Work Expands to Fit the Time Allotted

This was a lesson I first learned from a Brian Tracy coaching program I was enrolled in. I think most people can relate to the subject. Very often, the projects that we take on will take as much time as we allocate for the task. For example, if you give yourself 2 weeks to prepare for a speech, you may or may not use the entire 2 week window to do your prep work. If you give yourself 2 hours, you will probably work a LOT harder in those 2 hours but still complete the task of “speech preparation”. The difference is that you are much more focused and productive when you have less time to pull it off!

Are you working on something right now that is taking too long or the work is getting stagnant? What if you were to decrease your deadline date? If you have something due in a month, can you change your commitment date and make it due next week? How will this affect you and your productivity levels? What are some of the pros and cons of this approach?

On a side note, you may notice a small “shiner” on my left eye in this video. I would like to say it came as a result of something heroic but it was a simple basketball injury. Thankfully I am VERY tough dude and I was able to complete the game and play well for my team lol 😉

Please let me know your thoughts about this video:

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11 Responses to Work Expands to Fit the Time Allotted

  1. Shelly Sargent March 17, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Very true! I think the way you break a project down depends a bit on the type of person you are (some people need to do a bit, mull it over, come back – others are brass tacks types – sit down, do it in one application of time, energy and resources) but almost everyone tends to allow more time than is absolutely necessary. When you do that, it’s almost inevitable that things get put to the side while you deal with the”pressing’ issues.

    • Justin Popovic March 17, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

      Hey Shelly,
      Thanks for your feedback. You’re right… it really helps you sort out your “priorities” when you have a pressing deadline. When there is no time to waste, you simply have no choice but to maximize every minute!

  2. Karen March 17, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    Hi Justin,

    You’re so right when you say that time expands to fit the time allotted. The tip is to give yourself artificial deadlines so that you will be more productive (of course using the 80/20 rule and working on priority items). Personally, I work best under a tight deadline and when I am feeling the pressure. Too much lead time before a deadline doesn’t motivate me very much. Knowing that I have something due tomorrow does 🙂

    You took the Brian Tracy coaching program? How long ago was that? I currently get those emails from him pitching the program and related courses. Was the program worth it? Do you recommend it? I’m wondering about the tangible and specific benefits of the program.


    • Justin Popovic March 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

      Hey Karen. Yeah I took the Brian Tracy Platinum mentoring program about 3 years ago. I worked with one of his fantastic coaches named Jan Payne. I still keep in touch with her to this day. It was a very good program form the perspective of creating a well rounded personal development plan. It helped me develop strategies for all areas of my life. It also helped me move into my own coaching role by providing some excellent processes and exercises that you can teach to your own clients. I’m happy to share more about the program if you want to contact me directly!

      • Karen March 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

        Hey Justin,

        I will be looking into the program, as well as Bob Proctor’s. Thanks for the recommendations.


  3. Spencer March 17, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    I agree with your theory of sliding a project into a shorter time frame window. You tend to laser focus better on the outcome. And if you are able to get 80% complete inside your condensed window it seems that you will have success following through. When I make plans that are long and drawn out I tend to lose steam, motivation, and end up starting something but never finishing.

    Bob Proctor talks a lot about focusing in on one task at a time. In his success series he sets up the learner to focus all day long on one item, idea, or goal you are pursuing. He asks you to write it down, carry it with you, and obsess on that one thing until you get it done. All on this in one day!

    Thanks for a great article.

    • Justin Popovic March 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

      Thanks for your input Spencer…. and welcome to Ignite! I’m glad you stopped by.
      I am a huge Bob Proctor fan and I have been studying his material on an ongoing basis for almost 4 years. In fact I have a goal card taped to the side of my laptop as I type this response to you. It has my number 1 financial goal for the year written in large letters! I have achieved many goals using this process. It works!

  4. Ted Payne March 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    Great Video Justin,

    You make a great point, and I think you can tell from our mutual endeavours that we can really rise to the occasion when the heat is on. It is hard to artificially generate that kind of pressure of course, but cutting your own deadlines for things is a good start.

  5. Mary-Ann McMartin March 18, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    Boy you hit the nail on the head. There is a lot of truth to giving a busy person a task…

  6. Graeme March 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    I’m surprised nobody has pointed out that this is a known theory called Parkinson’s Law:'s_Law

    • Justin Popovic March 8, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

      Good point Graeme. I actually knew there was a law but never thought of it when I filmed this video!

      Thanks for the tip 🙂
      Justin Popovic recently posted..The Need to be Right

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