Time and Task Management: a complicated relationship

 “Guys, can you come help me in the garage? It will only take a minute”.

It will just take a minute – NOT.  Those words strike, if not dread, then at least some serious eye rolling, and definitely audible sighs, in my household.  As do its first cousins “we’ll be done in an hour” and “it won’t take long”.  Yah, right.  Or my personal favourite “I’ll be right back” (usually said about 3 minutes before guests arrive for a dinner party).  “Be ready in a sec” is also pretty far from reality, although heard often.

Dad time

You see, my hubby, a great man, an amazing husband, and a wonderful father, has a slight misunderstanding with time.  The boys and I have come to learn that there is real time, and then there is dad-time.  Dad-time is not tracked on a clock, neither analog nor digital. Dad-time is somewhere in, I dunno, the twilight zone.

So when my guys hear the words “Can you come help me for a minute?” – they know that the “minute” will stretch on for, quite possibly, hours.

As it turns out, Dad can be forgiven – he’s not the only one.  

Our perception of time can confuse our to-do lists

For example, here is a Law, an Effect, and a Technique that shed some light on the way we think about task activities as they relate to time.

1. Parkinson’s Law   

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.  

People, left to their own devices,  tend to plan for tasks taking a longer time to complete than they might actually need. We aren’t always completely sure how long something will take to complete, so we build in a grace period or buffer period.  The true test of how long a task takes is when we’ve got that “immediate” deadline.

The answer to Parkinson’s Law?  Give yourself less time and get more done.

Read more:  A Beginners Guide To Parkinson’s Law: How To Do More Stuff By Giving Yourself Less Time

2. Zeigarnik Effect   

We focus our mental energies on uncompleted tasks more so than completed ones.

We remember what we haven’t completed – remember it so much, in fact, that it keeps nagging at us, and nagging at us – building up internal tension.  This preoccupation with the undone task leads us to want to complete it to ease our internal anxiety.  

Procrastinators take heart.  Just start some little piece of the task, any of it, and you are more likely to get it done.

Read more:  The Zeigarnik Effect: Why Getting The Ball Rolling Is The Best Antidote To Procrastination

3. Pomodoro Technique

A time management method which breaks down work into short segments, with frequent breaks in between.

The idea is to work without distractions, allowing nothing to come between you and the task.  It is thought to be especially helpful when you absolutely, positively, must get something done which is boring and/or hard.  Knowing you only have to do a task for a very small portion of time helps reduce the intimidation and/or boredom and/or procrastination.  

Key: Do not allow diversions and interruptions – until the scheduled break time.

Read more:  The Pomodoro Technique: Staying Focused throughout the Day

How do you get things done? 

Have you been reading this as a distraction to something you should really be doing? Well then, how about taking the time to let me know of the ways you coordinate and manage your time?

It will only take a minute. Really.