Ever find yourself scratching your head and wondering why something took as long as it did? Stressed about completing a project by a looming deadline? It happens to everyone! The official term is Parkinson’s Law.
What is Parkinson’s Law?
“IT is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” – C. Northcote Parkinson, The Economist, November 19, 1955
BusinessDictionary.com explains the background of Parkinson’s Law in that workers will create enough work to keep themselves looking busy in order to justify their roles.
“Observation that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” and that a sufficiently large bureaucracy will generate enough internal work to keep itself ‘busy’ and so justify its continued existence without commensurate output. Proposed in 1955 in jest by the UK political analyst and historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1909-93) while criticizing the British Admiralty (which was growing bigger while the number of sailors and ships under its care was going down). It is quoted more as a keen insight into the functioning of large organizations than as an empirical reality.”Business Dictionary
Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/Parkinson-s-Law.html
Who Needs This?
- Those susceptible to analysis paralysis
Does Parkinson’s Law Still Occur Today?
In modern terms, if you have four hours to complete a project, it will take you four hours to complete the project. But if you had two hours to complete the same project, you would complete it in two hours.
Think back to school where you might have had a couple weeks or a semester to write a paper. Did you sit down the first day and write that paper? Or did you wait until the last minute to get it done?
Do you have a coworker that waits all day to start working and then about an hour before others plan on leaving for the day, your coworker starts to work? Their questions and requests come in fast, half planned, and mostly require rework the following day.
It is all frustrating.
Is this Efficient and Cost Effective?
Negative. If employees or leaders are creating work for the sake of looking busy, the consumers paying the ultimate cost. Consumers are not receiving the greatest value for their purchase. However, I do empathize and see why employers and leaders do it.
On a personal level, you are likely causing yourself stress by always thinking about those projects that need to get done rather that enjoying the fact that you completed the projects. You are spending more time than necessary to complete the work, leaving yourself wishing you could do more.
Why Would you Want to Break this Habit?
Ever want to try a new project or adventure but you say that you do not have the time? Years ago, I really wanted to get on a new and exciting project at work. It required me to take on significant more work than I probably should have taken on, but I did it anyways. By limiting my time spent on projects to the true amount of time it took to complete the projects, I was able to find “hidden” time to dedicate to the new project.
Ever find yourself looking up at the clock and realizing you just spent three hours scrolling through social media? You might have some “hidden” time to do more projects, tasks, and hobbies that you have always dreamed and hoped of happening but never thought was possible.
Breaking or limiting the effects of Parkinson’s Law in your life will allow you to expand in other areas.
How do you Break this Habit?
- Power Hour – Take a list of tasks to be completed and set a timer for one hour. When time is up, all your tasks should be complete. For example, at work, you need to clean your desk off, respond to voicemails, and schedule a couple meetings. At home, maybe you need to schedule a doctor’s appointment, plan your meals/grocery list for the next week, and clean a room. You can certainly get these things done with laser focus in your power hour.
- Schedule Tasks – Maybe a task will/should take longer than an hour to complete. Schedule a start and end time with possibly check points to ensure you are actively working on the task. Have your next day schedule planned the day/night before.
- Create Rules – Require that you complete a task by a certain time each day or before you move on to something else.
- Avoid Time Sucks – Avoid time sucks in apps, emails, etc. first thing in the morning. It is easy to get sucked down a hole of scrolling. Simply make it a rule that you do no pick up your phone or check emails within an hour of waking up or getting to work.
- Have an Unavoidable End Time – Take your work to a coffee shop that closes at a certain time. Schedule something fun to do after your task or work day helps with motivation.
Looking for more information? Check out the additional resources below.
- Article: You’ve Got 99 Projects but a Plan It’s One: Personal Productivity by Bonnie Casella
- Article: A Beginners Guide To Parkinson’s Law: How To Do More Stuff By Giving Yourself Less Time by Joel Runyon
- Book: Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin
- Podcast: 21 Strategies of Habit Change by Gretchen Rubin – Happier Podcast, Episode 202
- YouTube: How to Be Productive – The Parkinson’s Law by Knowledge Bottle