Parkinson’s Law

Today I came across a Tweet that stuck in my mind. “We are too busy because we have too much time.” This post is inspired by that.

What is Parkinson’s Law?

Even though our modern life has an incredible number of time-saving devices, we seem to end up working more and more all the time. From time-saving devices at home (microwave, robot vacuum, dishwasher), to time-saving devices at work (web, email, MS Excel). But no matter how much time we save, we still don’t have enough of it.

Maybe we should better allocate the time we have for tasks/projects. Parkinson’s law is an old adage that says “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, attributed to Cyril N. Parkinson who presented his findings in an article for The Economist in 1955.

Parkinson’s Law in Action

Imagine that your kid has a birthday one month from now. You have more than enough time to plan a surprise party – to book a place, order a cake, and buy gifts and party hats.

But because you know you have more than enough time, that party grows more and more complex. Your wife want’s one place, your other kid wants to create a handmade gift instead of buying something for his sibling, you want a simple party at home without too much hassle. Then the relatives get involved, and each of them has its own best idea of what b-day party should look like. 

And now, the party that should have been easy and quick to organize, is something that takes 4 weeks to complete. That’s Parkinson’s law in action.

Why Work Expands to Fill the Time Available?

If we exclude increasing complexion (“Work complicates to fill the available time.”), procrastination is another key player in Parkinson’s law. Knowing we have X amount of time to complete a task, often inspires us to leave work to the very last minute – and our delays in getting started mean the time required for the task expands. (Just remember the high school or college)

Another reason is when more people are involved in a project or task, they put in less effort than they would if the project was assigned only to them – because they know that other people can work a little harder to cover for them.

Stop the Law

If you give yourself a week to complete a 2-hour task, then the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting so as to fill that week.

Work contracts to fit in the time we give it.

Now that you know what Parkinson’s law is, I bet you’re curious how to beat it.

 

In the next post, we’ll check a 2-step program to combat and stop Parkinson’s law in order to supercharge our productivity.

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