Work expands to fill the time allotted to it.
That is a universal law of human nature.
It doesn't matter who you are or what your work ethic is like; the amount of time you have to do a task dictates how long that task takes, not the content of the task itself.
We all do this, whether you know it or not.
If you have two weeks to complete a term paper, then it will take the full two weeks.
If you have until the end of the day to type up a status report for your accounts, then it will take you all day.
But if you were only given a week to finish the paper, then you'd get it done in a week. If you knew you only had until lunch to type up that report, I guarantee you that it'd be done by 11.45am.
Why Most People Do This
The fact that we do this shouldn't be surprising. It isn't a stupid strategy. Quite the opposite in fact; it makes perfect sense for most of us to drag out our tasks!
Most of us get paid for the amount of time that we work, not for what we produce. If we have to work a 9 hour day, then it usually doesn't matter what we get done in that 9 hours; so long as we're in the office for that time and we get something done, then we get paid.
We could get twice the work done in that 9 hours, or half the work, and for the vast majority of us, our salaries wouldn't change.
So it makes perfect sense to stretch your work out throughout the day; if you're a salaried employee, then you aren't going to benefit from getting more done in the same amount of time, especially if your boss is unlikely to notice.
It is therefore perfectly logical for most workers to let their work fill the time allotted to it.
But what about the rest of you?
What about people who run their own businesses, or people who want to get ahead by maximizing their productivity?
If that's you, then you need to start biting off way more than you can chew.
The Power Of Taking On More Than You Can Handle
As I said above, work expands to fill the time allotted to it. This usually means that people will take a very long time to do tasks that could be done much faster. But this rule works both ways; the time it takes you to complete a task can contract to fit the time allotted to it.
That is why one of the fastest and most effective ways to increase your productivity TODAY is to bite off way more than you can chew.
You only have to try this out for a week to see how powerful it is as a productivity hack.
Take your usual daily schedule and add in an extra three hours worth of work. It doesn't matter what this extra work is exactly; maybe it's writing an article for your website, writing a press release, sending out 10 emails to prospective clients, setting up 30 Tweets for the following week, or all of the above.
Add this on to your existing schedule, and try to get it done.
Schedule yourself an extra meeting even if you think you don't really have time for it.
Try to get everything finished in time to put an extra half hour in at the gym.
Basically, try to really stretch yourself thin to the point that you think you're simply not going to get everything finished.
The idea is that you don't get everything finished.
The goal here s to fail.
If you push yourself to your absolute limit, you'll find out what that limit is; you'll discover just how quickly you can get a certain amount of work done. You'll learn just how much your work can shrink to fit an ever-shrinking period of time allotted to it.
To find out exactly where that limit is, you need to go over it and then come back.
Too many people today caution against burnout. I've even written about it before. But stretching yourself to the point of failure isn't the same thing as burnout. This isn't an exercise in stress-tempering; this process shouldn't cause your serious stress or anxiety.
Stretching yourself to your limit is how you grow. It's how you learn what you're capable of.
So start today: bite off way more than you can chew and see how long you can manage before things start falling through the cracks. You'll be amazed what you're capable of when pushed for time!