How to Limit the Effects of Parkinson’s Law

Ever find yourself scratching your head and wondering why something took as long as it did?  Stressed about completing a project by a looming deadline? It happens to everyone!  The official term is Parkinson’s Law. 

What is Parkinson’s Law?

“IT is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” – C. Northcote Parkinson, The Economist, November 19, 1955

BusinessDictionary.com explains the background of Parkinson’s Law in that workers will create enough work to keep themselves looking busy in order to justify their roles. 

“Observation that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” and that a sufficiently large bureaucracy will generate enough internal work to keep itself ‘busy’ and so justify its continued existence without commensurate output. Proposed in 1955 in jest by the UK political analyst and historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1909-93) while criticizing the British Admiralty (which was growing bigger while the number of sailors and ships under its care was going down). It is quoted more as a keen insight into the functioning of large organizations than as an empirical reality.”

Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/Parkinson-s-Law.html

Business Dictionary

Who Needs This?

  • Those susceptible to analysis paralysis
  • Humans
  • Procrastinators

Does Parkinson’s Law Still Occur Today?

In modern terms, if you have four hours to complete a project, it will take you four hours to complete the project.  But if you had two hours to complete the same project, you would complete it in two hours. 

Think back to school where you might have had a couple weeks or a semester to write a paper.  Did you sit down the first day and write that paper?  Or did you wait until the last minute to get it done? 

Do you have a coworker that waits all day to start working and then about an hour before others plan on leaving for the day, your coworker starts to work?  Their questions and requests come in fast, half planned, and mostly require rework the following day. 

It is all frustrating. 

Is this Efficient and Cost Effective? 

Negative.  If employees or leaders are creating work for the sake of looking busy, the consumers paying the ultimate cost.  Consumers are not receiving the greatest value for their purchase. However, I do empathize and see why employers and leaders do it. 

On a personal level, you are likely causing yourself stress by always thinking about those projects that need to get done rather that enjoying the fact that you completed the projects.  You are spending more time than necessary to complete the work, leaving yourself wishing you could do more. 

Why Would you Want to Break this Habit?

Ever want to try a new project or adventure but you say that you do not have the time?  Years ago, I really wanted to get on a new and exciting project at work.  It required me to take on significant more work than I probably should have taken on, but I did it anyways.  By limiting my time spent on projects to the true amount of time it took to complete the projects, I was able to find “hidden” time to dedicate to the new project. 

Ever find yourself looking up at the clock and realizing you just spent three hours scrolling through social media?  You might have some “hidden” time to do more projects, tasks, and hobbies that you have always dreamed and hoped of happening but never thought was possible. 

Breaking or limiting the effects of Parkinson’s Law in your life will allow you to expand in other areas. 

How do you Break this Habit?

  • Power Hour – Take a list of tasks to be completed and set a timer for one hour.  When time is up, all your tasks should be complete.  For example, at work, you need to clean your desk off, respond to voicemails, and schedule a couple meetings.  At home, maybe you need to schedule a doctor’s appointment, plan your meals/grocery list for the next week, and clean a room.  You can certainly get these things done with laser focus in your power hour. 
  • Schedule Tasks – Maybe a task will/should take longer than an hour to complete.  Schedule a start and end time with possibly check points to ensure you are actively working on the task.  Have your next day schedule planned the day/night before. 
  • Create Rules – Require that you complete a task by a certain time each day or before you move on to something else. 
  • Avoid Time Sucks – Avoid time sucks in apps, emails, etc. first thing in the morning.  It is easy to get sucked down a hole of scrolling.  Simply make it a rule that you do no pick up your phone or check emails within an hour of waking up or getting to work. 
  • Have an Unavoidable End Time – Take your work to a coffee shop that closes at a certain time.  Schedule something fun to do after your task or work day helps with motivation. 

Looking for more information?  Check out the additional resources below. 

Additional Resources:


My Favorite Books from 2019

Earlier this year I set out to read 25 books.  By May, I met my goal.  I mostly replaced TV watching and social media with books.  You could say I previously spent a lot of time on social media and binge watching HGTV.  Over the past couple years and a push from not wanting to show up to book club without completing a single book in the month, I changed my inner dialogue from “I don’t have enough time to read a book” to “I have enough time to do things that are important to me.”  That change had a significant impact to not only how much I read but how I spent my free time. 

I am writing this article mid-December and I have read 57 books so far with a new goal of reading 60 books in a single year.  After going through my Goodreads list, I found a couple themes.  In no particular order, here are my favorite books from 2019. 

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Wondering how to get all of the things done?  Or do they really need to be done?

  • Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day by Ken Mogi
  • No F*cks Given Guide series by Sarah Knight
  • Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary
  • The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less by Tonya Dalton

Do you have a messy closet or desk at work?  Or simply can’t find your keys?

  • Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith
  • Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki, Eriko Sugita (Translator)
  • Less: A Visual Guide to Minimalism by Rachel Aust
  • Make Space: A Minimalist’s Guide to the Good and the Extraordinary by Regina Wong
  • Outer Order | Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin
  • The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life by Francine Jay
  • The More of Less and the Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

Looking to change your inner dialogue?  Or wondering if that story you have been playing in your mind is even true?

  • Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder by Reshma Saujani
  • Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
  • How to Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment—The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life by Sophie Hannah
  • Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One.  by Ginger Zee
  • Super Attractor by Gabrielle Bernstein
  • You are a Badass series by Jen Sincero

Trying to break up with technology?

  • Destination: Simple – Rituals and Rhythms for a Simpler Daily Life by Brooke McAlary
  • Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
  • How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price
  • Lightly: How to Live a Simple, Serene, and Stress-free Life by Francine Jay

Looking to change your relationship with the environment?

  • The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
  • Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson

Swear life is easier in other countries? 

  • American Cozy: Hygge-Inspired Ways to Create Comfort Happiness by Stephanie Pedersen
  • Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
  • Sisu by Joanna Nylund
  • The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking

Just want to unwind with a fun book?

  • Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids by Ken Jennings
  • Hey Ladies!: The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails by Michelle Markowitz, Caroline Moss, Carolyn Bahar
  • No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen
  • Seven at Sea: Why a New York City Family Cast Off Convention for a Life-Changing Year on a Sailboat by Erik Orton and Emily Orton
  • When Life Gives you Luluemons by Lauren Weisberger
  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Love to solve crimes in your free time?

  • Backlash by Brad Thor *ANY BOOK BY BRAD THOR*
  • I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank the Irishman Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa by Charles Brandt
  • Sara Booth Delaney mystery series by Carolyn Haines

Did you read any of the books on my list?  What did you think?  Any books I should add to my list to read in 2020?

Triple Dog Dare You to Put Down Your Phone

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, presents, and get togethers of all kinds.  I am here today to talk about being present.  Literally putting down your phone in meetings, at dinners, and around others.  Give others your time and attention. 

In case this concept is foreign or seems a little too woo-woo, let’s quickly define it with some examples. 

“Being fully present means having your focus, your attention, your thoughts and feelings all fixed on the task at hand. If you are speaking to somebody, then your attention and energy is focused on him or her and what he or she is saying. If you are doing a task, then your entire being is focused on the task.”

Personal Resilience Builder

Before we get further into the details, lets reminisce on the best holiday movie of all time, The Christmas Story.  And don’t disagree with me you filthy animal!  Yes, I am serious Clark!  Ok maybe there is a three-way tie for best holiday movie of all time. 

Flick: Are you kidding? Stick my tongue to that stupid pole? That’s dumb!

Schwartz: That’s ’cause you know it’ll stick!

Flick: You’re full of it!

Schwartz: Oh yeah?

Flick: Yeah!

Schwartz: Well I double-DOG-dare ya!

Ralphie as an Adult: [narrating]  NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a “triple dare you”? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.

Schwartz: I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!

Ralphie as an Adult: [narrating]  Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!

We are all adults that know that our tongues will stick to that stupid flag pole, so we just don’t do it.  What if I were to modernize this dialogue and talk about your cell phone?

You:  Are you kidding?  Leave my phone at my desk during a meeting?  That’s dumb!

Me:  That’s ‘cause you know you can’t do it!

You:  You are nuts!

Me:  Oh yeah?

You:  Yeah!

Me:  I triple dog dare you to leave your phone behind!

I bring this up because often in meetings there is a delay in responding, a retelling of the issue because someone was looking at their phone rather than paying attention.  Eyes roll.  Frustrations build.  And another wasted, drawn out meeting continues.  All in the name of scrolling through Facebook and checking emails.  Yes, I have witnessed meeting attendees looking through Facebook during a meeting that they scheduled. 

Look I get it.  In the wise words of Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism, “we didn’t sign up for this.” We didn’t sign up to be tethered to our phones.  We didn’t sign up to jump at every beep, ding, or buzz.  We didn’t sign up to be constantly in contact with the world.  We weren’t supposed to be like the dogs in Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiment with the bell. 

Yet here we are.  Jumping at every beep, ding, and buzz.  Wondering how many likes we got on a picture or post, worrying if we are missing an important email, or even worse worrying if we are taking too long to respond to a text message.   The fear of missing out is a real thing, until you change your relationship with your cell phone.  It takes time.  It is hard.  Very hard.  But start small for the holidays. 

