The Necessity of a Forcing System

CalvinHobbsDoes this cartoon ring true for you? It does for me. I have found that I often need pressure to get things done. I find that I thrive when I am faced with a ticking clock. But I know it’s not the best thing for me or those around me if I am constantly living under pressure. It’s not good for my health, it’s not good for my relationships, and it’s not always best in terms of producing quality work. I have found that the challenge is to create a sense of urgency in which I can thrive, but which also allows me time to breathe before actual deadlines. This also provides me space to tweak or edit my work in order to submit the best of my work when it is due.

A number of years ago I watched a DVD on time management. One of the things that stuck with me was what author Brian Tracy called a forcing system. He cited Parkinson’s Law which says “work expands or contracts so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The idea was that we will generally take the full amount of time we are given to accomplish the task we are given. For example, if you are given 2 weeks to accomplish an assignment, you will take the full 2 weeks to finish it. If you are given 1 week to accomplish that same assignment, you will do whatever you need to do to finish it within the week. One of the things you can do in order to relieve the constant pressure of last-minute panic is to create deadlines for yourself which will force you to accomplish your tasks before they are actually due. For example, if you have a paper or a project due on Monday, make it your goal to finish it on Friday or Saturday. You will breathe easy for a couple of days knowing it’s done, or if you realize something could be improved, you still have time to make any minor adjustments to enhance your work without feeling that you don’t have time to do so.

I have found this to be true whether I am planning an event or preparing a sermon. I am not perfect at it, and I find myself up against the ropes more times that I care to admit. But whenever I am able to create a forcing system I find that I am able to relax more, and it causes me to be a more healthy leader.