Now, we are all haunted by constant deadlines, whether you are at school, university or living for the weekend in a 9-5, we all know the intense pressure that comes from looming deadlines. It seems that no matter how organised you are it always ends up in a last minute rush. Even those who complete a piece of work early always have that nagging thought in the back of their mind that often leads to some last minute editing.
Why does this happen? Enter Parkinson's Law. This states that "work expands to fill the time available for it's completion". This law works on both a literal level, in that you will not finish the piece of work until near the deadline, as well as on a psychological level where you will be stressed by the work until the deadline has passed.
Now whilst having a name for something is interesting and can help in the pub quiz it doesn't necessarily tell us anything. So how can we use the knowledge of Parkinson's Law to boost our productivity? How can we get tasks done quicker and suffer less stress in the process?
The answer is in the placebo effect. As it turns out our brains are pretty poor at working out the real from the imagined, read some of Ben Goldacre's stuff on the placebo effect in medicine for more on this. In much the same way as we could administer a placebo drug we can set a placebo deadline. Say you have an essay to be submitted in a months time, tell yourself that you have to have it finished in 2 weeks. Whilst you know this is a false deadline you will be surprised at how motivated you are to meet it.
If you feel you need more tricks in place to meet your placebo deadline then use rewards, punishments and external influences to make it real. You could treat yourself to a nice meal out if you complete it in time or you could use a punishment such as a financial implication. There are programs you can set up where you automatically give a charity donation every day over your deadline until you complete the work. My favourite is to use an external influence, tell a friend or someone from the office that you will get the work to them to be proof read by the placebo deadline. All of these elements will motivate you to hit that new target.
Hopefully this brief description has given you some ideas to boost your productivity. Don't be a slave to pieces of work, tighten your deadlines and your productivity will increase.
If you have any tips or tricks for boosting your productivity or creativity then please share in the comments section or via twitter. It's an area that I am increasingly interested in and shall be writing more about. In the meantime check out the Tim Ferriss Show podcast as he covers a lot of great material on this area.