Your work will expand so it fits the time available for completion. What causes this? It is caused by activities that are ‘springy’. They are shrinking or expanding to fit the amount of time available. Example for such activities:
- House cleaning
- Going out with friends
- Video games
Seems that we talk about some enjoyable activities now. Why do we have to worry about them? All the things listed are not inherently bad. But they can leave you unfocused, unmotivated and unhappy. These activities flow like water and fill in the gaps in your schedule. They could be used to some extent for relax and fun. But you will actually feel more satisfied, focused and motivated when your time is structured. Overdoing the springy activities can make you feel like you’re wasting your time. Let us describe the cons of these activities:
Robbing You of Your Time. Letting these activities fit the time available takes a lot of your time. This forces you to run on 100% for the other duties you have, causing more stress than necessary. You can start feeling like you are not in control of your time and attention.
I can straight away argue here. We can also say that the scheduled tasks and your duties are stealing your free time. You should not enjoy too much, you cannot spend too much time, because, for example, you must go to sleep and go to work tomorrow. It is equally unsatisfying experience until you find the right balance for you.
Opportunity Cost. In addition to taking a lot of time and energy, the springy elements have another hidden cost – what you could otherwise be doing with your time. I could argue a bit here, because the thoughts of “what could I have done to succeed, to become more skilled, e.t.c.” has robbed me from the ability to enjoy life. And I did not became smarter or richer as well. But, most of the springy elements are low-return. You could start trading with yourself – for each 15 minutes spent on Facebook you could spend another 15 minutes doing something which is more beneficial. It’s a cool self-trick!
How can we identify such springy activities? Here are a few suggestions:
- Time diary. A time diary lets you know what activities take you most time. It helps you spot trends and patterns, helps you reflect on the data collected, analyze, have insights and ideas on how to reshape your time schedule, facilitates your further planning.
- Rescue Time. This is a free application which tracks which websites and applications take most of your time. It covers only the time spent on the computer. For many people it means most of their time.
- Be mindful of how you spend your time. When you constantly reflect on and you are mindful on how the time is spent, it is easy to spot springy elements. Like business meetings, for instance. Some companies are filling up their free time running an ineffective meeting after ineffective meeting. Make sure your team identifies what makes the meeting ineffective and turn it into a productive activity.
How to Tame Springy Life Elements. Springy activities are unstructured activities which can cost us time and energy. The best way to tame them is to structure them. This means – to allocate for them a certain amount of time you must not exceed.
- Create a time box. Simply limit the amount of time you spend on such activities. Having done that, a magical thing happens – you force yourself to spend more energy over less time, so that you can get as much as you need for the limited time.
- Schedule. Scheduling makes you aware of how much time you spend on something and what is the purpose of it. It is a planned time boxing over a certain period of time.
- Remove them from your life. If you can and if you want, you can entirely remove some of these activities. For example, delete a Facebook account, sell your gaming console. Be sure that it won’t result in another springy activity to appear instead.
- Say ‘no’ to such activities beforehand. The best way to avoid such activities is not to introduce them in your life.
- Perfect is the enemy of good. Some of these activities are springy, because you are putting a lot of attention to make them perfect. If we get house cleaning as example – your house can never be 100% clean. You may spend 1 hour to make it 80 % clean, then you can spend two more hours to make it 92% clean but it will never be 100% clean. Just be aware!