Friday, October 21, 2016

On my mind today: Parkinson’s Law

Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law?  If you haven’t take a second and go read up on it a little.  It’s pretty interesting.  In case you didn’t go read the whole wikipedia entry, I’ll give you the reader’s digest version:  A task is going to take about as long as the duration given to complete it.  This can be taken and said a couple of different ways. Give yourself two weeks to complete something, it’s going to take the two weeks.  Give yourself two hours to complete something, it’s going to take the two hours.  I like thinking about things this way, it really helps put into perspective how much time I could be wasting on a daily basis.  My best example is feeding the dogs in the morning.  I am notoriously horrible at this.  I get up in the morning, start the coffee pot, and take the dogs out.  I think about feeding them, but I get distracted by an email or some other task.  I think about feeding them again, I even talk to them about eating(yes I talk to my dogs…A LOT)  Another distraction comes up.  This could go on multiple times.  Invariably Laura will come into the office, ask if I’ve fed them, shake her head and feed the dogs.  Her involvement took maybe 45 seconds.  I spent probably a good 5 minutes when you add up all the distractions or in this case, conversations.  This is admittedly a goofy example, but it illustrates the point very well.  I didn’t give myself a deadline or a due date, I let the task linger… Parkinson’s Law.
  My favorite way of thinking about Parkinson’s law is this:  My dad is retired.  He jokes with me that he “finds something to do, and makes it take all day”, this sounds really good to me.  Once and if I retire, I’d like to be able to do that.  I try to look my things to do as, the quicker I get these done, the more time I’m going to have for the things I want to do.  Key word there is that I try to do that.  I find that I’ve gotten really good at allowing distractions to pull me by the nose wherever they damn well please during the work day.  Usually it’s from one problem with work to another, but still, I’m allowing them to dictate the day and not seeing as many items as I could all the way to closure because I’m on to the next distraction.

How do I get better at this?  How do I close those tasks that I think I should be closing and then get out of my comfort zone again and attempt to get more productive?  If you’re facing the same or similar issues, how do you cut out the noise?  For me it’s a constant reminder that discipline is the key to getting things done.  I find it very easy to get in the mindset of either feeling productive or not.  Productivity isn’t a feeling, it’s a byproduct of discipline.  Just start doing work, don’t stop to check fantasy football, or check how your new tower is coming along in clash of clans.  There will be time for that later.  For now, put some work in.  I’ve found setting timers to be a useful thing here.  When I need to force myself to buckle down, I set the timer for 20 minutes and give myself a goal.  Or 30 or 60 mins depending on what I need to get done. Anyway, hope you found this useful or at least an interesting thing to think about.  Have a good weekend everybody!

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