Parkinson’s Law

I missed the memo about Parkinson’s Law.

Essentially, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.  Let that sink in for a second…

I think I was just dinking around on the internet when I first stumbled across Parkinson’s Law.  As a tragic procrastinator and dilly-dally-er, I understood the powerful truthfulness of this law immediately.   When deadlines are upon me, I can somehow manage to focus my efforts and pare down a project to its very essential components.  Whereas when I have seemingly unlimited time, I wander around thinking about this idea and that idea, losing focus and not making much forward progress. 

Never before had I experienced such a nauseating and exhilarating manifestation of this phenomenon as when I sat for the California Bar Exam in the summer of 2004.  *post-traumatic stress shudder*

I’d like to think that it takes a truly exceptionally intelligent person to be a lawyer, but I don’t really think that’s true.  You do, however, have to be relatively quick-witted.  And maybe that’s why the Bar Exam is a timed test.  Tick Toc, Tick Toc….read, think, write…go, go, go.  Heavens, it was stressful. 


After three days, I emerged from the Bar Exam twitchy and tired, but I was pretty sure that I had passed.  And mercifully, I did.  As I think back now, I think the pressure of the time limit actually helped me to do better.  If I had months to ruminate about each question, I would have over-thought  and second-guessed my way into muddled and incorrect answers.  But as the clock ticked down the minutes, I was forced to get very clear about the task at hand and to answer quickly and decisively. 

In real life, I feel Parkinson’s Law working on me all the time.  A little pressure gives me a kick in the ass and brings some focus and clarity to what might otherwise be an enormous and amorphous task.  But here’s the rub…when my boss or the court gives me a deadline, no problem.  But the deadlines I place on myself?  They start feeling arbitrary and movable as they approach.   As I get older,  I do feel like my personal deadlines are a little less arbitrary, though.  It calls to mind this image from “Gone With The Wind”…


Maybe it’s time to live by the deadlines.  Memo received.

How Not to Get Fat

I missed the memo on how not to get fat. 

I noted previously that in the enduring battle between my face and my ass, my face is winning.   This was affirmed this weekend when I took the walk of shame back to Weight Watchers and one of the ladies guessed my age as 10 years younger than I actually am. 

I’ve never been one of those super skinny girls, and I actually like my big butt, and I cannot lie.   I don’t need to be a stick, I just need to fit into my suits.  I didn’t gain a crazy amount of weight with my pregnancy, and was actually below my pre-pregnancy weight within six weeks of my son’s birth.  I credit breastfeeding for this quick weight loss, and I completely exploited the metabolic benefits of breastfeeding and pretty much ate whatever I wanted.  However, I ignored the memo that said that once your baby weans, you’re supposed to stop eating like a trucker.  So in recent months, I’ve become a softer, but not gentler version of myself.  I’m definitely pushing maximum density and it sucks. 

For anyone who’s ever tried Weight Watchers, you know it’s commercially packaged common sense and accountability.  There’s no rocket surgery about it…eat healthier food, less of it, get some exercise, lather, rinse, repeat.  For someone like me who can completely rationalize and deny crappy food choices, it helps.

Because I’m now completely pre-occupied with my food choices, when Netflix suggested the documentary Fat Head the other night, I dutifully added it to my queue.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look.  The DVD cover art tells you a lot:

Filmmaker Tom Naughton undertakes his own experiment with fast food, setting out to see if he could actually lose weight by eating an all fast food diet.  In a light-hearted way,  he skewers the methodology and agenda of Super Size Me‘s protagonist, Morgan Spurlock.   And along the way, he points out all the “bologna” that we’ve been fed about nutritional information in this country.  Several interesting and articulate people are interviewed in the film, and some of them even wear schnazzy white lab coats.  They make a lot of interesting points about the political, economic, social and psychological forces which shape how and what we eat.  Please pardon the obvious pun, but it really was food for thought. 

I still don’t know what it is that I’m “supposed” to eat.  McDonald’s every day?  Probably not.  McDonald’s every once in a while?  Probably.  Memo received. 

© 2011 Jamie Walker Ball