I don’t remember much of what my physics professor talked about, but this one stuck with me. Performance = Work / Time. So if you’re doing the same amount of work in less time, according to physics, your performance goes up.
The search engines reveal that in bureaucracy there’s even a name for that: Parkinson’s law means that
“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
Why not put that to the test? Since mid of the year I’m working part-time and here’s what I learned.
Less time = greater focus.
That’s the first bit I noticed. Having 6 hours in a day instead to 7.5 (or more) to do the same amount of work leaves no room for distraction. No checking emails all the time, no browsing the internet because a random thought popped up in my head. All the networking, tweeting and quickly responding to whatever pings makes you do shallow work, says Cal Newport in “Deep Work”.
With less time available, I have to be very deliberate about planning my day and minimise distractions intentionally. All phones on silence and out of sight (not just turned around, but still on the desk), closing the email inbox, blocking this time in my calendar so others can see I’m busy, setting the messenger to “do not disturb” – many things you can do to protect yourself from the environment.
And what’s with the random thoughts that pop up? Practising meditation is great to learn how to “note” a thought and then letting it go.
Another method I use to manage my mind for focus is to prime my head when sitting down to do a specific task. I try to get extremely curious about this one thing, how it could be done, what I might discover and learn, so during that moment of time even writing the monthly report becomes the most important thing in my life.
Less time = no perfectionism.
It’s not about delivering low quality work, but any perfectionist out there will agree that all too often we do a lot but don’t deliver anything. Because there’s always more to tweak, to add, to change. This kind of thinking can fill up hours of my time and is often based entirely on assumptions about what is needed. So with less time available I now have to go with
“Done is better than perfect.”
much more often.
Everyone with a background in Agile knows how to do this well: Create a solid base of work, send it out, get feedback or test it, make it better.
The same applies to my ambition. When I am enthusiastic about new ideas or projects, they tend to blow up in terms of what can be done. With less time available, I have to dial back at least 20%, cutting all the fluff and focus on what’s truly important and relevant.
Less time = less yes.
We’re busy with what we say yes to. And because being busy is not the same as being productive, I had to learn to keep my “interest ADD” and “of course I’ll help” in check.
Getting clear on the goal is the first step. These are personal goals (What do I want to get really good at? What do I want to achieve?) and business goals (What is needed to make the project a success? What would really add value to the company?). Then, as much as it hurts, stop everything that doesn’t pay into these.
Often my mind then goes “but what about…?” All those “Wouldn’t it be cool, if…” ideas get dedicated space on a parking lot of sorts. Out of my head, onto the paper they wait their turn patiently.
Saying No to others
Saying no to myself requires discipline. Saying no to others requires dealing wit uncomfortable feelings on top of that. I used think that not having the time or it not being my priority aren’t good enough reasons to say no, refuse to support or redirect others elsewhere.
If you, too, are struggling to find a good reason to say no more often, Michael Hyatt offers you five:
If I don’t say no,
- Other peoples’ priorities will take precedence over ours.
- Mere acquaintances—people we barely know!—will crowd out time with family and close friends.
- We will not have the time we need for rest and recovery.
- We will end up frustrated and stressed.
- We won’t be able to say yes to the really important things.
Good enough for me! And think about the impact saying no more often (but kindly) will have on your relationships. The people you are saying yes to will know that you’re truly committed and not drop the ball. The ones you’re saying no to will appreciate the honesty and be on their way find help elsewhere instead of waiting … and waiting … for you to deliver what you promised. Or to quote Vironika Tugaleva:
‘Sometimes No is the kindest word.’