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The Illusion of 8 Hour Workday: Are You Hard-Working or Just Lazy?

You always run around your office with papers, you can’t take your head off the screen, you are always busy with tasks. You think that you are a hard-working and decent worker?

Would you believe that everything could be just the opposite and you are just being lazy? But wait.. Your boss also sees you as a hard-working employee and values you. So where’s the problem you say?

(Image credits: star5112)

Illusion of 8 hour workday and Parkinson’s Law

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” (Cyril Northcote Parkinson ,The Economist in 1955)

Let’s ask ourselves a question : How come every human in the world has to work for 8 hours? Every person is different, every job is different, so where does this rule of working for 8 hours comes from?  Isn’t it just an old historical heritage from the past?

“This schedule is a collective social agreement and a dinosaur legacy of the results-by-volume approach” – Timothy Ferriss.

(Image credits: * Photography by Chris *)

Since we are trapped in this 8 hour servitude, we have to fill our time with tasks and activities.  We create an illusion of being hard-working, whereas the true is that we just filling the time with nonessential tasks.

Acting like the rest of population is nothing but laziness to think, and laziness to work efficiently.

I’m sure everyone has a lot of personal experience to justify Parkinson’s Law . It’s so insightful I will even repeat it again: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

If we had 20 hours instead of 8 hours to finish our work we would just spread the concentration and do the same work in 20 hours. If we had 6 hours – we would easily do it a bit faster with bigger concentration. But what if we had just 2 hours? We would miraculously finish it!

Me and Parkinson’s Law

I remember myself having to finish my term paper 1 year ago. I had more than 3 months to do it (find the literature, meet my paper supervisor, agree on a plan and so on), but of course the last day came and all I had just the sketch of a plan and some books I found 2 days before the actual deadline. And you’ve guessed – of course I managed to finish it the last night before the deadline. I drank a cup of coffee which I never drink, started writing and never lost my concentration trough the night.

The closer the deadline the more efficient and concentrated you become. Time pressure just forces you to do it faster and concentrate only on bare essentials. Of course I could have wasted my time looking for the best book, spending times on meetings with my supervisor agreeing on non essential things, like sentence formulation, or some other points. But life is just to short for this.

Pareto Principle (a.k.a 80-20 rule)

Today I’ve accidently came across one post called “I quit blogging”.  The poor blogger writes that he’s 40 years old and had a dream to earn money online and retire early. He never managed to do it and complains that blogging ate all of his time. And the most interesting part was, where he explains why this happened. It sounds something like this “I was caught in never ending circles of replying to comments, replying to emails, reading other blogs, writing comments there”. Well, this might be not word by word, but the thing is that he spent all of his time concentrating on those 80% of nonessential tasks.

I believe that you already know this rule: “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.”

Never waste your time on those 80% but concentrate on those 20% instead  which is the essence of many projects and tasks. If you are blogger just like me always keep this rule in mind.

Being  Smart and Working Shorter

So if you are smart and want to work shorter and more efficiently, use  Parkinson’s Law and Pareto Principle together:

1. Do lesser but only the most essential tasks to shorten your work time. Always keep in mind that 20% of your job, or 20% of your clients generates 80% of the results or income. (Pareto Principle a.k.a 80/20 rule)

2. Make deadlines and shorten your work time so that it would naturally force you to concentrate only on bare essentials. The less time you have the more effective you become. (Parkinson’s Law)

Your boss may not understand you at first,  if you finish your tasks just in few hours and ask for permission to go home or take a vacation. It is your task to convince him that the hours doesn’t matter – it’s how you spend those hours what matters.

Article inspired by The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Richalso available in Audio

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