“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
The proverb above was coined by twentieth-century British scholar C. Northcote Parkinson, and is known as Parkinson’s Law.
We can all relate to this. If we give ourselves an hour to complete a task, we’ll often take an hour to complete it, even if, technically, it should only take fifteen minutes.
This is odd, when you think about it, because finishing a project ahead of its deadline is highly desirable. It delights whoever the project is for and provides you with more time to divert to other things.
So, what gives?
Why do we often leave things until the last minute?
This is actually a basic human trait (or failing, whichever way you look at it).
You can probably trace your own experience of this to the time you spent at school. How many times back then did you leave your maths homework until the very last minute?
We do it at home, too. You know that the garage door desperately needs repainting but, try as you might, you just can’t bring yourself to do it, until it starts to rust – at which point the damage is significant.
We leave things until the last minute because it usually appears easier to do so.
The reality? Undertaking dreaded tasks is actually far easier once you get started.
But, what is at the root of this phenomenon?
Procrastination: a productivity killer
That’s right – procrastination is the thing holding you back from completing projects ahead of their deadlines.
Social media, WhatsApp groups and YouTube are just some examples of extracurricular activities that can easily creep into your day and stop you from getting started on important tasks.
We’ve got four great tips for cutting off procrastination at source. In turn, they’ll help you complete projects well ahead of time and leave you with far more hours in the day that can be assigned to other important tasks.
Tips for getting projects finished on time
Tip 1: Start early
You don’t have to get up at 6am to be productive (unless that works for you), but the earlier you start the more likely you are to finish ahead of time.
Find out what your optimal start time is each day and make it a consistent one. The human body and mind like consistency, so don’t trick them by continually modifying the time you get started.
Tip 2: Plan ahead
You simply can’t finish projects ahead of time if you don’t plan ahead.
If you know what’s on the horizon, you’ll be able to plan your working days around the individual tasks required to complete larger goals.
So, grab your to-do list and diary and start planning ahead. Even if that involves putting things in your diary you’ve been putting off for months – now is the time to finally tackle them.
Tip 3: Don’t rely on email
Email still has its place, but if you rely on it to be productive, you’ll almost definitely leave things until the last minute – or forget them entirely.
Your inbox can quickly become a swamp of unread and read messages, so avoid using it to manage the things you need to do. Instead, use project management tools like Trello, Asana or Wrike.
Check out this guide to Kanban, which relates directly to the tools just mentioned.
Tip 4: Don’t underestimate the time required
Planning fallacy was first noted by a chap called Daniel Kahneman and refers to our innate inability to properly estimate the time required.
You can learn more about planning fallacy here, but the premise is simple: never underestimate the time it’ll take to do something – always allow for more time.
We hope our tips help you get more projects completed ahead of time but remember – this is down to you and you only. You’ll need to want this in order for these techniques to work successfully.