The question: What is Jeopardy!?
The answer: the TV show that prompted me to submit a manuscript to my editor.
I’m a Jeopardy! addict. Every night, I compete with three contestants in a race to ask the proper questions. The mental exercise is stimulating, and I often learn something new and fascinating from my personal hero, Alex Trebek, a man who can pronounce any word in any language.
Take the other night, for example. The answer was: Parkinson’s Law. The question: What is work expands to fill the time available for its completion?
Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
An amusing law. But when I thought about the message for a few seconds, I saw the truth and irony. Many of us are sticklers about being on time and finishing projects before a deadline. But when we have no deadline, we push the project to the bottom of our job pile or poke at it forever. We lack an incentive to finish.
Hearing Parkinson’s Law, which British author Cyril Parkinson originally penned to mock bureaucratic productivity, made me realize I’ve been expanding the work on my latest manuscript. I’ve read each page over about two hundred times. Day after day, I brought up the file, changed a word here or there, added or removed a comma, tweaked a sentence or paragraph. In my mind, I was polishing my final draft. But I’d made a mistake by failing to give myself a deadline for submitting the manuscript to my editor. I was actually wasting time on insignificant and unnecessary edits and expanding the work to fill the endless timeslot I’d allotted for completion.
Thanks to Jeopardy!, I looked at the story and decided, not only was it finished, but it needed to be sent out before the end of July. My manuscript is now in my editor’s hands. Every word and punctuation mark might not be perfect, but I’ve done my best and met my deadline.
My next manuscript is now underway. I’ve given myself less time to finish than I think I’ll need, because tasks can usually be completed quicker than we believe. With a feasible but no-nonsense deadline, I’ll work faster.
My deadline is January 30th. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to cut this short and go write. I have a deadline to meet. And when I have a deadline, I have an incentive to be productive and make the best use of every precious minute.