You will have come across Parkinson’s Law before, even if you didn’t have a name for it.
So what is Parkinson’s Law and how can you use it to get more done? . .
- You had all month to prepare for your kids birthday party but you end up dashing around the shops and wrapping presents the night before.
- The oh-so classic… having all term/semester to write a paper but not starting it until 48 ours before you have to hand it in and you get it on the professors desk at 8.55am the day it is due.
- You have all day to sort the laundry and prepare the school uniforms but you end up drying and ironing everything at 9pm.
This could be renamed at the “Leave everything until the last minute and it will get done” Law but that wouldn’t be giving ole Cyril Parkinson* his due.
He discovered as the size of an operation expanded, the more inefficient it became. His law was actually founded on the swelling bureaucracy of the Civil Service in the UK and as the organisation grew so did the number of people working there irrespective to the amount of work to be done!
He also noted that when given more time, a simple task became more complex but when the time for the task to be completed was reduced, then the task was simplified and easier to solve.
So What Has Parkinson’s Law Got To Do With Being A Mom
Now I could just tell you to do less work. After you have stopped snorting tea through your nose and cleaned up your iphone you would probably click off and read something more sensible, and to be honest, I wouldn’t blame you!
But there are ways we can flip Parkinson’s Law and add it to our days to take advantage so we can be more productive. Let me give you a few examples:
You are going to add artificial deadlines or limitations to what you need to get done
1. Set a deadline
This can be as tiny as getting the dusting and vacuuming done by 9am or sending out 3 emails before you have to leave the house at 10am. Or something a bit bigger like completing one of you goals by the end of the month. The trick is not to make a deal with yourself – once the deadline is set, it’s done. No changing it because you were too busy watching cat videos!
2. Stop work at a specific time
This trick alone made a HUGE difference to my mental well being. I used to work around the boy’s schedule then once he was in bed, pick up and start again. I’m not a night owl, working in the evenings makes me tired and grumpy and I would make a shitload of mistakes! Once I set myself the rule that I would not work once the boy went in the bath (around 7pm) I started enjoying things again and had time for ‘me time’
Now, I know some of you are screaming at the screen, telling me that after the kids are in bed is the only time you can work and I totally get that. BUT you could still use the rule, try you only work until 10pm or you don’t work on Tuesdays and Thursday nights, or never working when the kids are with you etc.
We all have different situations to consider so make it fit yours!
3. Lose The Power
OK, I admit it, I use this because I’m lazy! If I’m working on my laptop I will rush to get my jobs finished before the battery dies. (and I have to get up to find the power cable). This works really well if you are working in a cafe and they don’t have a power socket. I’m telling you, I can bang out a lot of work as the power supply starts to dwindle!
4. Limit task time
Set yourself a certain amount of time to get a job done, only 30 minutes to get your accounts up to date. Or half an hour a day to deal with emails. I’m usually on top of my emails but if I’ve been away and my inbox if full to bursting I use the Gmail Game. This really helps me power through, make decisions quickly and I’m usually left with just a handful of emails that need addressing.
5. And oldie but a goodie – Pomodoro Technique
Francesco Cirillo made this technique popular and it is now one of the most popular time management techniques out there. Although the original idea is to use 25 minute blocks of time, I have found that when working with kids underfoot, 15 minutes works really well. 15 minutes seems to be the perfect amount of time for the kids to occupy themselves whilst you dig into your work.
To get the Pomodoro Technique to work well for you, pay attention to how long it takes you to complete a task and how many batches of 15/25 minutes you need to finish, this will help you with planning in the future. .
6. Let somewhere else set the rules
Do you often work in a coffee shop? Use their rules such as being only allowed to stay for 2 hours (yes, some places do that) or get there an hour before it closes so you are forced to leave. If you take your kids to a softplay type of place, you can do the same there, you have 2 hours of paid play, which jobs are you going to complete before you leave? Make it a game with yourself!
7. Set Restrictions
It might seem counter intuitive but the less choice we have the easier things become. And this can be applied to your kids too.
Imagine going to a restaurant and the menu is 9 pages long, overwhelming right? The next day you go to another restaurant and they have 9 items in total on the menu. Which was easier to chose from?
You go to Baskin Robbins 31 to buy ice-cream. The next day you go to the local shop who have 3 flavours, which is easier to decide on?
You go to a play centre which looks somewhat like ToysRus. There are lots of things to choose from. The next day you go to another play centre that has once shelf with a limited selection of toys. Which place does your child spend longer playing with one toy?
When your decisions are restricted, the choice becomes easier, you can concentrate longer and the quality of your work improves. Restrict the number of tasks, or the time to do them or the decisions you need to make and start feeling liberated!
*Parkinson, Cyril Northcote (November 19, 1955), Parkinson’s Law, The Economist.
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