Parkinson’s Law – or – The Pursuit of Uber Productivity

I write my business plan every fall.

It’s more like a giant To Do List, Mission Statement and Daily framework for how I want to attack the coming year all rolled in to one.

I try to attend a national conference during the last week of October every year and when I return to the office I sit down, assess how I’ve done so far on my previous year’s plan and what I need to do in the next two months to finish the year strong.  Then I write out my plan for the coming year.

At the end of 2017 I recognized that I had run into an unexpected problem.  I realized that up to that point my goals had been too general and too easy to achieve.  Ultimately, I had left too much time unspecified in my day and filled it with unimportant, low productivity busy work.

It was then that I learned Parkinson’s Law.

According to Wikipedia, Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.  Or that a bureaucracy grows to use every resource allotted to it.

This was first posited in 1955 by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an essay published in The Economist.  Parkinson was a naval officer and historian of the 2nd World War who wrote over 60 books on history and management theory through his experience as a civil servant.  His theory was later expanded upon in the best-selling book “Parkinson’s Law or The Pursuit of Progress” published in 1958.

When I was writing my business plan for 2018, under the heading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) I made the bold pronouncement that to achieve my goals for this year I would need to reach out to 40 clients, contacts and prospects every single day!  (How I arrived at that number is a discussion for another time, it’s an interesting story too but not what I want to focus on today.)  When I showed that to a colleague he laughed and said it couldn’t be done.  Well it can!  And I’ve done it to great effect because I made it not just a goal but a requirement. 

Now to be clear – reaching out is not the same as having a conversation or a meeting.  Writing an email, leaving a message or sending a text all count.

In my pursuit of that magic number I have learned 3 things that world views as negatives that Parkinson’s Law requires in the positive to achieve more.  Stress, Pressure and Nervousness, when channeled in their positive form can be used to stimulate high performance.


Stress –not distress

Pressure – not anxiety

Nervousness – not worry

Hall of Fame Pitcher, Nolan Ryan once said that the day he didn’t feel the pressure to perform when he stepped on the mound was the day he knew it was time to retire.

Motivational coach and productivity expert Darren Hardy once relayed a story from a 95-year-old business leader and friend of his about what he called Genesis Deadlines.  According to this business legend, God created heaven and earth in six days to show us and inspire us about what could be done in a short span of time.  This man would routinely take his goals and plans and shorten the time frame by a third before making them public or presenting them to his team specifically to create pressure and inspire creativity.

My goal of 40 reach-outs is part of a larger, stress inducing requirement of my daily life.  Without making my goals requirements or turning my want to into have to I would slow down and fill my life with mediocrity.

How do you stretch your capacity, create pressure and turn your life to the pursuit of productivity?  I’d love to hear your story in the comments or send me an email, I promise to respond to every one…

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.  


Stand Up to Bullies   

You can’t see it but I’m wearing a pink shirt today.

That’s because it’s Stand Up to Bullies day.

A few years ago a couple of students at a school in Nova Scotia asked their classmates to wear pink to school on February 28 because another one of their friends had been bullied when he wore a pink shirt.  A movement was born and now, all across Canada, people wear pink shirts in solidarity against bullies everywhere.

Bullying is a problem not just in our schools but in our workplaces, recreational activities and even in or governments. defines bullying as:

                The use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

I think the key here lies in the words “intimidate” and “force”.  The use of superior strength doesn’t necessarily mean physical either, strength can also derive from a position or power such as that of a boss or government official.

While I was reflecting on the effects of bullying today I came up with a number of examples of where and how mean and aggressive behaviour can damage us all, young and old.

Some examples I thought of.

1 – School yard intimidation.

This one’s obvious and what most people think of when they think of bullies.  The physically large and pushy kid that threatens violence against weaker kids in order to get what he wants.  Every school has one and every kid has felt intimidated by another kid at one time or another.  It’s part of growing up. The real problems arise when the bully is allowed to continue his or her reign of terror indefinitely or long enough to cause lasting physical or psychological damage.

2 – Toxic work environment

Workplace bullying is a growing problem.  I’m not talking just about a tyrannical boss here.  The source of a toxic work environment isn’t always management.  It can also result from difficult interpersonal relationships in the rank and file.  Management is ultimately always responsible for recognizing issues before they start to damage productivity and employee mental health however.  Loss of productivity due to mental health and the cost of prescription drugs for anxiety and depression are growing concerns for all kinds of businesses.  Making sure the workplace is free of bullying at all levels is a huge part of keeping these costs under control.

