A Time Management Article by Harold Taylor

There are several laws that collectively provide effective guidelines for those who wish to maximize their use of time. Here are a few of the more important ones; along with brief explanations of how they can impact the way you manage time.

Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

This law explains why deadlines make us more effective. For example, if you have all morning to complete a task, it usually takes all morning. But if you allocate two hours to the task, you will probably be able to complete it within that time frame. All tasks should have realistic deadlines. The deadline becomes a goal to work towards. If the deadline is unrealistic, it will put you under needless stress. You make it realistic by estimating the time you will need and allowing additional time – about 10% or more – for unavoidable interruptions. But it is essential that you schedule a specific amount of time in your planner to get the task done. Working from a “to Do” list allows Parkinson’s Law to take place.

Pareto Principle: “The significant items in a group normally constitute a relatively small portion of the total items in the group.” This is frequently referred to as the 80/20 Rule, because generally about 80 percent of your results are achieved from 20 percent of the things you do, and about 80% of your sales are from 20% of your products or services, and so on. These percentages do vary. It is critical to pinpoint those few significant items within the group and capitalize on this knowledge. This could involve completing them at all costs, even if it means leaving the less important tasks undone or promoting or deleting certain products. A full discussion and examples of the application of this rule are included in my e-Book, Accomplish More by Doing Less, published by Bookboon.

Law of Diminishing Returns: The amount of time required to approach perfection increases exponentially the nearer the job is to completion. Therefore, it seldom pays to delay decision-making until you get all the facts or spend an inappropriate amount of time working on a task. The extra value received by doing a near perfect job rarely justifies the cost of the additional time spent. Always let the amount of time spent on a task be proportionate to the importance of the task. In other words, do not be a perfectionist.

Law of Comparative Advantage: “You should assign, delegate, or outsource any job, task or activity that can be done at a wage or cost less than you currently earn or desire to earn.” This is another way of saying that you should not spend $50 per hour labor on

$10 per hour jobs. Put a value on your time, whether at work or away from work. Try not to get involved in tasks or activities that yield less return than this value. Delegation, for instance, will free up time to work on tasks that can yield greater returns. This is covered in my e-Book, The Process of Delegation, published by Bookboon.

Pleasure Principle: “A psychoanalytic concept suggesting that an organism avoids pain and seeks immediate gratification.” This explains why we tend to procrastinate on distasteful or overwhelming tasks and work instead on those brief and pleasant tasks, even though they may be less important. When we procrastinate, we are frequently putting off what we want most to receive what we want now.

Law of Excluded Alternative: “Doing one thing means not doing something else.” This seems obvious, but it means we have a limited amount of time, and spending time on one thing means that there is something else that we will be unable to do. It is a life of choices. A corollary to this law is that saying yes to a request is the same as saying no to something else, perhaps something that we would rather do. Have clearly written personal and organizational goals so that you will be able to make wise choices.

Law of Forced Efficiency: “There is always enough time to do the most important things.” If something is important enough to you, you will always be able to find time to do it. This would indicate that certain things do not get done because of a lack of motivation to do them. This is close to the choice theory, i.e., what gets chosen, gets done. This law denies the validity of the argument that we did not have time to do something. There is time to do anything; we just cannot do everything. If your building is on fire, being too busy is no excuse for not making a hasty exit.

Taking these “laws” seriously can improve your time management skills.

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