I’m a big believer in the power of working smart. In fact, I’ve experienced that it’s easily possible to achieve in 2–4 hours what takes others 6–10 hours, as long as you’re using the right strategies and techniques that allow for optimal focus and intensity. You’ll surprise yourself what you’re capable of whenever you start to get strategic about your productivity.
Therefore, in this article, I share 2 productivity techniques (backed by psychology) that I use on a daily basis that help me get a lot more work done as a solo entrepreneur, without burning out or sacrificing free my free time.
Productivity Technique #1: Parkinson’s Law
Whether or not you realize it, it’s very likely that you’ve already experienced Parkinson’s Law and used it to boost your productivity:
- You had 2 months to finish a project and you only started to work on it with real intensity a few weeks before the deadline
- You had all semester to write a paper and yet you wrote it in the last 4 days before the deadline and handed it in at the last moment
- You had weeks to prepare for an exam but you only started studying 2–3 days before
Well, I’m way too familiar with the above scenarios (I always used to work like this in college). Many people are, in fact. You’ve been procrastinating for weeks on end and suddenly you became this productivity machine who managed to get the task done — and quite well most of the times. This is because you’ve made use of Parkinson’s Law.
The Origin Of Parkinson’s Law
Cyril Parkinson, a British historian, first observed the trend during his time with the British Civil Service. He discovered that as bureaucracies expanded, they became more inefficient. He then recognized this observation in multiple other areas of life, realizing that as the size of something increased, its efficiency dropped.
He found that even a series of simple tasks increased in complexity as more time was allocated to complete them. However, as less time was allocated to the completion of a task, the task became simpler and easier to complete.
How Parkinson’s Law Works
Essentially, Parkinson’s Law states that ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’ which means that if you give yourself a day to complete a two-hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting. We will, in fact, take the entire day to accomplish this relatively minor task.
The extra time might not even be filled with more work to actually improve the quality of the output. Often the extra time is just filled with more stress, tension and worrying about how to get it done. Often we fill a lot of the time procrastinating and wasting hours away.
If something must be done in a year, it’ll be done in a year. If it must be done in six months, then it will. If something must be done next week, it’ll be done next week. If something must be done tomorrow, it’ll be done tomorrow.
How To Use Parkinson’s Law
By assigning the right amount of time to a task, we gain back more time and the task will reduce in complexity. In other words, we need to make our deadlines shorter. Almost always do we find ways to get the task done within the deadline we set for ourselves. When under (the right kind of) pressure, we’re capable of amazing things. All of a sudden we turn into a creative, problem-solving, productivity machine.
For example, for some of my Udemy courses, I’ve given myself way too much time to complete them. Therefore, I spend a lot of days procrastinating and wasting time away, I worked on things that didn’t really add value, I recorded and edited videos at a slower pace than I was capable of. All in all, I took about 6 months for something that could have been completed in 1 month.
So, therefore, when I planned on producing one of my later Udemy courses, I decided to give myself just 1 month for its completion. For the entire process — from building the course outline to launching the course — I had exactly 1 month. And I did it!
In fact, it became my second-best performing course — earning me thousands of dollars in passive income and growing my audience with more than a thousand customers. It performed even better than the course that took me 6 months to complete! This is the power of Parkinson’s Law.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can start to set unreasonable deadlines. You can’t build a skyscraper in a day. The more complex the project, the more time it typically takes to complete. However, Parkinson’s Law is a really good thought experiment to see how much time you can win in your normal work-day. It’ll help you stop procrastinating as the pressure of a short deadline creates the necessary motivation to start working.
Most people tend to overestimate how long they need to complete a specific task or project, and therefore they give themselves way too much time for completion. This is why Parkinson’s Law almost always works. People don’t become fully aware of how quickly some tasks can be completed until they test Parkinson’s Law themselves.
Do It Yourself
Make a list of your tasks, goals or projects and estimate much time it’ll take to complete each specific task (using your normal estimates). Now, slash that estimate by 50%. This is the time you’ll have to complete the task, without producing low-quality output. This is your new deadline. You have to see making the deadline as crucial to your success. Use your competitive human instincts to your advantage by trying to beat the clock.
Strive to beat it for the sake of your productivity and your success. If you can do this, you’ll prove to yourself that your entire life can change. You can start to work smarter instead of harder. You’ll be able to produce more meaningful work in less time, giving you more free time and faster results. All in all, it has the potential to skyrocket your success.
Productivity Technique #2: The Pomodoro Technique
One technique that you can use in combination with Parkinson’s Law is the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is a super easy productivity technique that literally anyone can use to focus better and become much more productive. Personally, I use the Pomodoro technique whenever I need to get things done fast (when I need to make a deadline for example). I can guarantee that this productivity technique alone has the potential to 2–3x your productivity levels instantly.
The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. Francesco was frustrated about how much time he wasted during studying. So, he used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (a Pomodoro) to boost his productivity.
