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  • Reverend James Squire

Three P(s) Pandemic Law of Parsimony Parkinson’s Law

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

As we are living through the Pandemic we need to take into account two laws that relate to everything in our lives.

The Law of Parsimony states that the best answer to a dilemma is to choose a simple approach over the complicated. We can see this a great deal in our personal life as well as the Pandemic. The best solution is to wear a mask, social distance six feet, and use good hand washing practice. This is a simple way of addressing the Covid 19 virus.

A key phrase that addresses this issue in daily life is to “talk less and do more”. It is sometimes stated as “less is more”. We are sometimes receiving instructions from someone, and we find ourselves baffled. We go to someone else with the same question, and we find that they are much clearer in their explanation. If we think about those exchanges, we may become aware that the person was clearer because they simplified things by going right to the heart of the matter without any extraneous details. We often in that moment say, “Thank you, you made it simple for me to understand.”

Parkinson’s Law states “that work expands to fill the time that is available to complete it.” The more time that we dedicate to a task the longer it will take to complete. In other words, the task will be completed in the time that is available.

This law raises two questions that need to be addressed. How much time do I have to complete it? How much time do I need to complete it?

These questions relate directly to the Pandemic and daily life. They are the central questions that have shaped the debate about a vaccine for the virus. President Trump would focus on the first question of “time do I have” where the scientists are focusing on “how much time do I need”. A pre-election boost to the President raises question number 1. A safe vaccine that has credibility with the public raises question number 2.

A quick reflection on the tension that is created between the two, is whether the task is political or responsible at the heart of the matter.

Those two key words “have” and “need” are important considerations to any task that we need to complete in our day to day world.

You can use these same two questions regarding the debate over the naming of a new supreme court justice. “How much time do I have to complete it?” means that there is a pressing political agenda. “How much time do I need to complete it?” speaks to the responsible way of handling the appointment with the assumption that it can wait as it had to wait under the Obama Administration.

Before your next task, think in terms of “time have” and “time need”. You will be better off in your decision making if you focus on which term should guide your accomplishing the task for sometimes it will be the one and sometimes the other. Procrastinators need to learn that this is the first question to ask.

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