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Pimp Your Work - Improving Your Work Day Efficiency

How to REALLY stick to deadlines

by Celine on November 5th, 2007

Dammit. I’m actually behind schedule on two client requests. Yes, yes, I should have known that was going to happen because I was moving around my Google Calendar items and postponing them a day or two late. And I did spend an entire day celebrating my first anniversary with my partner. If I could, I would send this post to Celine Of Two Weeks Ago to avoid the meltdown I’m currently having.

It may be too late for me, but as a result, I’ve come up with these serious rules that will help me stick to my deadlines like an insect on flypaper.

Triple the expected amount of time for each task. If you really want to play it safe and make sure you’ve got enough time in a day for a task, you need to triple your estimated working time. Of course, there’s going to be some left over time, so you should also be ready with the “extra” tasks you’re going to work on once your main tasklist for the day is complete. Don’t just complete your tasklist earlier than expected and reward yourself prematurely with a DVD marathon. You don’t deserve it yet.

Even if you have an expected amount of time for each task, you need to have an ideal time as well. For example, if your expected amount of time to type up that report is 3 hours, you need to set a shorter amount of time as your goal, such as an hour and a half. If you complete your task within the ideal time, you give yourself an extra reward later. If not, well, too bad. This is to ensure that you don’t sit around thinking “Oh I don’t need to speed this up, I have a couple of hours more to do this.”

Avoid distraction at all cost. If you’re like me and you don’t have the concentration to do this, you need some outside help. Use Temptation Blocker or something. Also, don’t log on to your instant messenger. Dont’ leave your email program open. Stop staring at your colleague’s Einstein bobblehead doll. Whatever it is that makes your mind wander off, find a way to get rid of it temporarily.

Find out your number one motivation, and use it to reward yourself.  This is something that really worked for me that I haven’t been practicing lately.  For the last month, I’ve just been working all day with no reward.  Before,  I would promise myself “If I complete everything on my list today, I’ve earned the right to watch 2 episodes of Star Trek.”  Embarrassing but efficient.

Make someone the boss of you.  If you’re working freelance or your boss isn’t around, it helps if someone will give you a “disappointing look” whenever you don’t complete your tasks.  If they’re a softie, remind them that being a bit harder on you will be for your own good.

If you move around stuff in your calendar, or if you don’t get to complete all the necessary tasks in a day, take that as a symptom of something. Not something physiological, of course. This means that you’re doing one or more of the following things: overbooking yourself, having inaccurate time expectations, caving in to distractions, etc. Whatever made you move that task a day late, figure it out and solve it.

IF ALL ELSE FAILS: ask someone to cuff you to your chair until you’re done with all your tasks. Just make sure you don’t lose the keys.

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POSTED IN: General work pimps, Staying Sane, Time savers

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