While working, time can be our best friend or greatest enemy. While looking at your schedule of due dates you might want to consider Parkinson’s Law.
This rule states that “work expands to fill the time available”.
We all know due dates are important; they tell us how much time it takes to complete a project and inevitably turn it in.
In some cases we consider due dates to be like those dreaded college days where you waited until the due date to start your assignment. Alternatively, you might look at a due date as an energizing day in which you get to share new and exciting ideas.
Either way, you only have a finite amount of time to work; in those days, weeks, months, or even years, Parkinson’s law comes into effect.
So what is Parkinson’s Law?
To break it down, Parkinson’s Law states that if you have a project that you have a week to complete, you will be able to complete it in that week; but if you have the same project due in a month, it will take you a month to complete.
In simple terms, Parkinson’s Law declares that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Using Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage
According to Parkinson’s Law, then, the key to working more efficiently is;
- Making a REALISTIC assessment of how long each task/project will take you, and
- ENFORCING the due dates that have been set
If you are a blogger, for example, estimate how long a 1000-word article will take you to write.
Set a hard deadline and don’t let yourself exceed it! If you’re working solo, try to plan an activity post-deadline to make sure you don’t work overtime.
For managers, ensure your team is working efficiently by making realistic expectations of how long certain tasks should take for team members, and work hard not to allow them to exceed those limits.
There are a variety of tools that allow you to do this.
One of these is a Gantt Chart – using a Gantt Chart means that you can easily visualize timelines and deadlines.
Some project management software tools also provide reports based on effort, so you can see how long each team member spent on each task.
The Pressure Is On!
When you have a smaller amount of time to work, you are able to complete work quickly and efficiently.
However, a short work time doesn’t give you the opportunity to do much procrastinating which essentially builds the pressure up. When you have a longer time period to finish your work,it is easy to become distracted, bored, and fall prey to lolly gagging.
Without the added pressure of time, your work may not be as complete and concise as you’d like it to be.
Minimum and Maximum with Parkinson’s Law
So you might be asking yourself: should I give myself or my team members less time to complete work to increase pressure and productivity?
Well, yes and no.
Some things take time to complete and do well; if an assignment includes time consuming aspects, for example, field work and testing along with communicating with outside sources, then a longer time window would be best.
After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
But, sometimes, over-availability of time means that we don’t work as efficiently as we can or should.
Where else can I find Parkinson’s Law?
Have you ever heard of the saying you have to spend money to make money?
Well that might be true, but by using Parkinson’s Law, we also can confirm that the more money you have, the more money you will end up spending.
The same can be said for a home.
If you live in a studio apartment, then you will logically have a minimal amount of stuff to fill the apartment with. However, when you upgrade to a larger house or apartment, you will have more rooms and therefore more stuff to fill the rooms with.
Parkinson’s Law is everywhere in both your professional and personal life, and you can take advantage of it or get stuck in it.
So how do I use Parkinson’s Law?
Explaining Parkinson’s Law might be a little complicated, but executing it into your work is simple.
- Find a project you were recently assigned
- If there is a due date, assess the amount of time you believe you could finish the assignment in before the actual due date.
- If there is no due date, examine the project and make a close estimate to the minimum amount of time it would take you to complete the project
- Set a final due date or take note of the due date already given
- Make up little due dates for small tasks in the overall project (think action times)
- Make sure to keep everything up to date – remember the goal isn’t to simply complete your work in a finite amount of time, but rather to create a quality final result in a reasonable amount of time
- Set up rewards or take-aways: if you finished all your work by the due dates and they all hold up then reward yourself with a classy cup of coffee. If you didn’t make the deadline, get yourself a cheap energy drink and cancel your evening plans because you’re going to be working late tonight!
Need some help with Parkinson’s Law?
Setting deadlines can be hard and keeping up to date with them can be even harder. If you’re looking for that extra push in you work time, then check out Priority Matrix!!!
Priority Matrix is a prioritization tool and delegation tool that allows you and your team to work more effectively through increased collaboration, visibility, and accountability. It can also help you create an in depth to-do list all while giving you alerts about due dates on projects so that you never forget!
Try Priority Matrix for free and bring optimized prioritization and Parkinson’s Law together.