3 – Inhumane social policy

We don’t hear much about this one, at least not yet, but I think over the next few years psychologist may begin sounding the alarm about bullying coming from the way in which our social institutions themselves treat citizens.  Already in the province of Quebec we have seen governments try to ban certain articles of clothing and force women who’s religion requires them to wear head coverings off of public transit and out of government buildings.  This is nothing more than bullying on a massive scale.

Just last week there was another mass shooting at a school in the United States.  I’m not prepared to get into a debate out gun control or mental health.  But the way in which the pro-gun lobby has approached this and every other mass shooting in recent history is also a form of bullying.  Shouting down opposition with arguments that have no grounding in facts and pandering to irrational fears about government tyranny is classic bullying tactic.

The best way to fight a bully is to organize a group (there’s strength in numbers) to confront and let it be known that their behaviour is not going to be tolerated.  The students who marched on Washington in response to the latest school shooting are one such group that is starting to fight back.  As I watched the news reports about the student protest I was reminded of similar protests that eventually had a hand in ending the Vietnam War some forty odd years ago.  It was around that time that Buffalo Springfield recorded the song “For What It’s Worth” the lyrics of that song could just as easily apply today in our fight against systemic bullying, especially the 4th verse:

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

Don’t take my word for it, check out this television appearance from 1967.

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.  

The Image of God

This week I returned to an abandoned book project tentatively titled “Broken:  Our Journey to Wholeness Through Anxiety, Pain and Adversity”.  I started this project about six months ago and quickly abandoned it because it was getting way too personal way too quickly and I wasn’t quite ready to share my journey with the world.  This week I started thinking about it again and wrote a few hundred words on what it means to be an image bearer of the divine.  

Here is some of what I wrote – I hope you enjoy it.    

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:26,27]


We are God’s image bearers.  That much is clear, but what exactly does that mean?

The Sistine Chapel – Michelangelo 1508-1512

No one has ever seen God so we have no idea if or how we might resemble him in any physical way.  So how can we know that we are His image bearers?

(The image to the left that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel has unfortunately become what most people associate with the image of God but it is complete fantasy and I dare say heretical.)

It might be helpful at this point to remind ourselves that one of the most enduring images that God uses to describe Himself and his relationship with His creation is through the metaphor of family.  Families resemble one another in a myriad of ways, both physically and psychologically.  Physical similarities are the result of DNA, psychological similarities are the result of shared experiences, a shared upbringing and shared values.  When God says that he is the father and that we are his children, He is setting up a powerful image in our minds for what he expects from us and giving us a starting point for how we are to bear his image.

From the very beginning we are given a glimpse of what it means to be an image bearer of God through the creation story itself and these ideas permeate throughout the rest of Judeo-Christian scripture and history.  For our purposes we can narrow it down into 3 main attributes the are key to effective image bearing.

Image bearers of the divine are- creative, autonomous and overflowing with love.  For the rest of this chapter I am going to unpack each of those concepts in kind.  I recognize that this may not be everyone’s experience but remember the title of this book is Broken.  These concepts my not be your reality, but they are the ideal.  We’ll get deeper into why these things are not the case in most of our lives a bit later.  Part two is where I will really start to examine and unpack the depth and causes of our brokenness.

Before we can understand how and why something is broken we first must understand how things are supposed to be. Like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, you need to examine the picture on the front of the box so you know what perfection looks like.  Think of these first few chapters are the picture on the front of the box.

From that introduction I intend to develop each attribute more completely with examples and explanations.  Stay tuned for more as I work it through.  Thanks for reading…  Lauren

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.  


Three Dimensional Ministry

Recently, while meditating on Matthew 9:35-38 something quite unexpectedly jumped off the page.

I spent a week at the beginning of this month sitting with these 4 verses at first because I wanted to get inspired and hear what God has to say about evangelism, after all the workers are few as the passage says and we must ask the Lord to send us out.

Here’s the passage as it reads in the NIV:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” [Matthew 9:35-38]

Did you see what I saw?

I’ll narrow it down.  It’s right at the beginning in verse 35.

Jesus’ ministry was three dimensional. He went through the land teaching, proclaiming and healing.  Some translations render proclaiming as preaching, but the general meaning remains the same.  Throughout seven days of deep meditation on this passage I came to realize that effective evangelism should always contain these three elements.


