“Being busy is a form of laziness-lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” -unknown
The 9-5 Illusion
There was some sort of tradition created in which made employees seem to need 8 hours a workday, usually from 9:00 AM. to 5:00 P.M., to accomplish their jobs and tasks. Often there is no incentive to use that time well. So, what do most people do? Since they’re stuck in that position for that amount of time, they are compelled to create activities to fill that time. In result, time is wasted because of the abundance of it. It is an age-old tradition in the work culture and has become one of those challenging habits to break. Think about it, how in the world does everyone need exactly 8 hours to accomplish their work?
You have an 8-hour workday, you fill those 8 hours. You get a 12-hour workday, you fill those 12 hours with “stuff” to do. Now, you forgot that you had to pick up your kids at 2:00 P.M. and it’s already 12:00 P.M. You miraculously complete all your work that is due that day within those 2 hours.
This phenomenon relates to a law introduced by Ed Zschau in 2000 known as Parkinson’s Law. The law states that a task will seem more important in relation to the time given to complete the task. If you are given a day to complete a certain task, the pressure created by the short amount of time you have will cause you “put your head down” and get it done. And it only seems important because of the short amount time that was given. If you are given a week to complete the same task, you will likely use up all of six days, and the task will seemingly be perceived as being more complex because of the longer time frame. If you are given 3 months, you will likely spread out the task throughout that 3 months, along with a whole bunch of stress on your shoulders.
In the end, it is most likely that the quality of the completed work done within the short amount of time will be equally or even better than the result of the longer time period because of the greater focus used. It’s the perception and illusion of the imminent deadline.
Applying the 80/20 Principle
The axiom 80% of the outputs results in 20% of the inputs, explained in the blog The 80/20 Rule: Not Just About Smarts and Looks, can be effectively applied to help you be more productive and potentially free up your time to do things that matters the most.
To achieve this, you need to limit your tasks to the important things to shorten your work time. Also, you want to ask yourself these two questions:
- What are the things that I do (20%) that results in wasted time or of unimportance (80%)?
- What are the things that I do that results in getting my work done quickly and effectively?
In other words, what are the few critical tasks that contribute to getting the most done, getting the most income, freeing up the most time, etc? The list goes on. And to add to the solution, you want to eliminate the effects of the Parkinson’s Law by shortening your work time to limit the important. Do this by scheduling very short and clear deadlines.
If you fail to do these things, unimportant tasks will become important. Even with knowing the critical tasks, failure to set deadlines will create an unfocused mind and will result in minor tasks being dawned unto you and the time to get it done will spread to consume more time. A vicious cycle that will most likely leave you not getting much done at the end of the day.
Time is just a mere illusion that was created by humans. Here we can see the effects of what tradition and habit do to enhance and skew the illusion of time.
We also see a solution to a problem. That solution requires a person to change, but human habit and nature are to resist change. Any good ideas and/or actions contrary to a person’s belief system will not be acted upon. Therefore, although we know what to do, it is a challenge to enforce it. It is even more than likely that we will reject the solution because of our subconscious “programing.”
By a shift of your paradigm and learning life’s axioms, you can overcome challenges and help you in your lifestyle thinking and design.