Productivity: Parkinson’s Law


Have you heard of Parkinson's Law? The law states that a task will swell in importance the more time you allot to complete it, meaning that the more time you give yourself to do something, the more complex and daunting it will seem. The lesson? Set tight deadlines and time limits for tasks. I read about it in The 4 Hour Workweek, and although I'd never heard of it before, it made sense immediately: I (unintentionally) worked Parkinson's law to create and launch my first album!

It all started with an idea

Coming out with an album was something I'd wanted to do since I started learning music production. In the summer of 2013, I had an idea to create a “birthday mixtape” of some covers I'd done plus some new songs to release on my birthday, October 21. I wanted to set a goal for myself to write and produce new songs, because I knew that if I didn't have one, I'd never get around to working on or finishing anything.

I got really excited about this. The idea was that this year, I didn't need any gifts for my birthday; instead, I wanted to give a gift to the world through music, because it was the best way I knew how. The album would be a thank you to everyone's who's supported me so far. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got.

Then procrastination happens, naturally

A month passed, and I didn't really make any progress. I was paralyzed by the artist's fear. But I had to push myself. I told myself: “You're going to release something on your birthday.  You have to. I don't care how bad it is, even if it's just one crappy song, you're going to release something!” I made it a hard deadline that was absolutely non-negotiable. I couldn't push back my birthday.

Eventually I started telling people about my project, which was scary but motivated me to work because I couldn't back out. I was now accountable.

I only seriously started to work on the album at the end of August. At that point, I basically had two months to crank out whatever I could. It got real. This was crunch time.

Lighting my own fire

With the date approaching, I had to get serious about scheduling and prioritizing my time. I worked backwards from the release date, and started setting deadlines for what I needed to accomplish each day and each week leading up to the release. I had procrastinated so much that I really didn't leave much time to breathe. I'd have to finish a song a week; the schedule would be like: “Monday: write new song, Tuesday: produce the song, Wednesday: Record, Thursday: Mix, then Repeat.” Then, I'd leave a week at the end for final touches, mixing and mastering.

The final weeks leading up to the release, I'd work 12+ hours straight on writing, producing, recording, and mixing. I remember rolling out of bed and onto my desk to work, then falling asleep listening to my music at the end of the night/morning as the sun came up. Because I had a hard deadline, I forced myself to create. But because I forced myself to create, I found flow. I was super focused and super creative, and I loved it.

Thanks, Parkinson's Law

Now, I realize that experience was probably the best example of Parkinson's Law working for my life. I was so productive and determined in those couple months because I was serious about meeting a tight deadline.

In the end, the experience of creating my first album was worth it. I was so nervous and scared about releasing my birthday mixtape – but once it was out, I was empowered to keep going. I decided to write a couple more songs and compile my original songs to make an EP. I released my Honestly EP the next month on November 14, and even threw an album release party. ^_^ It was such a beautiful and magical night for me.

Now that I've shared my story on how Parkinson's Law worked for my life, I want to know: When were you your most productive and in flow because of a tight deadline? Sometimes, our perception of time can make us do amazing/crazy things. Please share in the comments!


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