A little over two years ago I wrote a post that that broke down my mission as a writer which said that I am a disciple of Christ – always learning, always growing and always teaching.  While Jesus didn’t need to learn or grow, at least not by the time he started his ministry he was a teacher first and foremost.  He taught what it truly meant to not just follow but to fulfill the law and how to live a just and moral life.

Proclaiming (Preaching)

While teaching digs in to meaning and application and invites debate to further understanding, proclamation does not.  Proclamation is a take it or leave it a statement of fact.  Where proclamation says, “it’s raining”, teaching says rain is necessary for the healthy development of crops and invites debate regarding how much rain is too little or too much for optimal growth.  When Jesus preached he left no room for debate.  That offended many, especially when his preaching flew in the face of tradition and challenged the norms of society.

Just two chapters before this we learn that both his teaching and preaching were regarded by the people as somewhat of a curiosity because he spoke as “one who had authority”.  In other words, he knew what he was talking about.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. [Matthew 7:27,28]


Teaching and preaching are worthless unless they are accompanied by action.   People who are hungry, people who are sick and people who are oppressed by an evil system of government don’t need to be taught morality or preached to about correct doctrine.  They need food, medicine and political advocacy.

Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” [Mark 2:9-12]

Three dimensional ministry must therefore have a practical component.  Saint Teresa of Avila said:

Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

What’s your three dimensional ministry?  How are you discipling others through teaching, preaching and healing?  Let me know in the comments or via email.

PS – On a personal note, I just learned on the weekend that my High-school English teacher passed away of breast cancer.  She was only in her mid 50s.  As a 20 something teacher on her first assignment she was the first person to see in me a potential for writing.  She encouraged me to journal and hone my voice, that journal evolved into this blog.  It’s been more than 30 years since I was her student, and, in that time, I have written almost every day and completed 2 books.  I skipped my High-school reunion, so I never got a chance to thank her or to show her what that simple encouragement, which she’d likely forgot, has wrought.  RIP Mrs. Favro; a good teacher never fully knows how they quietly shape the future and bring context to the past.

Either Way, You Win

Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you’re going to live forever. – Mahatma Gandhi

I recently told a business associate that I tend to read a book a week.

To say that they were impressed is a bit of an understatement.  Shocked is more like it.  How on earth can anyone find time to read a book a week?

Well to be perfectly honest it’s not exactly a book a week.  More like 50 pages a day.  That works out to between 250 and 350 pages every seven days.  We aren’t talking about War & Peace here.  Or Adam Smith’s 900 page opus, The Wealth of Nations. I’ve found that the average hard cover non-fiction book on just about any topic runs between 200 and 400 pages.  50 pages a day therefore is about a book a week.

I have learned that in order to be successful in life and business you need to be a life long learner. The world is changing so rapidly that we need to be constantly learning new things to keep up.  My chosen field of work, the financial services industry, is no exception.  But when you strip it all down just about every business is a people business.  And I can’t seem to get away from spirituality either.

I read everything I can get my hands on that even remotely applies to these areas.  My bookshelf is lined with the latest and classic works of, Business Management, Personal Finance, Sales Theory, Marketing, Behavioral Economics, Philosophy, Psychology, Spirituality, and Theology.

Where do I find the time?  It’s not that hard to read 50 pages in a day.  Unless the typeset is super small it takes me a about an hour.  Turn off the TV for an hour and you’re there – it’s that easy.

An hour a day is all it takes to read a book a week and be a life long learner.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was in the Life Insurance business, in the 1960s.  He was a top associate by the time he was 23 years old and in 1965 he founded Life Management Services and all but invented the Life Coaching industry.  Millions of people have read his books and attended his seminars on navigating life’s most challenging situations.  Most people know him for his famous inspirational quote:

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Nothing has a bigger impact on your life than what you learn from books and people.  That’s why I really like that quote from Gandhi as well.  If I continue learning at the pace of a book a week, and I live forever, I will eventually know everything there is to know.

That’s my plan.

But the first half of the Gandhi quote is important as well.  It’s important to live for today, don’t put things off, enjoy each moment as it comes and be content in whatever your circumstance.  Tomorrow might not come so live for today but if you do wake up in the morning, keep learning and make every day better than the last.  You can’t go wrong.

Live today or die tomorrow – either way you win!

How do you live for today and learn for tomorrow?  Tell me in the comments below.

