Be a lawbreaker.
Not something I would normally advocate but there is one particular law that I urge you to break.
Have you ever had an unappealing task (especially paperwork) and begun to dread facing it as it sat in your ‘To Do’ pile? This has happened to me many times over the years and it is due to a fear that I would not do it justice or that I actually didn't have the ability to do it at all. Yet as the days or weeks passed it would seem to grow along with a feeling of impending doom.
Take for example a non-urgent report or article that needs doing. Identifying more immediate priorities (and subconsciously adding an unhealthy sprinkling of self-doubt) I decide to file it in my ‘To Do’ list. However the closer I get to an eventual deadline (managers won't let you get away Scott free) the more it seems like an impending doom that I wish I could pass on to someone else. At the eleventh hour, it needs to be submitted there is no choice but to just face the pain. It then takes no time at all and it turns out pretty good. I will wonder what all the fuss was about and scold myself for putting it off. And yet it will happen again. Not every time but when it does it can quickly ratchet up to make a mountain out of a molehill.
Well, there is an actual law which addresses this procrastinating fear maker. Parkinson's Law is a semi-scientific / semi-humorous definition and it basically shows that the more time you give to a task the more difficult it can feel to achieve.
Smarter people than me have noted that another way of looking at it is like this: the amount of time you give to a task is the amount of time the task will need to be completed. Or if you wait until the last minute then it will only take a minute to complete.
In other words, a job takes as long as you give it.
Just give yourself specific deadlines and stick to them. The task doesn't need any longer that that.
If you are forced to do a report in an hour without any choice you just get on with it. The content is the best you can do and that’s it. It's done.
So don't put things off just because you may be fearful of them. Instead, grab them by the scruff of the neck and know that you will save a lot of stomach tightening and cold sweats by scheduling in your own deadlines.
I will be the first to admit that this is easier said than done and we still need to judge the fine line between ‘cramming it in’ and ‘hoping for the best’ as you want to do a good job. I am writing this article to myself as much as I am to you. But by giving this emotive feeling a name we can feel more confident in overcoming it. If we work smarter, not harder then we may well find that breaking Parkinson's Law becomes the norm rather than the exception.
So go on. Be a rebel.
Jason is currently an emergency humanitarian supply chain specialist and budding entrepreneur. He is also the creator of the daily humanitarian focused journal Aid Memoire.
From selling shoes to avoiding bombs. An eye-opening and honest memoir of my time as a novice aid worker in war-torn Sudan at the turn of the millennium.
A simple yet stylish notebook for humanitarians and aid workers. This 150-page notebook is printed with cream coloured unlined pages with a daily quotation on each page to help inspire and motivate.