pro·cras·ti·na·tion, n. the putting off of success

If you wait till the last minute, it only takes a minute.

I find that statement to be very true and very disturbing.

We’ve all been there. You have an event right after a work, and magically you complete everything by 4:30. You have a 3-day weekend getaway planned and wondrously the 5-day workload is condensed into four.

It’s not magic or wonder, it’s focus. When we want to make time for what matters to us, we zone in on our tasks and complete them quickly.

The Pareto Principal says we get 80 percent of our results from 20 percent of our time. When the heat is on, or in the above cases, “the want” is on, we amp up the 20 percent to achieve the outcome we need.

Parkinson’s law states, work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. If you only have an hour to complete something, you’ll find a way to complete it in an hour.

What if you and your team started working like you didn’t have time all the time?

The secret to achieving this type of work environment is by focusing on the important and less on the urgent. When you’re trying to leave the office an hour early for your flight to Cancun, you don’t let distractions like frantic co-workers or telemarketers get in the way. Instead you prioritize what needs to get done and everything else can wait. Apply that logic to your day-to-day routines to maximize efficiency. Here’s how:

  • Limit distractions – It takes the average person 12 minutes to refocus after a distraction. That’s 12 minutes after every phone ring, email ping and door nock. Power down your phone, close your email and hang a sign on your door that reads, Do not disturb– genius at work or Disturb and die. I find the second suggestion to be extremely effective.
  • Identify what’s truly important – In Orna W. Drawas’ book, “Perform Like A Rock Star,” she presents the analogy of your own personal pickle jar that you fill with rocks, pebbles, sand and water. The rocks are those big important tasks that actually make a difference but are often the most difficult to accomplish. Oftentimes we spend our day filling our jars with sand and pebble tasks that pack our time, and our jar, with insubstantial activities and we end up without room for the rocks. Recognize your rocks and fill your jar with those first.
  • Schedule your day everyday – Block off time on your calendar to complete those big tasks that significantly impact you and your company’s forward movement. Even after a long day at the office, take an additional step before heading out – jot down tomorrow’s to-do list. Capturing your important tasks while they’re fresh in your mind ensures you’re ready to go as soon as you get to work in the morning.
  • Implement the one touch rule – When you start a project, finish it. This focus will help you create a better-finished product, and you’ll be able to check it off your to-do list, which is motivation to complete your next project.

Work is more fulfilling when you do it well. Make your time count and work smarter instead of harder.


This article was originally published in The Tennessean.

 Photo credit: <a href=””>khalid almasoud</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>