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Weekly Course on Time Management – Week 12 – Theories of Time Management: Parkinson’s Law
Imagine that you are back in college. Your lecturer has assigned you an essay of 3000 words that needs to be submitted 2 weeks from now. You look at the assignment brief and go, “Pfffttt! Easy peasy!” As the task is easy and you have 2 whole weeks to complete it, you leave it for later and get on with your life.
One week is gone. It’s the second week. The assignment is not due until next Monday. It’s still okay, right? You have a whole week to finish it. You promise yourself that you will start tomorrow and go to bed. The following few days, you get caught up in other important work, and just like that, it’s already the weekend. 2 more days until the due date. You are panicking a little but think of it like this; you still have 48 hours to complete the essay. You start with the research. And as you continue to surf the web for the relevant content, you get more delirious. After 2 hours, you cannot take it anymore. You decide to take a little nap.
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Fast forward, and it’s already Sunday. You have not written a single word of the essay. You receive messages from your friends saying they have submitted their essays on the portal. You are panicking but try to stay calm and start the work. Blank! No, not your mind; your laptop screen goes blank. Your laptop malfunctions. You huff and puff, try different buttons, but the laptop won’t start. You decide to go to a library after lunch and work on their desktops. By the time you reach the library, it’s already 5 pm. By the time you start working on your essay, it’s already 6 pm. You only have 4 hours before the public library closes its doors on you. 4 hours, 3000 words! You take a deep breath and start.
It is 10 pm, you walk out of the library, brimming with pride. You did not just submit over 3000 words of research essay, but you also managed to take a 15-minute dinner break in between.
So, how did you do it? How were you able to complete a 2-week long task in less than 4 hours? The answer lies in Parkinson’s Law.
To all the busy bee homeschool moms enrolled in this Weekly Course on Time Management, I guarantee you that after you learn about Parkinson’s Law, your perception of time will alter 180-degrees. So, let’s get started.
What is Parkinson’s Law?
In 1955, a British naval historian and author named Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote, “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
He meant to say that the more time we have to complete something, the more time we will take to complete it. The task is simple and can easily be completed in a few minutes or hours, but we stretch it because we have the luxury to.
In layman’s terms, we love to waste time by dragging the task simply because we can. But the circumstances are very different when we have a tight deadline.
When we have a tight deadline, we can as efficiently draft a business proposal on an hour-long train journey as we could over a weekend at home.
What Does Parkinson’s Law Teach Us?
Give Yourself Tight Deadlines
It can be tough to stay focused and follow through with a project or task when you don’t have anyone breathing down your neck and forcing you to do so. That’s why YOU must become that person and give yourself tight deadlines.
A good practice is to have an end time for your day. Tell yourself that by 8 pm every day, you will make sure that you are done with all the work to have some downtime. You can go the extra mile by having more specific deadlines for chunks of work.
For example, you could tell yourself that by 4 pm, you must end your homeschooling classes, and by 6 pm, you must be done with grocery shopping and dinner preparation. This will enable you to keep track of time.
Reward Yourself for Completing a Task Ahead of Time
Every time that you manage to finish a task before the assigned deadline, you must reward yourself with either a nice cup of coffee, some sweet treats, a walk outside, or any other activity that seems rewarding to you. Our minds are trained to always think about rewards and benefits. We hardly do something unless it is beneficial for us.
For example, if you thought it would take you an hour to prepare your children’s quizzes for the coming days but you managed to finish it within 45 minutes, spend the remaining 15 minutes doing something you love to do. This will encourage you to finish work before time.
Work in Chunks with Breaks In-Between
Working in chunks or within time specified time slots helps you to stick to your deadlines. While taking breaks allows you to repeat the cycle of work-rest-work, it also ensures that your mind and body get the energy they need to handle the next set of tasks.
For example, you can tell yourself that you will spend the next 1 hour studying Carl Sagan’s lecture, making notes on cosmology, and incorporating it in your children’s class notes on the solar system. After that, you will take a 15-minute break and proceed to article writing. As the two tasks are completely disconnected, a break in between will give you time to prepare and plan for the next task.
Parkinson’s law states that the more time you have to complete a task, the more you will drag it. Therefore, it is important to assign deadlines for all the work that needs to be done to stop wasting time and get right down to it. You can encourage yourself further by rewarding yourself every time you finish a task before time and taking breaks in-between.
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