When I was studying project management, I learned the term, “Parkinson’s Law.” Parkinson’s Law is the idea that work takes as much time as you allow for it. In other words, if you wait till the last minute to accomplish a task, you are just as likely to get it done as if you’d left several hours for getting it done. I had always associated Parkinson’s with that disease made obvious by the tremors it causes, not an indication of time for a task. But I now fully believe Parkinson’s Law is true.
Just a few days ago, actually, my mother-in-love and I experienced it. We had planned to see a movie, then shop for groceries, then prepare dinner for the family we had invited to join us at 6. Since the movie started at 2, we never thought we’d have a time crunch, and it wasn’t until we got into the car on the way back from the grocery store that we noted the time at 5:15.
Pressure. We felt it. We found ourselves getting the longer-cooking dishes prepared first, then working our way down the task list — and managed to get everything cooked and delicious at a time appropriate for guests arriving at 6. Parkinson’s Law at work. I know that had the movie gotten out an hour earlier, we still would have taken every minute we had to get the dinner made. As it was, we made a feast of salmon, scalloped potatoes, broccoli, cottage cheese with fruit, garlic bread — and even a couple “specials” for my picky niece — in an hour.
I appreciate being able to leisurely prepare for an event — but I somehow manage to run out of time anyway and find myself rushing to get finished. Other times I feel completely unmotivated to get a job done but find that a pending deadline — otherwise known as “deadline pressure” — sparks just the motivation I need.
I once had a friend who said she just “put out fires, one at a time.” Whatever was most important at the moment, perhaps like the proverbial “tyranny of the urgent,” was the “fire” she attended to. I equate it to this: When I was single, I had a green thumb. I was great with plants. When I married and became an instant mother of four, an eventual mother of five, my plants suffered. I say it’s because they didn’t cry as loudly. Pressure — be it tasks or needy children — motivates.
I think I work well under pressure, though I don’t want to live in a perpetual state of such.
How about you?