Parkinson’s Law

Has anyone else noticed that you never seem to accomplish as much as you set out to any given day? Because I sure have. It seems that no matter how much (or little) I get done, there’s something that inevitably gets left out. You’d think I would learn to recalibrate my expectations, but no luck so far. Take my one day off this week for example. I didn’t have much planned, but had a few things I wanted to accomplish:

  • Sleep in
  • Watch American History X (since it has to go back to the library)
  • Catch up on webmaster work
  • Write several blog posts (read: more than one)

As of 3pm, here’s what I had actually done:

  • Slept in (6h45 counts as sleeping in when you usually get up at 4am)
  • Explored a friend’s Minecraft server (and got lost, and died while loaded with iron ore)
  • Finished Deus Ex (take that, Bak’laag!)
  • Listened to a Queen cover album by The Protomen
  • Picked up a component cable for my PS2 (which ended up not working)
  • Picked up needed ingredients for dinner tonight Written one blog post (this one)

I might have time to watch a movie before my girlfriend gets home from work, but that would be at the cost of additional blog posts. And that’s without taking into account longer-term projects, such as working on my armor, doing dishes, or picking up my office. So it goes.

I found this to be the case in grad school as well. No matter how much time I left for a project, I ended up stressing out at the last minute, cramming to get everything done. That’s where I decided that it’s a near-universal rule that projects will always take longer than you expect.

Maybe this is just an issue of misaligned expectations and estimates. If that was the case, one would think that the issue would become less severe as it sustained contact with reality. But I have not found this to be the case. The change in thinking, that is.

I have in the past described myself as a former overachiever, and I imagine that most of my anxiety over this planning issue is tied to that. And since it seems to continue happening, I am striving to not let it stress me out as much. I’m done with school; for the most part, my deadlines are self-imposed, and no one is going to punish me if things don’t get done (with the obvious exception of work, official paperwork, etc.). But this is not an easy thing to wrap my mind around. I’ve spent a good majority of my life in school, and I am used to deadlines and outside motivators. To not have those sometimes makes me feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

But writing out my accomplishments so far for the day does put things into a bit of perspective. I may not have accomplished all that I set out to do, but I did get stuff done. I think there’s probably a lesson there, if one can manage to think outside the box in terms of productivity. And I’m starting to realize that it would be much better for my overall peace of mind if I could hold on to that long view. So yeah, something I would do well to remember.

My office is still a mess, though.

(Title reference)

EDIT: Got to watch American History X.  Heavy.

One thought on “Parkinson’s Law

  1. Mary

    Make a list of six things each day in order of importance. Do them in order. Whatever you don’t finish goes at the top of the next day’s list. Never put more than six things on your list. Don’t do anything extra that’s not on your list until your list is finished. Try it for a week and see what happens.

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