Work Smart, Not Hard: Increase your Productivity

Have you ever set out to learn a new skill, such as programming in python, or receive a new project from work, such as producing a working application that interacts with machine learning algorithms? Chances are you were given a deadline, whether you gave yourself that deadline or it was assigned to you. Think about how far away that deadline was from the day you received the task. One week? Two weeks? Maybe one month? Reflect on how you went about completing that task? Did you finish before the deadline? Did you wait until two days before it was due to complete it? Did you even complete it? Chances are you did not even finish, and if you did it was not your best work.

The most productive people learn to master the concept of Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. If you are given two weeks to complete a task that can be finished in 5 days, you will take two weeks to complete the task! With the additional time, people tend to add complexity to processes that are involved with completing their task. Very successful people have learned to master Parkinson’s Law. They have learned to work smart, not hard.

Mastering this concept takes trial-and-error. Remember that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, if others can be productive with their time than so can you. I have personally implemented the strategies listed below to increase my own productivity as a data scientist. Below describes ways to get started with increasing your productivity by mastering Parkinson’s Law.

First thing to do is create a to-do list of everything you’d like to complete, be it personal tasks or tasks assigned to you. Second, refine that list you created to a fine-toned list of goals for the day, the week, or the month. For example, you probably wrote something like “Create a machine learning algorithm for classification of X” or “Create a new web application that does Y.” Refine these goals and break them down into smaller parts. Each fine-toned goal will be met in order for you to meet your overall goal you first listed. These fine-toned goals allow you to see the simplicity in your task. Most people who set out to complete a task their goal is too vague, not refined, and too complex. Once you break down your larger goals into smaller, doable parts, you have begun to master Parkinson’s Law. Each fine-toned goal should be the next logical step necessary to complete your overall goal. 

The most important thing to do is assign completion times for each fine-toned task. For example, suppose you created 5 fine-toned goals for the completion of your machine learning algorithm and each goal can be completed in 1 hour. Only give yourself 1 hour to complete each fine-toned goal. This means that you completed your goal of creating a machine learning algorithm for classification of X in 5 hours compared to one month or longer! By assigning completion times you give yourself a set amount of time to get your task done. You must hold yourself accountable to completing your tasks within your defined time just as others who don’t know you would. Once you begin using the three defined steps to master Parkinson’s Law you can apply these to other parts of life, such as your fitness goals. To recap: Create a list of goals, refine that list of goals into fine-toned goals, assign time for each fine-toned goal and repeat. You will find that you are able to complete more during your day and be more effective and, most importantly, be more productive. You will find yourself working smart and not hard.

 

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