• James Walton

Why You Can Never Leave Work on Time

The reason some struggle to leave work on time is that we use the 'work-being-done' as the measure. But the work is never done. So if there's always more to do, we must grow wise in our ability to decide what is enough for a given day.  There's a simple shift in your thinking that will help you accomplish more in less time. It's a simple axiom by the name of Parkinson's Law. Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for it.  Think back to your school years. That 8 page paper due at the end of the term? It took the whole term to write, even though the work being done on it was confined to the final three days of the term once the panic set in. Had the paper's due date been three days hence you would have found a way to get it done.  Now think about something like email, which drifts alongside you throughout your day like an unhappy houseguest, nagging you about all the things it needs. But the corollary to Parkinson's Law works in your favor: work contracts to fill the time allotted for it. Email is a dragon, but it can be a tame dragon, if you confine it to distinct times throughout the day to process. Of course, professional life isn't as simple as believing all your work can be accomplished each day by 5:30pm. But if you leave your afternoons open-ended and fail to commit to a hard stop at a given time, you will find that your work will expand to fill every moment you choose to give it. That's the nature of Parkinson's Law. Start with email, and then take a hard look at your meetings. Aim to make them only as long as absolutely necessary. Use the pomodoro technique to monotask on the remainder of your priorities, and over time you'll find yourself doing more with less.  And maybe, just maybe, leaving work at the time you decide. Not the time the work decides.

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