Friday, August 12, 2016

Best of the Archives: The Strange Phenomenon of Parkinson's Law

We’ve all heard variations of the phrase, “The task expands to fill the allotted time.” This is commonly known as Parkinson’s Law and is attributed to Cyril Northcote Parkinson as part of a humorous essay published in 1955.

The statement is self-explanatory, and I've seen it applied many times over. But when the rubber meets the road, ie. a DEADLINE, then Parkinson's Law is thrown out the window, isn't it? I've never really thought much about Parkinson's Law up until now because for years I've filled every minute of every day with work it seems.

28 years at the day job
18 years of writing
7 years working for AFCW

I juggled them all, in addition to a family and church. Until recently. A few weeks ago I turned in my corporate badge at the day job to concentrate on writing more and working for ACFW.

Each day is fresh and new, stretching before me with tons of potential. But when all is said and done, I review the day and feel I’ve wasted a great deal of my time. Granted, as I look back over the last few weeks, there are several important tasks that I've marked off my list, quite a few personal and family errands that I’d been putting off that have gotten done, and come to think of it, I completed several promotional pieces for my publisher and turned in edits.

But still, there's that niggling worry that I'm not doing enough with this blessing of time...

It’s like I know I have more time to get things done, so I take more time, and I ending up feeling like I’ve wasted my time. Such a scary thought for someone who has burned the candle at both ends for many, many years.

Here’s the thing for us writers though. All of these tasks, writing, editing, revising, promoting, blogging, answering email, social media, keeping up with the industry, and gasp, even reading, are important. The problem comes when we start one of these (like email) and it takes hours to empty our inbox. Or we’re trying to figure out how to start a newsletter, or we get stuck on a plotting problem and it ties us up for hours.

How do we fix this problem? If Parkinson’s Law says that the task expands to fill the allotted time, then it stands to reason that if we give ourselves 5 minutes to resolve that plotting issue, then we can get it done and move on to something else. Uh, not going to happen in this lifetime. So, we can throw that reasoning out the window. The reverse is not true of Parkinson’s Law.

So, what can I do with this feeling of time's awastin'?

I can organize my time and my peak energy level to gain the maximum benefit from both. Writing should be the most important part of my work day. So, I need to make sure my writing is a priority when I’m at my best. I also need to set a time limit for those things that can be timed instead of letting them take up so much of my day. 

And, deep breath...

I can learn to appreciate those days that I get a lot done and stop beating myself up on the days I don't.

And I can eat more chocolate...

What do you do to make the best use of your time?

For more information, visit Joel Falconer's blog post "How to use Parkinson's Law to your advantage" on this topic. His blog and some of the comments gave some helpful tips on managing time. 

This post first appeared in Seekerville on 11/26/12. Comments are closed today so we can catch up on our reading and writing. 

The California Gold Rush Romance Collection: 9 Stories of Finding Treasures Worth More than Gold 

Rush to California after the 1848 gold discovery alongside thousands of hopeful men and women. Meet news reporters, English gentry, miners, morticians, marriage brokers, bankers, fugitives, preachers, imposters, trail guides, map makers, cooks, missionaries, town builders, soiled doves, and more people who take advantage of the opportunities to make their fortunes in places where the population swelled overnight. But can faith and romance transform lives where gold is king?