It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. —Cyril Northcote Parkinson
Limiting the time available to complete a given task is one of the most powerful secrets of productive people and a powerful way to overcome procrastination.
If you lack the self-control needed to work in a focused way, give yourself a challenging deadline to enforce concentration. Suddenly, what normally takes two hours to accomplish (or rather, two hours of intermittent work and distractions) will only take thirty minutes (or less) of 100% focused work at your highest potential.
At the moment I’m writing these words, I have a goal to write four entries in 50 minutes. Because of my self-imposed time pressure, I’m 100% focused on the task at hand. I can’t distract or second-guess myself, two things that interrupt the creative process and slow down my writing pace.
Since I have given myself little time to get the task done, procrastination is a non-issue — I can’t afford to dilly-dally because I’ll miss my deadline. To further motivate myself to work quickly, I established a reward for performing the task on time: reading the new autobiography of Richard Branson, one of my business idols.
This simple trick can become one of your most powerful allies toward increasing your productivity. If you’ve been putting off a certain unpleasant task, get to it now, but instead of giving yourself plenty of time to finish it, do it in 25% of your usual timeframe.
The new, greatly shortened period of work should reduce your resistance to getting started, and the challenge of doing it more quickly should bring out some excitement that will additionally fuel your resolve to get it done.