done in a certain amount of time, write the time you think you can complete the task in. Then, cut the time in half or take at least 25% off of it. That’s not a lot of time; it just feels like that because we’re scared that when we have less time, we can’t finish. That’s not true! We are more than capable of getting more done with less time on our hands.