There’s a principle called Parkinson’s Law that says “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Put simply, that means that the more time you give yourself to do something, the longer it will take to get it done.
For example, when you block off a whole weekend to work on a paper, but then find yourself procrastinating like crazy and get almost nothing done? Or when you have a bad date that is goes on forever because you didn’t set a clear ending?
Yeah. Exactly. That’s Parkinson’s Law in action.
But it’s not just papers or dates — it’s everything we do. Whether it’s cleaning, shopping, relaxing, errands or partying, the time each of those tasks takes up way more time than we thought they would. Think about your life and your habits, and consider how much you really get done when you give yourself tons of time. The answer is probably not much.
Here’s a better approach that’s a secret weapon used by the world’s most productive people.
The next time you have to complete a task, put a deadline on it that’s firm and then work backwards using what’s called the Pomodoro Technique.
This approach makes you give yourself only 25-minutes to complete a specific task followed by a 5-minute break. So that’s a cycle of 30-minutes… 25-minutes of work, 5-minute break. Each 30-minute cycle is called a Pomodoro, hence the name.
Once you repeat a Pomodoro four times, take a longer break of up to 30-minutes. Then sit back down and do another round of four Pomodoros, or as many as you need to do to get your work done.
All you have to remember is that one Pomodoro is 25-minutes of working time followed by a 5-minute break. And then after four Pomodoros, take a 30-minute break. Got it? Great.
The key, however, is to be organized and have your work cut into manageable chunks. It’s not like you can write a massive essay in 25-minutes. And I know that breaking up a big project, like a paper or a major research project, down into small pieces doesn’t feel natural. This is especially the case if we feel stressed about it and feel like it’s so big that no matter what we do, we’ll only ever scratch the surface of it.
That’s not true. Break. It. Down.
Before you begin your work if you’re using this technique, make a list of the bite-sized tasks that you have to do to write, for example, a paper. Your list might start to look like this:
- Pick a topic and narrow it down
- Draft a clear thesis
- Look for research to support my thesis from online sources
- Look for research to support my thesis from journal articles
- Go back and refine my thesis based on the research reviewed above
- Outline my three main arguments in a couple sentences each
- …and so on
Then once you have your list, start at the first item with one Pomodoro. Get it done before 25-minutes is up? Great, move onto the next. If not, let it roll into the next 25-minutes. Make sure that you’re focused during each Pomodoro. Don’t do anything but that one thing. Keep all other distractions at bay.
On a logistical note, there are a ton of apps and tools out there to act as a timer. You can use a timer on your phone. Or you can try PomoDone (which has a free version) or Pomotodo (which is also free for the basic plan). All will work. Just find something that works for you.
So before you dive back into work, stop everything and give this a shot! It might not feel natural at first, but keep at it. Before you know it, you’ll be a productivity machine.
Oh, and by the way, I wrote this blog in exactly two Pomodoros.
Jordan here from Real Campus. I’m one of the people who runs the program and Shift Collab from behind the scenes.
And today, I want to get frank with you and talk about something important: Some of you have been booking therapy sessions with us and haven’t been showing up to your appointments!
Now, before I go much further, I want to make it clear that it’s not all people, at all! In fact, the vast majority of you are using and loving the services we provide, which is awesome. But there is a small minority out there that are not showing up for their appointments… sometimes repeatedly.
Also, don’t take my using of “you” in the post title or below as directed at YOU. I’m sure you’re great.
Transparency is important to us. So let me explain why this is frustrating for us, and why no one wins when this happens.
Real Campus is paid for by your student fees. That’s right, your fees. Those student fees are split up a bunch of different ways, and our group gets a small amount to provide ongoing therapy and other support services to you — if you choose to use ’em.
I find in my own life that sometimes when I don’t pay for something directly, I get a little lazy with showing up. And I think a bit of that logic applies here.
It’s kind of if I gave you a gym membership that was fully paid for, versus you paying $100 a month for the same membership. If the membership was paid for, you might slack off and miss the occasional training session without breaking a sweat (pun intended). But, if you were paying the money every month, you’d likely go to the gym more often.
Therapy sessions are no different. If you were paying for each session directly, I bet you’d be much more likely to attend.
Having said that, we also understand that things come up! Life happens. We all get sick, we make mistakes, we get stuck in traffic, we forget appointments. It happens. And that’s totally cool.
But at a scale of operation like ours (Real Campus is a BIG program with nearly 200,000 students enrolled), even a small increase in no-shows leaves a big mark.
To demonstrate my point, here’s what happens when someone doesn’t show up for their session:
- When you don’t show up, the session still costs money because the therapist and the room still have to be paid for.
- When you don’t show up, the therapist is still there and is waiting for you.
- When you don’t show up, someone else that wanted to see that therapist can’t see them.
- When you don’t show up, we lose one session of the amount of sessions we’ve budgeted for for the whole year.
- And I can assure you, each session is valuable to the client. Sometimes one session can change a life.
So if you have an appointment booked and need to cancel or reschedule, we ask for 24 hours notice. You can do that by calling us (1-877-390-7325) or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also cancel and rebook it following the links in the email confirmations you receive. We’re super friendly about it. Just give us notice, that’s all!
If you have a friend that has an appointment scheduled, take an active role to remind them to show up! We know therapy can be scary for many, that’s why it’s important that you support your friends with showing up. You can also ask your friends to hold you accountable if it’s you that has an appointment coming up. Buddy system for the win.
With your help, we can support more people and fight for student mental health. One session at a time.
Here’s to making a bigger impact together!
PS. Got any feedback on Real Campus or the above? Email me directly!
Last week, we posed a question on social media and in our weekly newsletter.
The question was simple: What’s the most powerful thing you’ve learned about improving your mental health?
Your responses were fascinating and served as a reminder that sometimes the most powerful things are also the simplest.
Here are some that stood out to us. (Note that some were edited for grammar or clarity.)
- Start every day with something that makes me laugh!
- Slow progress is still progress.
- Everything is temporary. Both happiness and, more importantly, pain.
- If I keep replaying things over and over, I need to talk it out with someone.
- So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great!
- Say it out loud. Sometimes just putting it out into the world helps you find a jumping off point to tackle the overwhelming.
- Set hard boundaries.
- In order to help others around me, I had to look after myself first. And in starting to do self-care to improve my mental health, I am beginning to learn more about myself which helps.
- Surrounding myself in reminders of the good things in my life.
- Exercise really does make you happy!
- There’s too many to name just one, but finding ways to put yourself first.
- I come first. If I am not going to take care of myself, no one will. Also, how am I suppose to support others if I am not ok?
- Realizing it’s not about being the person you used to be, but instead becoming the person you want to be.
- When in doubt, talk to someone.
- All the power is inside of you.
- You aren’t your thoughts. You are enough regardless of what your thoughts about yourself may be.
- Just because you have a thought, doesn’t make it true. So, why not just choose another?
- I always try to remember that the things that frustrate me are really trying to teach me something.
- That I’m not actually as stuck as I feel sometimes.
- Learning about how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) impacts the developing brain and body; and how “trauma informed care” can help. Knowing this science gave me more empathy for myself, and to see past the shame and seek medical help, including mindfulness training and psychotherapy.
- I am not alone and when I share my thoughts with others it reinforces this!
- Doing things that I want to do, not things that people around me want me to do.
- Journalling allows you to transfer the weight of your thoughts onto paper and alleviate the stress.
And last, but certainly not least, this: “Improvement is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Thank you to everyone who shared! For those of you that haven’t yet, we’d love to hear your response. Click here to share and we’ll curate the responses to update this post periodically.