After prioritization, working to set specific time goals for any task is the best thing I do to aid my productivity.
Truly, the adage “the time you allocate for something is normally the time it takes” has proven to be true for me. Especially when you are running your own business and don’t have the same external pressure, always, for deadlines, you have to be the deadline maker in a serious way. Projects I just work on without a specific deadline I end up working on for eternity, always tweaking and messing with. It’s a black hole of resources and doesn’t improve growth.
I remember hearing an old interview with the prolific creators of South Park where they spoke of their very fly-by-the-seat-of-their pants system for producing episodes. They only allow themselves a week to get a new episode done. This last-minute-sprint doesn’t leave any room for doubt or delay and this is important! (Video linked below. They start discussing this around 3:34 in.)
The truth is this: Humans are amazing at having ideas — because ideas come easily — and equally amazing at NEVER ACTUALLY FOLLOWING THROUGH ON THEM — because follow-through is hard. Forcing the time from idea to execution to be zero can be really powerful to get over this thing we’re really bad at as humans.
Time goals are a subset of the overall, general hyper goal orientation of most successful people. Thomas Stanley highlights this in his book The Millionaire Mind which I read after college. It’s a worthwhile read. I remember him interviewing one successful entrepreneur in the book who says, “I set goals for everything. I even set goals for going to the bathroom.”
Sound crazy? The truth is the opposite is crazy: the lack of specific, daily, hourly goal setting leads to time spent following the random impulses of the mind. And this isn’t a reliable way to maximize life and produce results.
Sure, we all need time “off the clock” to let our mind rest and regroup but when it comes to being engaged in creative production, being “on the clock” means just that: Setting goals for how long something is going to take to complete, measuring how long each task tasks as if you’re an attorney billing logging your time for a client and holding yourself to your time goals.
If I hadn’t told myself I’d write this and said it would only take me 10 minutes and then started the timer on my iPhone, it would have remained as a never-posted blog post idea and not a completed thought shared with the world.
And now on to the next timed-task!