Parkinson’s law always applies. Use it!

By johannatime On May 11, 2014 Under Productivity vs Procrastination

Parkinson’s law is a principle to make use of for your benefit and your productivity. Once you find out how it works and how it applies to all you do, you’ll get much more done, and there will be time for the things you’d like to last forever. Or doing nothing.

You probably recognise some of the following situations:

  • You have got all day to pack for a vacation. And packing for your vacation takes you all day.
  • You have 4 years to write a book (or finish Master degree or a PhD). And 4 years later, it is done.
  • You have 60 minutes for a meeting and after 60 minutes (65 if you’re unlucky), you wrap up the meeting and everyone goes back to work.
  • You have 15 minutes to get up, have a shower and catch your train, and you’re on time for work.

These are everyday examples of Parkinson’s law in action. It makes me wonder why meetings are often set for 60 minutes.

How Parkinson’s law works:

  • Allowing more time for a task makes you stretch it out.
  • Allowing less time (within reason) for a task makes you condense your task.
  • With the same or similar quality result!

In short, Parkinson’s law means that tasks take as much time as you allocate for them.

Make use of Parkinson’s law to your benefit

By creating artificial or real deadlines for yourself, you can make use of Parkinson’s law to improve your productivity. Always set a deadline for your task, that is both challenging and realistic, and then stick to it. It works even better if you fit tasks into natural gaps in your day. Morning tea and lunch are really good breaks. Use them as a deadline! And see how far you can go with meetings, too. I bet many of them can be condensed to less than a third of the time. In the habit of the month April, I described how to fit in a task before a meeting. And don’t forget to stretch the ones you’d like to last, like having dinners with your family, or your daily workout. Try it! And please tell me how you go in the comments:

Johanna Jansen

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