Parkinson’s Law—the amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion!
Who was Parkinson?
This intriguing statement was made by Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a well-known British historian and author, in 1955, first as the opening line of an article in The Economist and later as the subject of one of Parkinson’s books, Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress.
Parkinson was qualified to make such a statement, having worked in the British Civil Service and seeing how bureaucracy works firsthand. Because of the limiting belief that working harder is somehow better than working smarter and faster, bureaucracy is a by-product of our culture.
How to apply Parkinson’s Law efficiently?
Let’s look at some ways you can use Parkinson’s Law to get your to-do list checked off faster and spend less time at work filling in time just to appear busy. This is true whether you work in an office or at home, as the cultural idea to work harder and not smarter, is one that many people fall prey to even when no one is supervising their work.
- Trying to Beat the Clock
Make a list of your tasks and divide them by the amount of time it takes to complete them as soon as you begin using Parkinson’s Law. Then give yourself half that amount of time to finish each task. You must regard setting a time limit is critical. Treat it as if it were any other due date.
- Improve Your Time Management Skills
This will be partly an exercise in determining how accurate your task time estimates are at first. Some may be accurate at first, while others may be exaggerated if you’re unfamiliar with Parkinson’s Law.
Those that are spot on maybe the ones with which you are unable to beat the clock when the time limit is halved, so try longer times. Don’t go back to the original time allotment right away because there might be a better time in between.
If you work at a computer, a digital timer will come in handy once you get started.
- Take frequent breaks.
You’ll be surprised at how frequently and for how long you should take breaks to boost your productivity.
The top 10% of the most productive people take a 17-minute break after every 52 minutes of concentrated work.
- Stop staying up late.
Don’t work past your regular working hours. Create time boundaries and deadlines that prevent you from sitting around and thinking about doing things during the day, keeping Parkinson’s Law in mind. You’ll only have time to complete them if you do it this way. This will lower your stress levels and boost your productivity.
Parkinson’s Law is useful because it prevents you from wasting time or making tasks more difficult than they need to be.
Reduce your responsibilities to the bare minimum, and complete those tasks with the greatest amount of effort possible. As a result, you’ll have higher-quality work and more free time to take on more projects or spend more time with your family or any other activities.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique to manage your time.
The Pomodoro technique divides each of your tasks into 25-minute intervals. Take a five-minute break every 25 minutes. Take a 15- to 30-minute break after completing four 25-minute sessions.
This strategy works because you focus entirely on one task for the entire 25 minutes, rather than switching your focus or multitasking.
You ignore incoming emails, text messages, and other distracting activities like social media during those 25 minutes. You’re just dead set on something.
- Keep track of what you do with your time.
To be more productive, you must first understand how you spend each hour and minute of your day.
You may believe that you need to get more done or that you never have enough time to do everything, but if you take the time to track how you spend your time, you will most likely find that you are wasting a lot of time on unproductive activities. These tasks can then be done away with.
In many areas of your life, you can experiment with Parkinson’s Law and reduce your deadlines to the bare minimum. Just remember to draw the line between “bare minimum” and “insufficient time”—you want a job well done in less time, not a disaster that will cost you your job or clients.
You can get more done in less time and learn how much time each of your tasks takes if you apply Parkinson’s Law correctly.
Also published on Medium.