Get More Done in Less Time

Parkinson's Law

Welcome back to our latest edition where we share daily insights to improve your life!

Today, we’re switching things up a bit by dedicating our entire focus to understanding one concept - Parkinson's Law - which I’m sure will change the way you think about time management.

Let’s get right into it then!

Outrun the clock - Master Parkinson's Law and take back control of your time

TIME MANAGEMENT | PRODUCTIVITY | WORK-LIFE BALANCE | DEADLINES

Don’t be a Slave to the Clock, Master your Time

Have you ever found that most of your tasks are usually completed near or on the deadline set?

That might have to do with Parkinson’s Law which goes something like this:

 “Tasks will take as long as the time you've set for them.”1

For example, if you give yourself one day to complete a task, you’ll probably complete it in one day. If you increase the deadline to one week, then you’ll finish in a week. One month, then… you get the point.

For myself, I’ve definitely had times when a project took much longer than it should have because I didn’t set a deadline. Other times, I’d magically finish a task right just on time even if I had one month to complete it.

So why do these kinds of things happen?

Well, for one reason, our brains are wired to prioritize tasks based on how urgent they are. We also tend to look at how much time we have instead of how long a task will take.2

Ironically, if you give yourself more time to complete a task, the task may also seem to increase in complexity and become more daunting.

Yes, this is where procrastination and the accompanying stress come into play as well. It also means a 5-minute task can end up taking a whole day or longer if you’re not careful…

More time allotted for a task means more time wasted. Less time allotted means more productive work. Pay attention to the peak where you can maximize productivity.

Here are some tricks to overcome and even take advantage of Parkinson’s law:

1. Set concrete deadlines at an earlier than expected deadline

Think about how much time the task will take, then try to give yourself half the time.

The trick is to be realistic - maybe even optimistic - about how long it will take, but not too unrealistic that it would be impossible to complete.

If done right, you’ll be forcing yourself to complete a task in a smaller amount of time than without a deadline or a longer than necessary one.

2. Break down larger tasks into smaller pieces

This is great productivity advice in general.

This works because breaking tasks down will a) make the task more manageable and b) make it easier to determine how much time you actually need.

3. Think 80/20

I covered the 80/20 principle in our first edition.3 

To pair with the Parkinson’s Law, identify the 20% of work that will drive 80% of your results. This will help you from getting bogged down with low-value activities.

Tackle your most important tasks first before moving on to the rest.

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So now you know the effects of Parkinson’s Law and how you can manage your time effectively instead of remaining a slave to it 😀.

As a side note, Parkinson’s law can also be applied to other areas of life and work (e.g. expenses rising to meet income, data expanding to fill available storage, etc.)

Well, that’s it for today, and hope that you can start thinking differently about your time and deadlines with Parkinson’s Law in mind.

Have you noticed Parkinson's Law in your own life? How have you tackled it? Share your experiences and tips at [email protected]

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow!

- Kevin and the Idle Impact Team

Dive Deeper with recommended reads:

Footnotes
  1. The original wording is “work expands to fill the time allotted.”

  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-parkinsons-law-6674423

  3. The Pareto Principle or 80/20 principle is used to explain that "‘80% of the outcomes or consequences arise from 20% of the causes.’ For example, 80% of health benefits come from 20% of your workout.

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