Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Paradox of Having Time


We don’t necessarily get more things done when we have more time.

When I gave 2 weeks for my staff to provide a writeup vs. 2 days, the results were not much better (if at all), and I noticed more people wanting extensions to the deadlines when they were given farther deadlines. My best guess is that when we have a longer period to prepare something, our expectation is that the resulting product needs to be that much better. Fearing in our minds that the product won’t be as good as the extended time warranted, we ask for an extension. When we ask for an extension, we have asked to for an exception, therefore the product must then be exceptionally good… certainly more so than if we hadn’t asked for that extension. Things spiral down from here into self-loathing.

We have this assumption that important things should take time. Sure, quality comes with care and to take care, we need time. We tend to confuse that notion with the initial process and the constraints we can construct for ourselves to create a box. Without a box, there’s no thinking out of the box.

I enjoy starting projects, huge projects, by giving myself 5 minutes to jot down, usually on a scrap piece of paper, “what 3 things do I want to say?” or “what 3 outcomes should this project have?”. If I seem to be flowing in ideas and “in the zone” to develop some of them, then I allow myself more time. But in a very short period of time, I would have forced myself to commit something to paper. I may scratch it all out, but that was just 5 minutes. I have plenty of time for “do overs”.

It is also similar to how the 5 minute rule to snap out of procrastination works, for time management. If you are dreading doing something, promise yourself you will do it just for 5 minutes. If you don’t end up much, well, at least you got done 5 minutes worth of the job. But our psychological make up, after overcoming the static friction of non-action, usually gets us producing for much more than 5 minutes.

Other time management tools, like the Pomodoro technique (here’s a shorter overview), also exploit this and other psychological tendencies we have with regards to our perception of time.

Sometimes it pays to approach work and play as if there’s very little time, to bring more mindfulness to the situation, but the goal, is for the quality of the work to stand the test of time.


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This entry was posted on April 6, 2015 by in Management and tagged .
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