The Benefits of The Pomodoro Technique
The premise of the Pomodoro technique is that you help the brain focus better by taking regular breaks and by working for a fixed, relatively short amount of time with full intensity on one specific task.
Not only will you get much more done in much less time by using the Pomodoro technique, but you’ll also learn how to ignore and prevent possible distractions much easier. By using the Pomodoro technique, you’ll no longer get interrupted by social media, phone calls or messages from friends when you’re working on something important. Through the Pomodoro technique, you’ll have a productivity system that allows you to work with relentless focus and full immersion.
The 6 Steps of The Pomodoro Technique
Let’s dive right in the 6 steps of the Pomodoro technique so that you can start to improve your level of productivity right away.
Step 1: Pick a Task That You’d Like to Get Done
Whether it’s something big or small, or something that you’ve been putting off for a while: it doesn’t really matter. Pick something that you want to get done that deserves your full attention.
Step 2: Set a Timer for 25 Minutes
Set a timer for 25 minutes and make a promise to yourself that you’ll be working for 25 minutes on this task with undivided attention. You will not interrupt yourself or be interrupted while you’re working on this task.
Tip: I usually put my phone on airplane mode to make sure I won’t be distracted by any messages or social media notifications. You can also simply put your phone on silent mode and lay it somewhere out of sight (but close enough that you can hear the timer). So unless your work requires a phone, put this number 1 productivity killer away.
Step 3: Work on The Task Until The Timer Rings
If you want to fully make use of the power of the Pomodoro technique, it’s vital that you fully immerse yourself in the task that you are doing for these 25 minutes. So once again, make sure that you clear your environment of any possible distractions.
By having a limited time-frame of 25 minutes, you start to experience a certain kind of pressure (the good kind) that’ll help you focus completely on your task. Your brain will try to do everything it can in order to complete the task within these 25 minutes, as the pressure of the deadline is increasing. Usually, we are more creative and productive when we’re under some kind of pressure — especially time pressure.
Step 4: Check Off Your 1st Pomodoro Session
After 25 minutes of full immersion on your task at hand, it’s time to check off your 1st Pomodoro session. Notice how powerful the effect of undivided attention is on your productivity levels. By removing distractions and by being fully immersed, you can get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time.
Step 5: Take a Short Break
After each Pomodoro session, take a short break of about 5 minutes. Grab a cup of coffee, meditate, do some breathing exercises, go for a short walk or do something else that relaxes your brain. By giving your brain a 5-minute break you will give it enough rest to be completely focused for the next 25 minute Pomodoro session.
Step 6: Repeat
Repeat this process until you are satisfied and you’ve tackled all your goals and to do’s for the day.
Note: Every 4 Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break of about 20–30 minutes. Your brain will use this break to gather new ideas and rest before the next round of Pomodoros.
3 Reasons Why The Pomodoro Technique Works
Reason #1: It Improves Your Focus
As you’re only working in 25-minute bursts on one specific task, your brain finds it easier to focus on the task at hand. Also, you’ll block out all possible distractions such as your phone and social, so you’ll work with laser-like focus.
Furthermore, by taking short 3–5 minute breaks every 25 minutes, your brain can recharge and get back to full energy for your next Pomodoro session. This way, you won’t burn out or lose concentration over time.
Reason #2: It’s ‘Snackable’ And Not Intimidating
As your breaking up your x-hour workday in increments of 25 minutes, it’s much more snackable and approachable to start working. Sometimes it can be a bit intimidating or daunting to know that you’ll have to work for 6–10 hours in a row. But dividing it into much smaller sections of 25 minutes makes it a lot more approachable.
Furthermore, you can build your Pomodoro session around your to-do list. You can assign each session of 25 minutes to a specific task on your to-do list, which makes it a lot more snackable, approachable and less intimidating.
Reason #3: It Helps You Stop Procrastinating and Work Faster
You’re much less likely to procrastinate when you’re using the Pomodoro technique, as the ticking timer creates a sense of urgency. There’s nothing like a deadline to make you work faster. It’ll motivate you to start working now and not waste any more time.
Also, you’ll make sure that some tasks won’t take much longer than they actually need. As you’re now more aware of the time you spend on a task, you’ll make sure it’s completed within 1 or 2 Pomodoro sessions (instead of it taking 3 hours to complete). You’ll allow for less time wasting by gaining more awareness about how you spend your time.
Now Do It
So, if you want to get more done in less time, the Pomodoro technique and Parkinson’s Law are 2 of the most powerful productivity hacks to achieve this. Not only will you at least double your level of output, you’ll also notice benefits such as increased levels of focus throughout the day and being able to ignore possible distraction much better.
So, for this (or your next) workday, use both the Pomodoro Technique and Parkinson’s Law and see what this does to your productivity levels. Don’t forget to let me know about it in the comments!
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab
Ps. Check out my YouTube channel for more tips & strategies about high-performance and creating a life of freedom.
Pss. Get immediate access to my entire ‘Digital Library’ of most valuable lessons from each of the self-development and business books I’ve read! (FREE)