Learn to take charge of your time

For 25 years, I worked at the same job—I grew as the job grew.
During those 25 years, I also went to the lake with my children and attended all their programs. I gave speeches, earned a graduate degree, entertained, wrote a book, went to board meetings, and had fun.
The day I closed my office for the last time, I had mixed feelings. It had been a good 25 years. But at the same time, I was exhilarated and very energized.
I would have lots of time. My goals were to write and to do a thorough housecleaning—something I had delayed for years. I looked forward to the relaxed pace.
Imagine my surprise when, a year after I left my position, I found myself as busy as ever. My desk was piled high with papers. I didn’t have time to deep clean my kitchen cupboards or organize my files.
Worst of all, my “retired” friends also said they were very busy. They had too much to do and could not get caught up.
Could it be possible that “Parkinson’s Law” was at fault?
Cyril Northcote Parkinson was an English political analyst who was born in 1909 and died in 1993. Parkinson was very obscure until 1955, when he wrote an essay in the London Economist introducing the concept that, “Work expands to fill the time available.”
The catchy phrase caught on and has been called “Parkinson’s Law” ever since.
Think about it—if work expands to fill the time available, you’ll never get done with all your work at any age. The smallest job can take all day if you have nothing else pressing.
And the biggest job can be finished quickly if you have numerous deadlines.
In order to avoid the trap of “Parkinson’s Law,” you have to consciously plan each retirement day. Decide how much time each of the day’s projects should take. Add an extra 10 percent so you don’t feel rushed.
Then finish the project in the allotted time.
You also may want to apply “Pareto’s Principle,” which was formulated by Vilfredo Pareto in 1897.
Pareto was an economist who observed that 80 percent of the land in his native Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Also a passionate gardener, Pareto noted 20 percent of the pea pods in his garden yielded 80 percent of the crop.
Like “Parkinson’s Law,” “Pareto’s Principle” quickly caught on and was applied to many areas of study. Today, it often is referred to as the “80/20 Principle.”
In his book, “The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less,” Richard Koch suggested individuals could multiply their effectiveness by applying this principle.
“Eighty percent of what you achieve comes from 20 percent of the time spent,” wrote Koch. “Thus for all practical purposes, four-fifths of the effort—a dominant part of it—is largely irrelevant.”
So take a few moments today to sit down and study your to-do list. Use the lessons of “Parkinson’s Law” and “Pareto’s Principle” to help you take charge of your time.
Eliminate irrelevant tasks and accentuate projects that lead toward significant goals. And you will discover a renewed sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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