Parkinson’s laws states: “The amount of work expands to fill the time available for completion.” If you have five minutes to do something, it’ll take five minutes. If you have a day, it’ll take a day. Few are exempt but you can accomplish a lot more by examining your incremental thinking.
The appointment duration default on most electronic-calendars is one-half hour. The duration can easily be changed but many accept the default even though appointments can be as short as someone stopping by to drop off a form for a signature. Even when that process involves exchanging pleasantries it can take as little as two minutes. The result is as much as a 28-minute hole in your schedule.
Our incremental thinking often goes beyond our written appointments. Many work in one-hour increments: Going to the store, getting a haircut, attending class. And it’s true, many appointments are one-hour based. Most classes are about an hour. Most prime-time television programming is in one hour shows. Your productivity probably won’t suffer much if you stick with half hour or one hour increments. But when those increments expand beyond that you’re flirting with some serious loss.
Perhaps the best example can be seen with those who’ve been retired for a few years. My parents – who are in their 90s – see a visit to the doctor as an all-day event. When the appointment is scheduled they begin to think about what needs to be done, who will take them, what route they’ll take. Contrast that with my brother and sister-in-law, both of whom are also retired but who provide much of my parents’ care, and who fit these doctor’s appointment into a busier schedule. The same appointment, the same place and for the same people. But where my parents’ incremental thinking is one day, my brother and sister-in-law see these appointments as perhaps four hours – round trip.
Want to make and keep your day more productive? Shorten your increments. Regardless of the time available force the event into a shorter period. It will be a bit stressful at first but in the end you’ll feel and be more successful.
Tim Sharp is a lecturer at Ohio University and the Director of Curriculum for TSOD.com – Training Services On Demand a corporate and government training company.