How To: Do Anything Faster

(How to be more efficient and properlly manage the time it takes for your daily tasks.)


~The countdown has been set to 25 minutes for writing this post~

This morning I conducted an experiment to see if I could write, edit, and post this blog in under 60 minutes. I was testing something called Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion”.

Parkinson’s Law – Work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion

Typically the way I write blog posts is get an idea, put it in the notes section of my iPhone, and then sit on it until I have the proper time to focus and put it on paper. I can write one of these posts in 20-30 mintues but then it would take 2 hours of editing to get it to a proper place that I would happy with the result. I would make edits in tone, meter, diction, etc.  And then I would also spend time trying to choose the proper tags, finding the appropriate photo, and then getting the color reproduction correct. As you can tell by looking at my website I’m very critical about how things come across and look visually (if you can see it on my site, I’ve agonized over it). Therefore if you see a grammatical error or typo in my writing, it’s only because I have become so immersed in the editing process that I’ve become blind to it — I can no longer objectively see my work (Reason #1334: why you need an editor).

So if I spend a large amount of time editing to this perfectionist level, I could theoretically go on forever nitpicking things. At Pixar they have a saying that (I’m paraphrasing) “Pixar movies don’t get finished, they get released.” That means by imposing these deadlines on themselves, they don’t go crazy trying to create the absolute perfect product. It’s fine to want to get close to perfect, but at some point it’s going to take too much time/effort to get these tiny incremental gains. So I learned, and was verified by my new favorite book The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, that I have to set self-imposed time deadlines. Not only could I edit forever but at some point I would become too invested in my own product so I could only see the forest and not the trees.

~17:46 left on the clock~

One of the ways that book has helped me is with the mandatory usage of an egg timer on my computer desktop. As I mentioned, right now as I type there’s a timer counting down that will tell me when I have to stop. Instead of writing until I finish, I’m putting pressure on myself and making a deadline, something I am used to from being a paramedic.

Going back to Parkinson’s Law, let’s apply it to your job. Let’s assume you work a 9-5 job (or any job that takes 9 hours). There is no way that it takes every single job in the world exactly 9 hours to do every day. It’s not going to take a computer programmer the exact same amount of time it’s going to take a garbage man to do his job. The reason your company makes you work for 9 hours every day is because it makes it seem fair to everyone else (you didn’t think they cared about you did you). There’s a good chance you could probably finish all of your work in 4 hours if you did it efficiently. And here is where Parkinson’s Law comes in, by working for 9 hours a day you will add in all these other tasks and time wasters like Facebook or lingering at the water cooler to expand and fit this 9-hour window.

~14:22 left on the clock~

The reason I wanted to do this experiment was to shatter the idea that it takes me 2-3 hours to write these posts for you guys. This one will take me only an hour to write, edit, and post by the time you read this. And now I have an extra 1-2 hours to read a book, exercise, or go out and do some photography.

So what if you can apply Parkinson’s Law and the egg timer method to all of your life? I have an overweight friend that mentioned he goes to the gym two hours a night but still can’t seem to lose weight. My reactions were “wow, that’s incredibly inefficient” and “if it takes that much of a time commitment, there’s less of a chance you’re going to go and therefore see results”. So take all the things you do that require a perceived set amount of time and start timing yourself to see how long it really takes — shatter those preconceived notions.

So the way you can do anything faster is to just by limiting the window of time you give yourself to do it. This is going to force you to be faster and more efficient. Of course you don’t want to go too fast that you compromise your product, but the only way you’re going to know what is “too fast” is by experimentation. By turning off the wifi on my mac, putting my phone in “airplane mode”, and limiting this post to 25 minutes I have forced myself to produce a quality product without distractions. You can do anything faster by focusing on efficiency. Now that I know I can bang one of these out in 60 minutes instead of 180 minutes I have now created that much more time in my day for other things. The simple solution on how to do anything faster is to just set a timer — tighter deadlines force you to become more efficient and can make you do anything faster.

~3:31 seconds left on the clock~

[Photo: The photography dark room timer at the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, Connecticut.]


2 responses to “How To: Do Anything Faster

  1. [EDITORS NOTE: The finished product of this post took 90 minutes. 25 minutes to write it and actually 65 minutes of editing/formatting. But now that I know that I can create these posts in 90 minutes, I know I have an extra 60-90 minutes in the day to do other things.]

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