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Dead simple time management

”Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

Have you heard of Parkinson’s law? I first read it 10 years ago in ”The Four Hour Workweek” (an excellent productivity guide – regardless of the bold title). Together with the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule), Parkinson’s law has been very influential in my career.

Using simpler wording, Parkinson’s law reads:

”The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.”

In other words, if your project/career/grade depends on it, and you only have an hour to complete it – you will complete it in an hour. I’ve found this to be true – within reason. Some tasks obviously can’t be completed in just one hour, no matter how much your career depends on it. But everything can be timeboxed. And timeboxing is a skill that can be mastered.

What is timeboxing?

Timeboxing is a form of time management, where a fixed time period (called a time box) is allocated to each planned activity. In agile project management, a sprint is a form of time box – but I personally go a step further and apply it to all tasks within the sprint.

You can view it as a form of risk management, or as a way to increase focus. It forces you to evaluate what’s important and will usually allow you to more easily find risky parts of a task.

An ideal time box has a deliverable – sometimes with components prioritized as ”must have”, ”should have” and ”nice to have”. It obviously has a deadline, and it may have a budget. The deadline is fixed, and the scope may be flexible to adapt to the allowed time.

Deadlines are sacred

The power of deadlines is that they provide focus. But for them to work, you have to set tough, yet reasonable, deadlines – and you have to commit to them. Far too few people respect their time commitments.

If there ever was a ”secret” to high productivity, this is it – identify the important tasks, timebox them and commit to the timeline. You should be embarrassed to deliver a project late, and you should use that embarrassment as fuel to get the job done.

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Hi, I'm Christoffer Lejdborg! I believe software has tremendous potential to transform your business in amazing ways, but people are too focused on the technology instead of the business case.

I've worked with companies such as BDO, Grant Thornton, Nobina Technology, Run My Security and Whenever.

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