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One Tip for Getting Work Done Faster

Imagine, you wake up one morning, and your head pops off the pillow in a panic. The report you've been working on is due in three days. As you sit down to write a report that will undoubtedly fall short of everyone's expectations, a cold sweat forms on your skin. You need more time to work on this, without any doubt. You picture your employer winning, shaking their head, and folding their arms in displeasure.

Now imagine another situation. The due date of the report is in a month. You have a lot of time. What a relief, you can now focus on other work.

This mentality of postponing the work leads to the career-disrupting phenomenon ‘The Planning Fallacy’. The term ‘planning fallacy’ was coined by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979, whose work gave rise to the field of behavioral economics. Our perceptions of time availability, our capacities, and any potential obstacles are skewed. The planning fallacy is a phenomenon that affects professionals of all ranks and across all industries.

However, it is possible to achieve the goal of completing tasks faster by setting strict deadlines for your tasks. Your body and mind are stretched and pushed to reach the objective when you establish a challenging goal and deadline. The new pace eventually becomes the standard with enough practice. If you do not challenge yourself with a higher difficulty or with a stringent timeline, you remain where you are. Your mind follows the easiest path, which is typically not the most effective.

Think of a situation where you have your test the very next day. So, what do you do in such a scenario? You study the whole night to prepare for that test. But what if the test was scheduled after 2-3 days? The first thought that comes to your mind is I have so much time to prepare, let me relax now. And the preparation gets delayed until the last night before the test.

Similarly, in your daily life or work, if you set a crunch deadline for every task, it will help you to complete all of them within or before time without compromising the quality.

But this leads to another question, if we are focusing on the speed won’t the accuracy be affected?

We wrongly assume that we have reached our maximum operating speed. You won't be able to push yourself beyond your comfort zone unless you challenge yourself. It is natural to stumble the first few times you try to move more quickly. But if you dismiss the theory, saying that working faster will impact quality, you are making up an excuse. Working more quickly will affect quality, but only to a limited extent. That stage has not yet been reached by you. You may increase your productivity whether your area of expertise is innovative or mundane. Most activities can be done faster without sacrificing quality. However, to be successful one has to keep trying. It depends on the task you're attempting and your skill level and how much practice you need. A significant difference might take months to see, or you might see results in a day.

I was reading the book ‘My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future’ by Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, where she talks about how she learned to do speed reading during her childhood. As a child, she was a member of the library that was located just a few blocks away from her house. The library allowed the members to borrow unlimited books, but only on one condition – all the books had to be returned the very next day. As the time to complete reading all the books was very limited, Indra started practicing speed reading, which later on helped her in her professional life.

If you have a strict deadline, you can complete your work faster. Create a sense of urgency within your mind. Remember you don’t have all day, so you have to set a deadline for each task. You should however know that; it’s not enough to only set deadlines. You should develop the habit of strictly working according to your deadline and make sure you complete your tasks before the time you set. After repeatedly doing this, the crazy becomes the new normal, and the rapid becomes the norm. Eventually, what you find normal will surprise others. As of today, try to work faster and smarter.

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