Have you heard of Parkinson’s law? It’s an adage that states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This basically translates to mean work you could potentially get done in 45 minutes when given the flexibility could also take you 2 hours.
If I start a draft blog post let’s say an hour before I have an appointment, I’m often much more likely to finish or almost finish that post before my appointment. However, if I have 2 hours or no real constraint that same post will most definitely take over an hour.
You could think of it as time budgets for tasks, but I’m using the term time limits because most people use the term time budgeting when blocking out their schedule. Much like a money budget, you have X amount to spend, and it’s broken down into these larger categories. Instead, Setting Time Limits focuses on the task and determining how much time you want to allow yourself to spend on that task.
Creating time limits for projects and routine tasks creates constraints that force us to be more focused, and use our time intentionally. By setting time limits, you are automatically giving yourself a perimeter in which to work in.
Perfectionism is often a fairly big roadblock for many entrepreneurs, especially women. If you have read, Playing Big by Tara Mohr she talks about why women tend to get caught up in perfectionism, and there are several factors. Part of it has to do with us striving to be overachievers in school and that translate to perfectionism approach to life. In school generally the more work you did, the better the outcome but in life that doesn’t really translate, but it’s hard for us to let that go.
I think time limiting is a great way to work towards training ourselves to finish projects and move forward without spending extra time on “perfecting” them.
Setting Time Limits is different than just setting a date deadline. With a deadline, you can potentially spend 5 hours or 20 hours (or more) on a project. But with time limiting you set yourself say 5 hours maximum to finish the project. Working against the clock helps prevent you from overthinking your project while working on it, and gives you a hard deadline to hit. We can actually leverage our good girl tendencies by giving ourselves that time limit because it’s part of the rules we set for the project.
Super Charge Your Focus
We have less time to overthink, analysis, overwork, and drive ourselves crazy over a project. We also are more likely to view the time that we sit down to work on the project as being valuable, requiring no interruptions, and needing to be super focused working hours. If you only have 5 hours to get this done or even say one hour, you view that time as more needed and valuable because it’s limited.
When I don’t have that hard constraint, I find that I’m more easily distracted into straying into other tasks. If I’m not working against the clock I’m more likely to talk myself into making an extra cup of tea, checking my email real quick and then, of course, that leads to responding to a few or going down the internet rabbit hole. But when I’m trying to “beat the clock” I’m able to stay much more focused.
Boost Your Time Management
Assigning time limits on tasks and projects automatically gives you a more realistic view of your availability. You know that you want to work on this project for 5 hours this week, and now you know you need to find 5 hours in your schedule to block off time to focus on that project. Or you realize that you don’t have those 5 hours so maybe the project deadline needs to be later than expected. Having the time limit also means you are less likely to allow yourself to borrow time from other scheduled activities for this project.
Trick Yourself Into Action
I hate unloading the dishwasher, not so much the work, but the idea of the work. Like ugh I know I should, but I don’t wanna feeling. So a trick I’ve developed is I will unload it while I’m making tea. Most of my tea takes 2-4 minutes to steep and crazily enough most of the time I can finish it in that time period. The fact that I know I only have to do it for that amount of time makes the task so much easier to tackle, and I move faster to get it done, without thinking about how much I hate doing it.
This is another advantage of time limits it can allow you to break past your own resistance (whether it’s fear, overthinking, or the very adult I just don’t wanna) to get that task done. It’s a wonderful trick of our brains when we feel timed we are more likely not to get sucked into thinking too much about it, we just do.
Now think about if you set time limits for some of your dreaded or neglected weekly business activities (not just projects), how would your day look? How do you think that might help the flow of your week?
So if you are always skipping routine task in your business you know you should do but don’t, you can set a time limit and tell yourself you must work on it for 30 minutes a week or a month but that’s all. You might be surprised with what you can accomplish.
I wouldn’t necessarily want my whole day to be time-limited, that might get a little stressful (I don’t want to feel I’m racing a clock the full day). BUT I do think setting time limits can be a very valuable tool to add to your productivity arsenal.
Give yourself grace with it. If you don’t meet your time budget, try again. Use it as a game to see if you can up your efficiency. For large projects, it might be hard to estimate accurately. But even if you are off, it will keep you aware, intentional, and accountable not to let yourself get dragged into a time project black hole.
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