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The Lever #051 - Leveraging Horstmans Corollary

You've all heard of Parkinson's Law:

Work expands to fill the time available for completion

So if you give yourself a week to complete a task it will take a week to complete.

But what if the opposite is true?


But first:

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What About Horstman?

Consider Horstman's Corollary, made famous by Mark Horstman, the co-founder of ​the "Manager Tools" podcast​.

Work contracts to fit in the time we give it

So if you give yourself an hour to complete a task it will take an hour to complete.

It emphasizes the idea that people are often more productive under tighter deadlines because they're forced to prioritize and focus on the most essential aspects of the task.

How can you apply this in your life to be…


All things being equal, the person who completes the same task in less time is more productive.

The quality of the work is important of course. But when a task expands to fill time available it isn't because you are doing MORE work.

It's because you are playing around the edges of that work.

  • Planning

  • Second guessing

  • Doing your "research"

Reduce the time you give yourself and start getting more done.


People hate to write but love having written.

Writing can be hard. It takes focus and an immense amount of mental energy.

So it is easy to procrastinate on working on writing projects.

Try this:

Next time you have a larger project, such as a paper or report, set a timer for 45 minutes and RACE yourself to get it done.

By giving yourself less time to finish you WILL finish, in less time.

And the level of quality might just surprise you.


Making good decisions in business is all about prioritization.

Time is your only resource so if you want to be effective you need to prioritize working on the right things.

There are two types of work:

  1. Immersive - this is "deep work". Stuff only you can do that takes focus. Think of this as "Maker's" time.

  2. Process - this is work that unblocks other people from doing their work. Administrative. Think of this as "Manager's" time.

The key is to maximize your time spent in Immersive work - your zone of genius. And the best way to do that is by reducing the amount of time you spend in Process work.

Contrary to the usual advice, the first thing you should work on each day is NOT your most important task.

The first thing you should do is a Process Sprint.

Unblock all the people that come after you in the process. Give them the inputs they need and free them to do their thing.

By giving yourself a shorter time period for this you maximize your Immersive time while keeping the machine running efficiently.

Time On Task

Everything is a task and all tasks take time.

All tasks have an optimum time of completion. The bare minimum that it takes to actually do the work.

Know how long the task should take and challenge yourself to do it in that time. No longer.

Free up your creative side by burning through the busy work.

This is how you make time.


When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:

1. Subscribe to The Lever (if you haven't already)

This covers a science-based productivity concept each week, in about five minutes. Try a free chapter of my new book when you subscribe. And if you like it...

Peaceful Productivity outlines the time-management system I've created over the years as a ship's Captain and business executive. It will help you plan, prioritize, and get more of the right things done. Also available on Amazon

This short course will teach you the fundamentals of a powerful timeblocking system to make sure you never miss an obligation and always show up prepared. Give yourself the space you need to create the life you deserve.

Smart systems to make you productive, prolific, and profitable | Find me on Twitter @SeanPHogue | Sign up here for the weekly newsletter, The Lever, and create some leverage in your life.


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