Learn From Our Toilet Paper Crisis and Work Fewer Hours

By: Alex Shattuck

As a teenager there were few things that I enjoyed more than the excitement of toilet papering someone’s house with my friends. I haven’t done this since those teenage years though. It’s been years not for any reason other than it would be pretty embarrassing to get caught as a 34 year old husband, father and business owner. I always had a pretty great track record of not getting caught so I’m fairly confident I could still pull off a successful mission (like 2004’s Operation Sydney) but the risk/reward pendulum has swung further in the wrong direction for me. 

2020 is no 2004. Unfortunately, our teens today are not able to enjoy some of the little things that we took for granted. If I was a teen today, even though I thoroughly enjoy the act of “TP’ing”, I would have to put those dreams on hold. Teens today are having to do the same. This is because the pleasure one gets from toilet papering their enemies on a cool Friday night pales in comparison to being able to successfully wipe one’s ass. 

We treat what we have differently when what we have is limited. Supply and demand can be our best friend or our worst enemy, am I right? If this is 2019, and you have a storage closet full of TP, an Amazon app at your fingertips or a vehicle that can get you to the grocery or convenience store- you probably aren’t counting squares…

Fast forward to late March of 2020. Times have changed. If you’ve found yourself down to your last roll I bet you’ve gotten more accomplished with that last roll than you accomplished with 4 rolls back in 2019! (And yes by “accomplished” I am talking about wiping your ass again… sorry) You can make a little bit go a long way when you have to. 

This is an example of Parkinson’s Law that, unfortunately, many can relate to right now. 

The meaning of Parkinson’s Law is the notion that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. 

Simply said, if you know you have an endless supply of TP- you will use more than you need to accomplish what you want to accomplish. If you know you are down to the last roll you will surprise yourself by what all you can accomplish with so little. 

This law applies to our businesses just the same. If you give yourself 10 hours to accomplish tasks A B C & D- guess what??? You are going to knock those tasks out over the course of 10 hours. Here’s the thing though- you don’t have to wait for your TP to get down to its last roll to apply this law to your advantage and you don’t have to wait until you find yourself in a situation where you only have 6 hours to work to apply this law. If you GIVE yourself 6 hours to complete those same tasks (A B C & D) you WILL find a way to get those tasks complete within 6 hours just like you had found a way to stretch that last roll of TP. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself: 

  • How can Parkinson’s Law be applied to my marketing budget?
  • How can Parkinson’s Law be applied to payroll? (I’m all for all for staffing up and maintaining capacity at a level to run the business as a business BUT with the right people in the right seats)
  • How can Parkinson’s Law be applied to help you accomplish what you need to accomplish while working from home? How can it assist in balancing your activities that you need to complete to be success while taking care of children or other obligations?

What would you do with 4 extra hours each day like in the example above? What would you do with a substantial increase in profit margins? How would these changes improve your personal life? How would those impacts to your personal life carry back over into your business? Is it possible to increase your profits while decreasing the hours you spend in your business? You’re damn right it is. Utilizing Parkinson’s Law is just one example of how you can do just that.

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You probably started your business with dreams of having a high income and freedom. You may have found that you sacrificed one, if not both, of these objectives. In this book Alex masterfully applies the brutal lessons he learned in Iraq to business here at home.