Timers for Productivity

Have you ever noticed that sometimes a simple task at hand takes a long time than you ever imagined. This so happens that when you start the task, you’d think that it will take about an hour or 2. With this notion in mind, you tend to view as having 2 hours for the task at hand. I read an article about 'Parkinson's law' which explains this very concept. And after learning about it, I figured out a hack to get around this.

A pocket watch in a person's open hand

Parkinson's law

Parkinson wrote an essay on the economist, quoting "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. What this meant was that if you assign 2 hours for the task, but in reality it only takes 20 minutes, it will still take 2 hours to finish.

Against Parkinson

I wanted to find out what it took to get out this soup. The first trick I tried was to be very much aware when doing the task. But after much trial and error I figured that this was impossible. When you are working on something interesting you are going to have tunnel vision on what you are working. Without the tunnel vision, deep engagement on the task is not possible.


What I found that worked was timers. I put a 15 minute timer when I am working on a task to be aware of what it would take to finish it. Most of the time, my work expands beyond 15 minutes. When that happens, I repeat the timer.

Bare in mind though, I don’t like to use this technique much when I am thinking. Mainly cause thought takes much more mental energy. But for tasks that require focus and more of a get shit done attitude, timers work ridiculously well.