A Corollary to Parkinson’s Law

A retired judge stopped writing to magazines because they now demand electronic copies of manuscripts. A manuscript is no more manually scripted, not even type-scripted – it is e-scripted. The judge has a wealth of wisdom to share, and has been doing so before the e-need. He is not comfortable with equating writing with pounding of keyboard and clicking of mouse, looking at computer screen. He has no reason to learn typing after having dictated lengthy scholarly judgments through his career. The smart phones already make him feel dumb and the smarter PCs would add insult to injury. The necessary evil gadgets distract the flow of his thoughts.

Dr. HS Venkatesha Murthy, an accomplished Kannada writer, is comfortable with PC when he writes essays, but needs paper to pen his poems. He says that finer emotions don’t flow out of keyboard.

In the websites of some Universities we find several excellent lectures on various subjects. Some of the professors depend heavily on slide shows. Many speakers are lost without the crutches named power point slides.  In such context, it is nostalgic to see some excellent professors using only black board and chalk to deliver brilliant talks. Watch MIT and Yale lectures on Physics, for example.

Forty years ago I wrote about 20 letters a month, using special stationary and elegant postage stamps bought from philatelic bureau. Now on certain days I write or respond to about 20 emails; but it is ages since I wrote a personal letter. When I have to write an official letter to some organisation or even have to fill a paper form, it is cumbersome. My fond collection of fountain pens lies in the drawer, unused.

My niece Anupama sent me her PhD thesis, which I read in a couple of days and admired. I thought of sending her a hand-written letter and not a typical email. Two months and two days have passed and I am yet to write that letter.

The second paragraph in Parkinson’s Law states, “Granted that work (especially paperwork) is elastic in its demand on time…” Parkinson writes, “An elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent on finding the post card, another in hunting the spectacles, half an hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the mailbox in the next street. The total effort that would take a busy man for three minutes all told may be in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety, and toil.”

Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

A corollary is that work gets postponed (eventually not done) because of our discomfort with the tool we use to perform the task.

We can safeguard from this peril by continuously sharpening our tools and learning to use new tools. When we learn a new tool, let us not allow the old one to rust. Let us not forget mental math because we now use a computer or calculator. Because we use text messages or email, let us not forget the handwritten letters. I shall write that letter to Anupama, using a lovely pen that she gifted me a few years ago!

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About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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