  • Can you find one meeting a week to leave your phone behind?
  • Can you go for a walk without your phone?
  • How about a meal without your phone?

I am going to leave you today with a triple dog dare challenge.  I triple dog dare you to see how long you can go without looking at your phone.  Comment below with your results. 

“Yeah hey, they say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine”

Prince

1999 Cell Phone:

Looking for more resources?  Check out the following books:

  • Cal Newport – Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
  • Brooke McAlery – Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World
  • Marie Kondo – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Looking for articles?

Giving Thanks

As we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, I got to thinking about some of the amazing people that I met along my professional journey.  These names and faces flooded into my mind along with many others.  Today I want to thank the following wonderful people for touching my life in such a meaningful way that I will never forget. 

brown wooden board
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  • Barry – Fantastic academic advisor and great mentor.  You showed me what it is like to break down barriers. 
  • Betty – Taught me how to audit right from the basics and always showed kindness towards each of my questions.
  • Cathy – Taught me to never give up because with a little determination anything is possible. 
  • Jim – Took a chance on letting me join his team and gave me a chance to make an impact.  We did it! 
  • John – My first boss and Excel ninja teacher who was always willing to share knowledge.  He believed that the team was stronger when knowledge was shared.
  • Jonathan – Held nothing back but gave fantastic and solid advice.
  • Joy – Taught me to never change a control just because it failed as well as stand up for what I believe is right. 
  • Larry – Inspired me to go into accounting in the first place. 
  • Lisa – You showed me how to deal with some very challenging people with class.
  • Michelle – Gave me tough love in making some tough decisions.  You are an amazing person!
  • Renee – You always do what is right.  You stand up for what is right. 
  • Rich – Pushed me to challenge myself when I was a bit nervous to do it myself.
  • Sri – You knows how to lift others up and make positive changes against all odds.
  • Steph – Leads by example on being strong, calm, and kind.  You showed me what it is like to support others. 
  • Tom – Trains me to be strong physically, which allows me to be stronger mentally.  

On a person note, my incredible husband belongs on this list.  He has supported my crazy goals and insane dreams with love and kindness. 

With much love, thank you to everyone who has made a positive impact on my life!  I am thankful for every one of you!

Check Yourself, Before You Wreck Your Image: Under Promise and Over Deliver

Look.  We have all been there.  You want to impress your boss.  You want to impress your teammates.  You want to impress your clients.  You say YES to everything.  You say YES that 20-hour project will be completed by end of day today even though you just received the assignment this morning.  You say YES to fifteen requests that are all due at the same time.  You set yourself up for failure and disappointment. 

FailureDisappointment.  It is hard to accept that you failed and disappointed others.  The failure that I am talking about here is not the failure from trying, from stretching and growing your skills, or from learning new skills.  The failure that I am talking today about comes from OVER promising and UNDER delivering.  Here is a simplified version of an over promised and under delivered failure that comes from a friend of a friend.

In my friend of a friend’s story, a very large online retailer promises to deliver a book the day after they paid for the book.  In order to receive the book they ordered the next day, they needed to have a “special membership” to the quick shipping club.  They had to pay extra for this “special membership.”  The next day comes and the book does not arrive.  It actually takes an extra four days for your friend to receive the book.  This very large online retailer over promised and under delivered.  You get the point.  The very large online retailer failed. 

This could happen to you or one of your friends.  Maybe you are new to working or new to a job and trying to impress others.  Before you wreck your image, you need to check the difference between your reality and your fantasy self so that you can start UNDER PROMISING and OVER DELIVERING.  Your fantasy self can handle 15 projects at the same time without making a single mistake.  The reality is that you can take on 15 projects that have staggered due dates and time requirements.  To help you manage your reality, check out my five tips to under promising and over delivering. 

Five Tips to Under Promising and Over Delivering

  1. Talk about expectations.  Identify who needs what done by when.  Identify if you are working solo or part of a team.  Identify your plans to meet the expectations. 
  2. Be transparent on timelines.  Do not say an hour project will take two days on a regular basis.  You will lose trust very quickly.  However, consider adding a little bit of wiggle room to that hour project if you are relying on computer systems that could be slow at time for example.    
  3. Communicate.  Communicate.  Communicate.  If something unexpected occurs, that cannot be fixed nearly immediately and it looks like your project is going to be delayed, communicate that with the requestor.  Explain what happened.  Be prepared to explain how it happened and what steps you took to correct the issue.
  4. Discuss current projects.  Explain other projects that you have one your plate and determine if the new project should replace a current project.
  5. Look for a Barrier Breaker.  There will be a time that you run into a barrier.  Be able to identify who can help you break down that barrier.

