How to Upgrade Your Skill-level in 24 Hours
Photo by JasonRogers
You’re at an interview for a project. Your potential client decides to select you for the job. Better still, they are willing to give you double the rate you had requested.
As you walk out of the meeting feeling confident about winning the project, you hear your inner voice start to nag you about a few small details. By the time you walk out of the building, you realize something: there’s a certain thing they asked you to do that requires a skill you haven’t mastered yet… and the project is due in 24 hours.
I’ve run into this problem a few times in my life. I accepted projects without really knowing if I could finish them. And yet, all of these projects helped pushed me to the next level. Nowadays, I understand why I was able to advance myself through that pressure: by using Parkinson’s Law.
According to Wikipedia, the law holds that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This means that when given a limited amount of time, your focuses increases, and you’re forced to give attention only to what you need to do. By using this powerful law, you’ll be able to perform your best work.
You can also use this same law to increase your skill level.
Before we get started, I’m assuming that you want to improve your skills and you have a good idea of a skill that you want to tackle. Also, you must realize that this should be a skill that you need to have, not something you would “like to have”.
This practice can be applied not just to freelancing work, but to anything you need to learn very quickly. However, I’m not recommending that you deliberately take on projects above your skill-level in the hope that Parkinson’s Law will save your butt. While useful in emergency situations, it’s best applied carefully and deliberately, following the steps outlined below to increase your skill level in 24-hours:
- Give yourself a project that requires you to mix your old skills and at least two new skills.
By mixing your old skills along with at least two new skills, your mind will retain this information faster than if you were to focus on just the new skills alone. Some people make the mistake of focusing on just the new items when you actually need to mix it up with your old skills. Hence why I call this an “upgrade”; you’re improving your old skills and “renewing them” so to speak, while also practicing new skills.
- Mark a day in your calender that you will dedicate to this project.
It can be later in the week. It can be two weeks from now. It can even be a month from now. The more time you give yourself, the more likely you’ll forget about it. Make sure to schedule a day where you know you’ll be able to work on this project. A weekend day is probably best. Once you write down a date, stay committed to that project date. Select a time for when you’ll start work on the project and remember this well… 24 hours later, that project better be finished!
- Study for this project at your own pace.
Now, study for your project… slowly. Do this at your own pace and only study a little bit at a time. Familiarize yourself with your materials. Search for tutorials and examples. Remember to study for at least 15-30 minutes each day until the project is completed.
- Remind yourself about the project every day.
While you are studying and before you go to bed, remind yourself about the project. Tell yourself that you will finish it to the best of your ability.
- Once the day arrives, commit to finishing.
Finally, the day is here. Now, you have 24 hours committed to the project and you’ve got to finish it or bust your gut trying.
Why have I setup guidelines like this? Here’s the secret behind my madness:
By writing down and confirming your project day, you are setting up a brain-trigger. Your mind will start to mentally prepare you for that day. By studying just a little each day, your mind will begin to organize itself.
When you give yourself reminders about the project, this adds more power to your studying. Right now, you may not understand the material. You may even half-understand it. But on the day of the project, your mind will give you a razor sharp focus, pushing aside all the minor things and bringing to the fore what it already knows about putting this project together.
And what if you didn’t study? The added stress will force you to study the rest of the material and you will retain the information better. This is where the magic of Parkinson’s Law comes into play, except it’s a “controlled stress”. It’s the type of stress that will help you focus better and within 24 hours, your current skill-level will be upgraded by the time you finish the project.
Would you like to improve your results? Try these fun suggestions in addition to the guidelines I’ve set:
- Make a bet with a friend. Have a friend assign you the project and place something for value up for grabs. Now, when I say “of value”, it has to be a value of you. For example, if you win the bet, he’ll take you out to dinner, but if you lose the bet, you’ll have to give him $300. Why does your friend get the lower end while you lose more? To add more of a “do or die” element to your mission.
- Make it a barter. Put up a barter ad on Craigslist and ask for an item in exchange for doing a project that will focus on the new skill you want to learn. Make sure that when you barter to explain what it is you are trying to do. 9 times out of 10, people will actually want to help you out with your mission to better yourself… especially if they get a high quality product out of it.
- Shorten the timeline. Do NOT extend it.
If you extend the timeline, you will only put it off and your mind will get lazy. By shortening the timeline your mind will be focused on the project more than ever.Or…
- Stick with the deadline and follow through!
No matter what, life WILL get in the way of your projects sometimes. Thus, you must find a way to make sure the project gets done AND deal with whatever life throws at you. Learning a new skill is never easy. However, by sticking to a goal you set for yourself, you will probably learn more than a new skill. You’ll learn something about yourself. So, stick with it, no matter what!
If you choose to take this challenge, good luck!
Matthew “Nukirk Digi-tal” Yarde is a freelance web designer always looking for ways to improve his skills. In his spare time, he maintains a social commentary/entertainment/productivity blog, Life-Remixed.com and a performs as a hip-hop/spoken word artist.