Vlog Ep 11 – The Value of a Financial Planner

Did you know that the average annual return of the stock market over the last 50 years has been over 7% while the average individual investor has achieved only 2.3% over the same period?

Ever wonder why that is?

It has nothing to do with fees, or institutional investors taking all the good opportunities.  It’s much simpler than that.

In Today’s VLOG I’ll tell you why most individuals can’t achieve those kinds of returns consistently and how to give yourself a fighting chance.  The answer is simpler than you might think…

Brotherhood – a reflection on formation of spiritual family

The following is an excerpt from my current book-length project tentatively titled “Prometheus Rising:  Philanthropy, Altruism and Self-Interest in a Socially Connected World”.  I’m currently working on the first draft of this work and have no projected release date.  In the past book projects have taken about 2 years to complete so stay tuned but expect a release sometime in late 2019 or early 2020.

I never had a brother.  I have two older sisters but no brothers so understanding the nature of brotherhood has been a bit of a journey for me.  And it’s only really been in the last few years that I’ve come to embrace the whole concept of Christian Brotherhood.  My friend Jeff has been a tremendous teacher for me here.

In the fall of 2013 about 18 months after having uprooted my entire life and moved to Ottawa from suburban Toronto so that we could help take care of my wife’s aging family, I was at the end of my rope.

Dealing with aging parents is one thing, doing it while your spouse is going through a major bout of depression and anxiety, your brother-in-law is dealing with the situation through anger and your mother-in-law is just needy and can’t express herself without making demands is quite another.  Add to all that the fact that I was trying to start a new business, I was constantly running on empty.

I’m a people-pleaser by nature.  I want everyone around me to be happy all the time.  I’m also very task oriented so if there is any kind of physical work to be done I am the first person to pick up a mop or offer to drive you to an appointment.  But there was just so much to do and neither my wife nor my brother-in-law seemed capable of putting aside their own anxieties and stepping up to get it done, as a result most of the “heavy lifting” fell to me.

The stress of keeping it all together while my wife fell apart eventually got to be too much to handle.  Oh, and in case you missed it, the sick and aging parents aren’t even mine.

One night, in a fit of anxiety of my own I reached out our church for help.

Two days later I was introduced to Jeff.  Jeff is a few years my junior but in many ways, he is far more mature than myself in dealing with the stresses of being a caregiver to the sick and needy.  Although not a professional psychologist by any stretch Jeff quickly diagnosed my situation as a textbook case of caregiver fatigue.  He was able to do so because he too was a caregiver to an anxious and depressed spouse.  A few years before, his wife had gone through a similar breakdown to the one my wife was experiencing.  As a result he could relate to me in a way no other person could.

Jeff was able to come along side me in my time of need and guide me down a pathway he had traveled himself not so long ago.

I like to describe my relationship with Jeff as similar to two men who find themselves mired in a swamp.  Many people had tried show me the way out of that particular swamp before, but they had flown by in helicopters high above the muck and the mire, or sped by in boats.  These people had pointed in a direction that I should go and then sped off leaving me alone to figure it out for myself.  Jeff on the other hand showed up deep in the muck himself, wearing hip waders and said; “come with me, I know the way.”

The Christian propensity to call each other brother and sister had, until I met Jeff, always seemed hollow and forced.  But in him I found a true brother, someone who demonstrated philia (brotherly love) in a way I had never before experienced.

Over the course of several months we would meet for coffee in a quite downtown shop, slightly off the beaten path and talk about our experience.  As often as not we would sit shoulder to shoulder at the bar, rather than face to face at a table.  Jeff would say that men tend to be more willing to speak honestly when we didn’t have to look directly at each other. He said it had something to do with centuries of evolution working side by side in the forests and the fields rather than face to face in the home that had made it easier for men to forge bonds “shoulder to shoulder”.

Whatever, I didn’t care, all I cared about was that I finally found someone who could not only listen to my struggles but with whom I could share an experience without wondering if he was silently judging me.  What I learned from Jeff and how my wife and I started to put our lives back together while forging a new path isn’t the subject of this book.  But the compassion that I felt while living through some of those darkest days has helped form the basis of my research into philanthropy.

We get the word philanthropy from philia – brotherly love.  It is a recognition of the fact that we are all in is together.  Your burdens are my burdens.  As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians;

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2]

I never would have learned that lesson if I hadn’t found a brother in Jeff.