Unintended Consequence: Bandwidth Limit Might Actually Boost Productivity

I am a Master of Computing student at National University of Singapore, and I just finished my second semester three weeks ago. So two weeks ago I went back to my home country, Indonesia, and I plan to spend my vacation here until the end of July.

The first thing I faced was the difficulty to connect to the Internet. I spent my first two weeks here without broadband connection. I could only connect using dial-up connection which is both slow and expensive. Fortunately I still managed to maintain this blog and keep up with emails and comments. But the fact that the connection is both slow and expensive forced me to trim the fat and do only the bare essentials.

Two days ago eventually I got my broadband connection, so things get better now. But there is a new problem: the bandwidth usage is limited to only 1,000 MB per month. The unlimited package is still too expensive for me (much more expensive than the one in Singapore). I thought 1,000 MB per month is enough since I plan to do only normal browsing without any bandwidth-consuming stuffs, but in the first two days I already used 150 MB! So I now decide to trim the fat again and do only the essentials.

But when I read my feeds, I came across Parkinson’s law in The 4 Hour Workweek (found via Lifehacker):

Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials.

If I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster.

Parkinson’s law is actually the inversion of Pareto principle or 80/20 rule:

  • Pareto principle (80/20 rule): Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time.
  • Parkinson’s law: Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important.

My current situation is like Parkinson’s law, only in this case the limited resource is bandwidth instead of time. It does the same effect though: it makes me do only the essentials.

Unlimited broadband might sound like a better idea for me. But who knows, my situation might actually boost my productivity.

2 Comments

  1. […] It gives you a sense of urgency that increases your intensity Using timer imposes deadline on what you do, and as a result your intensity in working will increase. Your mind will be focused on getting the task done in that limited amount of time. As a result, you will trim the fat and do only the essentials to get the task done. This actually is Parkinson’s law in effect. […]

  2. […] I’m in the midst of a bandwidth crisis these days. As I wrote before, my current Internet connection has a quota of 1,000 MB per month. Up till now I’ve used 880 MB with still one week to go. Needless to say, such situation puts me in unintentional Internet diet. […]

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