170. Do Today's Work Today

170. Do Today's Work Today

Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will brings its own worries. (Matthew 6:34) It is certainly not a message of “empty your worries.” It is a message to correctly assess the things that are given for us to do today and do them faithfully, while not being concerned about tomorrow, which is out of our control.

However, many people find themselves busy catching up on their yesterday’s work because they never finish their yesterday’s work. I believe the biggest reason is that we often over-estimate the amount of time that is given to us in a day. Some studies have shown that we only have about 3-4 hours of productive work (focused work that produces result which can potentially advance our career) in a day. If Jesus is right, we should be able to finish all that we are supposed to in a day. Aside from priority issues, it rarely seems to happen because we often “allow” ourselves to finish work in a longer time.

Famous Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, we will pace ourselves as if we have 3 hours to finish if we think we have 3 hours, even though it could be done in 1 hour. For example, many students study late, saying that they didn’t have enough time to finish everything. But many times, it happens because they have expanded their “study time” to include the late-night (I’m guilty of this too!). So they include web-surfing, social media and playing games in their schedule. If we believe that we only have 3-4 hours of quality work, we will try to maximize such time with maximal focus. (Remember how much work we could get done in one hour before an important exam or project?)

When both of my parents were away the last two weeks, my responsibility at home increased tremendously, but I was surprised that I managed to do almost everything I was supposed to do and more. (though it felt really tight). I think it was because I re-planned my schedule, knowing I had much less time available. Every hour was precious, so I had to make it count. But once one of my parents came back, I find myself doing the same task much slowly, and less focused.

Productivity experts suggest, based on research, setting only 2-3 items to do each day, which you will be fully satisfied once you finish them. I think knowing the exact amount of time we actually have is the beginning of focus that gives us freedom from worries.