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Productivity / Time management tips

The law of forced efficiency

Have you ever noticed how if you have a day to do something, you’ll drag it out to fill the entire day? Yet if you only have one hour to do it, you’ll find a way to get it done? This phenomena is known as Parkinson's Law - the 'Law of Forced Efficiency.'

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The law of forced efficiency theory is there is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the important things.

Here’s how I force my efficiency:

1. I think about results, not time. Time doesn’t worry me for now.

2. I decide which results bring me maximum rewards financially, mentally or emotionally, i.e. which are most important.

3. I work on things before they become urgent. I set myself a virtual deadline, often a week or more before the real deadline (this depends on the task/project). I am disciplined to meet this virtual deadline.

4. This is where it gets interesting. With my eyes on the important result AND on my virtual deadline, I take a metaphorical sword, raise it above my head and boldly slice my day in half and then I schedule a social event to fill the other half of the day.

"I set myself a virtual deadline, often a week or more before the real deadline."

5. “Mark, what are you thinking? What have you just done?” I sense you’re asking. Well, now I have just half a day to get an important job done. Now the magic begins. Here’s what happens:

Want more articles like this? Check out the time management tips section.

  • I am forced to focus.
  • I am forced to make smart decisions – no time available for mis-use!
  • I eliminate procrastination. Believe me, with such a tight deadline you just don’t procrastinate. The word doesn’t even exist.
  • I find myself moving faster, I stand up and gather what I need, I grab a glass of water. No time for coffee!
  • I am forced to consider what I could re-use that already exists to achieve this result (no time to reinvent the wheel!)
  • I am forced to automate where I can and forced to delegate what I can.
  • I manage phone calls and interruptions and find it so much easier to say ‘no’.
  • I save myself the 80% of time that I used to spend tweaking and polishing up a finished product. How much of your time is spent adjusting things and trying to make things perfect that don’t ultimately add much more value?

Using this law of forced efficiency approach means that I finish my work and get out the door ready to enjoy my social and family life. This in turn gives me work/life balance and has me rested for the next day.

Something that occurred to me is if you have time to head down an ineffective path, then you probably will. More time often means lazy thinking. I prevent myself having time for this and I love the rewards it brings.

Does anyone have experience of working to the law of forced efficiency, or any other ideas to work smarter not harder?

P.S. Like most things there are exceptions to this approach! If you’re reading this and you’re a surgeon (flying solo?!), please quietly forget you read this and keep up the good work.

Mark Moore

is the Director of Excelerated Performance International. He helps people to close the skills and knowledge gaps that they face, much faster, and manage themselves more effectively in order to achieve their business goals.

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