Lesson 2: Parkinson’s Law

September 21, 2020

Guest author Shail Gajjar

Read Shail’s Part 1: Don’t Let Eyes Be The Demise

Northcote Parkinson, 1942
Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Less time studying, and better grades. Though factual, it sounds entirely fictional. Hi all, my name is Shail Gajjar and I’m a second year at The University of Houston College of Optometry. I hope to share some lessons and insights from my first year in the Doctor of Optometry (OD) program.

I recall a time when I used to dumbfoundedly wonder how my classmates juggled their commitments. Whether it be marriage, taking care of a pet, volunteering every weekend, having a kid, playing on a regional ultimate frisbee team, working a part-time job, or commuting from home, the people around me somehow found a way to fit a doctorate program into their schedules. The question I used to wonder was how? As is, I felt there wasn’t enough time to study, so how could someone – with substantially less time – still manage to sufficiently study. What was the secret?

While I cannot speak on their behalf, here’s the answer I came to one semester later:

Lesson 2: Quality ≥ Quantity. Per Parkinson’s Law, your results will improve when you spend less time studying more. Treat each studying session like your last, as if the final is the next day.

 You’ve probably already been told about the importance of time-management. I wish not to expand that dialogue. My emphasis is instead timeusage. To illustrate this, consider the following scenario:

Let’s say you take the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) in 2 months. I want you to imagine how a typical day of studying would go. More specifically, imagine how many hours you would study in a day.

WHAT IF I told you there was an issue with your registration (you can’t reschedule) and you now have 2 weeks. AS IF THIS WASN’T ENOUGH, you cannot study any more per day than you did previously. What would you change? How would your days of studying evolve?

With absolute certainty, my stress would go through the roof. That variable aside, however, I can also say my time-usage would significantly change. I would undergo a paradigm shift. Rather than casually studying the material for the day and taking breaks as I please, I would spend each and every single minute of that studying session with focus and concentration. My breaks would be limited to an “as-needed” basis for the sole purpose of expanding my studying. Such new behaviors would be rooted to a sense of urgency; the realization that each minute matters would push me to spend the limited time that I had with maximal efficiency.

THIS, my friends, is the key that revolutionized how I approached studying my second semester of first year. Sure, scheduling in activities for the sake of my mental health decreased the available amount of time that I had, but enhancing my time-usage allowed me to cover more material in less time.

Now… this might sound really intense… And to be frank, as I re-read the points I make above, it does sound a little forward. Yet, I can say that employing the methods mentioned will allow you to free up more time for yourself. And so, whether you’re group studying or studying by yourself, always ensure you’re studying with a sense of urgency. It can be really easy (and tempting) to sit back, relax, and casually flip through PowerPoint slides. Or maybe have a few conversations with your friends, order some food, and so forth. Unfortunately, such behaviors will only prolong your studying time and ultimately restrict you from doing the things that you actually enjoy.

Study in an environment that keeps you motivated, but don’t make studying longer than it needs to be. All of this brings me to…

A variation of Parkinson’s Law:

FIRST, schedule doing the things that you love. Work will THEN expand to fill the available time remaining for its completion, assuming you’re spending that time correctly.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Lakshya Trivedi (more info at his website themdjourney.com or his YouTube channel TheMDJourney) for teaching me this concept, and to HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj (learn more at pramukhswami.org) who taught me its application.