Are you a procrastinator, or are you just good at applying Parkinson’s Law?
But first, what is Parkinson’s Law?
According to Wikipedia, Parkinson’s Law is an adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
In short, if you are told to do a task this morning due in two hours, you do it and submit the completed task before the two hours is up.
But if you are given a week to finish the same task, you are not likely to do the task today, but rather wait until the sixth, or worse, the seventh day to complete the task just on time for submission.
And I know how this can happen because I’ve done this a lot of times before.
As a virtual assistant, my email is my office. That’s where all my tasks come in. And believe me, there are days that I don’t even want to look at it. Just looking at the subject lines make me tired on some days.
So, in the old days when I was feeling lazy, I would log in, open all the emails one by one, and if I happen to read one that needs an urgent reply, I would tackle that task right there and then. Then I would go back to opening the other emails, mark the not-so-urgent ones as unread, and take a note to come back to it later as my day progresses. When I get to open something that says “this is not urgent” then I just put it in another folder to be attended to much later.
After I’ve gone through all the emails, then I would start going back to the ones I have marked as unread and needing to be attended to within my working hours.
We are still on my lazy day, right?
So, because I was being lazy, I leave the ones marked as not urgent for another day. And that is bad. Because whatever I leave undone today adds up to the ones I’m going to do tomorrow. My clients would not stop sending me tasks in the next days just because they have sent me a task that would be due in a week.
Good thing that I am on the stage of my life and my career that I no longer entertain laziness. And if I ever get tempted to give in to the urge, I know how to circumvent it.
Plus I have learned how to use Parkinson’s Law in a positive way.
Let’s go back to what Wikipedia says: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
So if I give myself just a little time for each task, then chances are, I can finish my tasks faster because I will be on a deadline, and my goal will be to beat that deadline.
In a way, I’m borrowing a bit of the Pomodoro technique, without strictly following the six steps in the technique. Identify the task, set the timer, and work on the task. I am timing my tasks, and timing my breaks, as well.
And here’s a good news! If you are like me, who has been wanting to learn more about the Pomodoro technique in-depth but could not afford the course, then today is a happy day, because Francesco Cirillo will be releasing a book on the technique in August next year! I’ve already pre-ordered my Kindle copy, so if you’re interested, just click on this link.
But going back to Parkinson’s Law, I guess you can also apply this to using your time wisely when on social media. I know this to be effective because this is what I do.
So let’s say I’m on Facebook. My page has become part of my office, too, because people message me on the page to inquire about my services. Or even on messenger. And it is so easy to get into the trap of browsing through your personal feed. You see an interesting video, you click on it, and before you know it, you’d have watched three more videos that have nothing to do with your reason for logging in.
What I do is that when I log in, I don’t look on my feed, but rather go straight to messages. After I’ve attended to the messages, I then go through my notifications. I allow myself 15 minutes to do these. But set my mind to finishing everything in 10. Then log out. Log in again on my assigned break and do the same thing. Only after I have attended to all my office tasks do I allow myself to browse through my feed. Sometimes I don’t log out at all, but put Facebook on another window and keep it minimized. But the main idea is to only be there within the set time. If I know I have 20 minutes, then I strive to finish in 10.
And that’s it! That’s my productivity tip for today. And keep in mind that you have to take yourself seriously to make this work. The goal is for a job well done in less time, not to rush through your tasks for mediocre output that might cause you to lose clients.
Do you have questions, comments or feedback about this post?
Please leave a reply below, or post them on my Facebook Page.