Monday, 7 July 2014

Post 22: Parkinson's Law of Procrastination and Pomodoros

Okay, so the law isn't necessarily directly tied to procrastination, but one of my colleagues pointed out that was a natural consequence of the law.

Parkinson's law (according to Wikipedia) is the phenomenon where work expands to fill the time available for its completion. People, who know that their deadline for a given project is in a week, will take the whole week to finish said project, even if it should have (and could have) taken less time. It's sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson, British naval historian and writer, identified the phenomenon that carries his name in an essay he penned in 1955 for The Economist. Originally the essay that discussed the effect pointed out to the consequences for the efficiency of work, and since then, a number of further elucidated points arise, including this one, which more directly speaks to the point above: "The amount of time one that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete a task."
And further: "If one waits to the last minute, it will only take a minute to do" (Pannett, Dines, & Day, 2013, p. 65).

This is what I feel I deal with as a graduate student all the time! Where, if I don't structure my day, or set myself small goals throughout the day, the amount of work and time spent being productive drastically decreases, because, Hey, I have the whole day to do it, right? (Without defining what 'it' is...) It's a trap!

                                  And then there are summer pine cones, looking pretty great.

In one of my recent attendances at the Thesis Completion Group, the organizer brought up the Pomodoro Technique, which are 25 minute blocks of uninterrupted, dedicated working time, split by 5 minute breaks (short) or ten minute breaks (long); or, a food break as you need it. The idea was developed by Italian Francesco Cirillo, who believed that taking frequent breaks led to better mental functioning and agility. Breaking up big blocks of time into these little patches of really concrete work time can be an awesome way to break up the day, and get lots done! (For example, writing a short blog post!) I've been thinking a lot more about how I structure my time and day since learning about Pomodoros, and I've found them to be quite effective, especially when I build them around bigger breaks or markers in my day, such as when I leave work, or take lunch.

So, if you, like me, struggle with Parkinson's Law, try a Pomodoro, or two, or three, and get to using your time to your advantage. After all, theses don't write themselves, and as a graduate student, you are your main deadline setter!

AND -- if you want to become a Pomodoro master, have a short look at this short video. There is also a book for the technique, but I don't think it's necessary to purchase. The technique as described above and in the video, are more than enough to start thinking about, and changing the structure of your time.

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