Use Parkinson’s Law for Productivity

How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage

The 30 Day Blogging Challenge has reminded me of Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”  I have been extremely busy lately, and yet I really want to blog daily.  My “To Do List” runneth over, and I am faced with time management choices.  Dean Hunt wrote a very helpful blog post called, “How to NEVER get Anything Done.”  Dean deserves credit for the following image:

I have about an hour before I have to leave for a meeting.  Therefore I am allotting one hour for this blog post — and that is about how long it will take.  When the hour is up, I will click “Publish.” I will take a 3-minute shower before leaving.  If I had more time, my shower would last longer ;-)

Joel Falconer wrote a helpful article on the Lifehack website, in which he said,

Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fill the time available for its completion – means that if you give yourself a week to complete a two hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting so as to fill that week. It may not even fill the extra time with more work, but just stress and tension about having to get it done. By assigning the right amount of time to a task, we gain back more time and the task will reduce in complexity to its natural state.

It works because people give tasks longer than they really need, sometimes because they want some ‘leg room’ or buffer, but usually because they have an inflated idea of how long the task takes to complete. People don’t become fully aware of how quickly some tasks can be completed until they test this principle.

Make a list of your tasks, and divide them up by the amount of time it takes to complete them.  Then give yourself half that time to complete each task.  You have to … treat them like any other deadline.

It is often said that if you want to get something important done, ask a busy person to do it.  Busy people get things done.  They are busy because they are ambitious.  In many cases they have learned how to apply Parkinson’s Law.

Another very valuable concept is “The Pareto Principle,” aka “The 80/20 Rule.”  In a previous post, “7 Time Management Tips,”  I explained “The realization that 80% of valuable results come from 20% of our activities is really a very exciting concept. It offers the possibility of quadrupling our results by focusing on the vital few rather than the trivial many.

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