The Law of Time Pressure
There is never enough time to do everything but there is always enough time to do the most important things. When you find yourself under pressure to get a job done by a particular deadline, you are forced to be vastly more efficient than you would ever be if you felt that you had ample time. This explains why so many people get the job done only when they are faced with stringent deadlines.
Parkinson's Law says, “Work expands to fill the time allotted for it.” If you have two hours of work to do and an entire day in which to do it, the work will tend to expand gradually, and will take you all day long to complete the two hours of work.
Reverse Parkinson's Law
However, the reverse is also true. It is “Work contracts to fill the time allotted for it.” Use this law by setting deadlines for yourself that force you to complete the task far sooner. Continually analyze your work and focus your attention on completing your most important task, the task that represents the most valuable contribution you can make, on schedule, if not before.
Here are four questions you can ask yourself every day to keep yourself on your most important tasks:
1. What are my highest value activities? What are the things that I do that contribute the greatest amount of value to my work?
2. What are my key result areas? What are the specific results that I have been hired to accomplish?
3. Why am I on the payroll? Why do they pay me money at my job? What specifically have I been asked to do?
4. What can I, and only I, do that, if done well, will make a real difference? If I don't do it, it won't get done. But if I do it, and I do it well, it will make a significant contribution to my work and my life. What is it?
At any Given Time
There is usually only one activity that represents the highest and best use of your time. Your job is to identify it and then to throw your whole heart into getting it done quickly and well. Create your own “forcing system.” Set specific deadlines for yourself and then resolve to get the job done well ahead of schedule.
Identify your most important tasks, the tasks that represent the most significant contribution you make to your company. Resolve to work exclusively on those tasks before you start on anything else.