If you have a project with a deadline six months from now, you will probably subdivide all of the tasks required for completion of that project across those six months, even if completion of that project can be achieved in one month. In a way, everyone has a predisposition to stretch a task for the entirety of their available time. However, this can be incredibly unproductive – you’ll be robbing yourself of time to complete other tasks that wouldn’t otherwise be ignored because of that stretching; and 2) a lot of time spent dwelling on the same type of intellectual problems can decrease the quality of your results.
1) When starting your project management or planning, try to ignore your deadline in the beginning. Usually in school assignments, you can have deadlines for the end of the semester, which gives you two to four months to complete your assignment. You should be asking questions such as “how long is reasonable for this project’s completion?” Or “how many tasks should be completed for full completion of this project?”. This should give you a good understanding of the overall effort required to finish the whole project. After this first overview you should already have a timeframe in mind of the amount of hours required to finish your work. This number of hours will probably be quite inferior to the formal deadline of your assignment.
2) step number 2 is dividing your project into specific tasks required for completion. Using paper or a digital calendar (or my favorite, Notion, which has awesome project planning templates) to input all of the tasks and sub tasks in a list format and assign them a duration. Using a spreadsheet can be useful for this task as you can automatically add the duration of all tasks to achieve a final project completion timeframe. For instance, let us assume that the total amount of work required to finish this project is 40 hours. If you divide these 40 hours for 10 working days, you can finish the whole project in under two weeks, if you commit to working on it in a focused state for 4 hours a day. If you can’t commit to four hours a day, you can double that amount and commit to work 2 hours a day for four weeks, during working days. This is roughly a month, which means that suddenly you will be able to finish your project in one month instead of three or four.
3) A good way to hack your way through Parkinson’s Law is faking a deadline of your own. If your boss or professor tells you the project is due January 2020, tell yourself the project is due November 2019. Establish a hard, optimistic boundary in your own schedule and work with your completion timeframe around that optimistic boundary. If you have to push it a few days or a couple of weeks further, do it if you feel like it will be important to increase the overall quality of your project. Be brutal in establishing that fake deadline in your calendar, planner and even in your conversations with colleagues or classmates. Get someone that you respect like a friend or parent to make you accountable for the deadline by informing them that said deadline is essential for the success of your project.
4) After you have this all figured out, it’s time to schedule or calendar block all of these project sessions across the timeframe you just created. And here you have to be really disciplined. Think of your project planning as unmovable as your work or class schedule. Being consistent and increasing your progress regularly and according to your plan is more important than doing a lot of unfocused work during a whole weekend.
5) However, while being disciplined is essential to make sure you comply with your own schedule, it’s also fundamental to be flexible when considering any adaptations you need to make while you are working on your project. While planning the duration of each one of the tasks required to complete your work is important, sometimes it’s hard to predict exactly how long you will take for each one of the steps. In that sense, adapting your schedule meanwhile will be very important to guarantee the quality of your final work and leaving enough buffer time for revision will make sure your project is top notch when you turn it in.