In the wise words of Gretchen Rubin’s father, “If you’re willing to take the blame when you deserve it, people will give you the responsibility.”

Do you have any other tips to ensure that you under promise and over deliver? 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Why Won’t They Just Do as I Ask?

Are you a boss? Are you a parent? Are you a partner? Are you a sister/brother? Are you living in a society with other humans? Chances are you are one or more of these. Since you are part of this group, you have likely said to yourself at least one time in your life “Why Won’t They Just Do as I Ask?” Some people just listen and do exactly what you ask. While others perpetually keep asking “but why?” or ignore you all together. 

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

The main reason is how people respond to inner and outer expectations. Let me explain and provide resources to you so that you get what you ask. 

The brilliant and talented lawyer turned author, Gretchen Rubin, developed the Four Tendencies Framework. This framework explains how people respond to inner and outer expectations. Some people have no issue starting a new habit and sticking to it without an accountability partner. This is meeting inner expectations. While some need an accountability partner to create outer expectations to stick with the new habit. 

Gretchen classifies people into four different categories. She has even developed a quiz(If you feel the need to take the quiz several times because you were told you are a questioner, just let it go. You are a questioner. The results will not change no matter how many times you take the quiz.)

According to the Four Tendencies:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations”
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations”
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves”
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike”

Take the quiz and harness the power of speaking to your colleagues, partner, or other humans in a way that speaks to how they respond to outer expectations. 

Gretchen Rubin has a weekly podcast, Happier, where she goes into more detail on this framework as well as provides happiness tips, tricks, and hacks. 

Gretchen Rubin has also written a book explaining the Four Tendencies. 

Upholders, I know you already checked out the quiz. Great work!

Questioners, did I provide enough suggestions to show that this make sense?

Obligers, your boss called and said you needed to investigate this topic.

Rebels, if you want to show the world you rock, consider checking out the quiz. 

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Out of College for 10 Years and Still Learning

Unbelievable. It has been almost 10 years since I graduated from King’s College with a degree in accounting. I cannot believe it. I have learned so much and met many amazing people along the way. 

Photo by StellrWeb on Unsplash

I still remember my first job interview. I kept passing this old house thinking to myself “no way is that where I am supposed to go.” I still remember my first day of work as an internal auditor. My cube was in a garage. I had no windows. The basement was the scariest thing I ever saw. Come spring I smelled manure as the farmers got their fields ready. And within a year the whole team moved into a new office with lots of windows and no scary basements!

I was completely unprepared to be an internal auditor, but I was determined to learn and make it work. I truly believe that you can teach anyone who is willing to learn. They make the best teammates!

Three people stood out to me from my first job that helped me define what it meant to be an internal auditor. My hiring manager, John, took me under his wing and showed me how to make pivot tables and maximize my use of Excel. My senior auditor, Betty, showed me how to set up work papers and test controls. My assistant manager, Joy, taught me that you do not change controls just because they failed. Collectively they taught me to share my knowledge with others and stand up for what is right. 

If I were giving a commencement speech now, here are 10 tips I would want to share with new graduates.

Top 10 Things I Learned Along the Way:

  1. You are smart and you have a strong voice but sometimes silence is what is needed. Learn when to speak and when to have silence.
  2. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify.” Listen with a skeptical mind. 
  3. Smile and greet everyone like they are your boss. You never know when someone will advance and could possibly become your boss. 
  4. You are going to Google a heck of a lot of stuff no matter how many years you have been working or where you went to school. YouTube is also very helpful.
  5. If you are stuck and have a problem on a project, have a plan no matter what. Going to your boss or colleague without a plan is dumping. Nobody likes that. 
  6. Learn to work smarter not harder. Look for efficiencies in what you do because one day you will thank your lucky stars that you were able to get everything done and get out of work on time. 
  7. Leave work on time. Staying late makes you look inefficient and having poor time management skills. Of course, if you messed up on a project, then you better stay late to fix it. 
  8. If you must ask someone about fraud, phrase it like this. “If you won the Power Ball and we hired a bad actor, how could they cheat the system?” Then check to see if they cheated the system. 
  9. Keep your emails short and simple. Nobody wants to read War and Peace each time you email them. If you must email more than twice on the same topic, offer to schedule a quick meeting. Both sides are confused, and confusion causes frustration. 
  10. Learn about personality frameworks. It will help you harness your strengths, mitigate your weaknesses, and speak to others’ strengths.

Here are my bonus suggestions. 

  1. Drink a lot of water. Exercise regularly. Eat right. You need to take care of yourself if you are going to do your best every day.
  2. Do not be that person who reheats fish in the microwave. Just don’t be that person.

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

Photo by StellrWeb on Unsplash