Accomplishing More Through Setting a Time Limit

By Randall Orser | Small Business

critical thinking-TNAmong the many methods that professionals use in time management is what’s called “Time framing”. In a nutshell it’s giving yourself a limit on the time you employ to do a certain task. For example, if you need to write a report, you give yourself no more than an hour to complete the task. If you finish the report within that time frame, you have the extra time that can be employed for another task. Or you can reward yourself in some way for accomplishing the job so soon. If the job takes longer, you drop the assignment and move on to the next assignment you have scheduled. You can give your first task time to develop overnight until you schedule it for another time. You don’t abandon your report; you’ve only given it a time limit.

This method of setting a time limit can be used anytime for most projects, excluding those that simply must be finished by a deadline set by your peers. Of course, this method won’t work for a surgeon who can’t leave the operating table in the middle of performing a heart bypass. But time boxing is effective for most short-term projects and those requiring a few days for completion. In both cases, creativity is enhanced and the act enforces discipline.

Working this way has several advantages. Among them:

More Creativity

The closer your set deadline approaches the more likely you are to find a creative way to complete the project to your satisfaction. That sense of urgency helps stimulate your creative faculties to find effective methods to complete the task within the allotted time frame. It’s likely you’ll finish the project much sooner than you anticipated.

A Better Way to Find a Solution

There’s no shame in delaying a project if it doesn’t meet your deadline. A breather before taking up the project can help you find a solution that you wouldn’t otherwise discover if you bulled your way through the project. We all tend to see the proverbial forest for the trees. Solutions often come at those moments when you’re most relaxed.

A Sense of Urgency

Once you’ve given the job a time limit, you’ve created an atmosphere of urgency. This allows you to give full attention to the job and removes distractions. For those projects that require more than a day, the unfinished task creates an urgency that must be resolved. Writers often use this technique, stopping at a point where they know what follows next. This gives them the incentive to pick up where they left off and continue the momentum from the day before. While stopping a project in the middle of the task may keep you awake at night, you won’t lack for creativeness and imagination.

Enhances Organization Skills

If you’ve placed a time frame on your project, you’re better organized. It makes scheduling easier. Many business people wear many hats, so they must organize their time for maximum effectiveness. They have to schedule their tasks around those areas where they have little control. Staff and executive meetings can’t be delayed waiting for them to finish off a project past the start of the business meeting. The benefit of time framing is that it allows you the comfort of not having to work overtime hours. Carrying work home with you will likely mark you as inefficient. Overtime should be reserved to projects that have short time limits set by your employer or company, which you cannot control.

Establishes professionalism

If you consistently finish your projects ahead of your set deadline, you’ll likely impress your boss. Promotion and higher pay are the rewards for those who use their time wisely. Time framing enforces discipline. All successful people have learned the habit of discipline. They’ve increased their sense of self-importance and become an asset to their employer as well as their families.

So the next time you tackle a project, set yourself a time limit to complete it unless that time limit is enforced by your employer. You will find more joy in accomplishment and create a sense of happy fulfillment.

About the Author

Bookkeeper Extraordinaire
Number Crunchers® Financial Services

Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our ‘Just Say: “Stuff It” To Bookkeeping program.