Can you work less but get more done?

Parkinson’s Law is a popular productivity theory which states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

This means that if you work intensely for a shorter period of time, you actually achieve more than if you work on the same task for a number of days and allow yourself to get distracted.

Sound familiar?

We all feel busy at college or work, but for some reason, if something urgent crops up, we usually manage to find the time to do that too.

This suggests that Parkinson’s theory is correct – expending more energy over a shorter period of time prevents the work from expanding to fill the amount of time you have available for it and you’ll get more projects finished.

But how do you adapt this theory to your own workload?

Here’s a few ideas for you to try:

Stop multitasking, as this just dilutes your attention. Focus on doing one task really well, then move onto the next, instead of doing a mediocre job of several tasks.

Move around throughout the day to restrict your time. For instance (in more normal times), if you spend two hours a day working at your desk, in a coffee shop and then the library, and give yourself specific tasks to complete at each location, you can break up your time into manageable slots and stop yourself from getting bored by mixing up your surroundings.

Make a to-do list at the start of each day. Instead of saying you will do each thing ‘today,’ say you will do one thing by 10.00am, the next thing by 11.00am, and so on. Giving yourself mini deadlines prevents one task from accidentally taking over your whole day.

Be more ruthless with the time you spend reading and answering emails each day. One way to do this is to not look at your emails until you have completed your most important task of the day, as it risks you getting bogged down in smaller, less-vital problems. If you often find your work interrupted by constant email-pinging throughout the day, try logging out when you really need to concentrate and only giving yourself allotted time to respond throughout the day.

Don’t eat breakfast at your desk. Leave the cereal at home and start working as soon as you get to your workstation. This goes for your lunch break too – make sure you take it and get outside. You’ll return refreshed and ready to take on the afternoon with vigour.

Don’t get distracted by social media, online shopping and mindless web-surfing. Easier said than done when you’re constantly plugged into the internet, right? A great way to avoid getting sucked into a cat-video hole is to download an internet time-limiter such as StayFocused which blocks the amount of time you can stay on sites of your choosing, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, throughout the day. You can opt to restrict your own access to sites either at certain times of the day, after you’ve used it for a certain number of hours, or for the whole day.