Have you ever looked back on a time in your life and wondered how everything used to seem so simple, and wondered why it’s not now? Lately I have been so busy running around from one thing to the next, and I have no idea how this happened! I came across this principle called the Parkinson’s Law, which says: “Work expands to fill the time allotted.” As I thought about this, I discovered it’s pretty accurate. So let’s say something might take you 30 minutes, but you have an hour to complete the task, it will probably take you the whole hour. And conversely, if you need an hour to do something, but you only have 30 minutes- if it HAS to get done, somehow you will find a way.
It reminded me a book I read years ago, called “The Four Hour Workweek,” by Timothy Ferris. I immediately LOVED the title because when you’re working 40-60 hours a week… how nice does a 4 hour work week sound?! Essentially, it highlights the 80/20 principle by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, which says you spend 20% of your time producing 80% of the output. Think of it this way: you know how exciting it is when you have an amazing vacation planned and you’ve been looking forward to it for months, and then the day before you leave town for a week, you turn into a MULTITASKING-CLEAR-HEADED-ELIMINATE-EVERYTHING-UNNECESSARY-NINJA, and accomplish more in that last day than you have the entire week prior? WHY? Because you’re motivated! You know as soon as you get through that spreadsheet, or presentation or meeting, you’ll be downing a Bloody Mary on a plane, heading to a tropical destination filled with sun, relaxation, and drinks that sprout umbrellas.
The book presents the idea that you will be more effective with your work if you have a focused amount of time dedicated to it, and also have time allotted for relaxation or something you enjoy. You will feel rejuvenated and motivated to get everything done, if you have something that you love just before or after it. Personally, I think this is a fantastic principle, and I think workplaces would benefit from enforcing this. Not necessarily only working 4 hours, but maybe basing productivity on output rather than hours. I enjoyed my salaried jobs much more than my hourly. At the time when I read this book, I pitched a version of this idea to my boss… but it didn’t fly (shocker).
Now, let’s apply this principle to moms and dads- how clean can you get your house and kids if you find out someone is showing up in fifteen minutes? I can tell you I have accomplished an inhuman amount of cleaning, sprucing up myself and kids, standing at the ready with some sort of beverage and snack to offer by the time I open my door. It’s just a matter of motivation. I can also tell you if I get just an hour or two break during the week where I’m out of my house, by myself or with friends, it does wonders for rejuvenating my psyche. Especially when kids are little, its important to allow yourself interactions with adults, and alone time with your significant other.
As I was thinking about this, remembering years ago when things seemed simpler, additional stresses and busyness resurfaced in my mind. But somehow, time has mostly weeded those things from my mind. I’ve probably always made myself busy -going back to the Parkinson Law. I don’t like to just sit around, so whatever time I have available to me, I fill up with something.
So, maybe I’ll just keep at it, but reduce the stretches of time where I’m trying to “get things done” and allow myself some more down time. Hopefully, doing that will lead me to increased productivity in less amount of time. I think I’ll try it- trust the 80/20 rule, since its been around since the early 1900’s.
I’ll let you know how it goes! I’m looking forward to enforcing some relaxation time! Maybe you can do it with me, and if anyone questions you, just say, “Don’t worry about me, I’m just working on my 80/20.”
Have a great weekend!!