Make More Time Using Parkinson’s Law

Most people in business (and almost everywhere) would love to have more time. For better or worse, we all have 24 hours a day. No more, no less. 

Yet, have you ever noticed that many tasks take as long as you have time available for them? There is a law that describes that phenomenon: Parkinson’s Law.

When we say a meeting will take an hour, it will take an hour (or more). When we think writing a research proposal will take four weeks, it will take four weeks. Yet, if a circumstance pushes us to create it in one week, we might get it done in that time frame.

Parkinson’s Law: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Definition Published in The Economist

Tasks will fill your allotted time like a gas in a container. It fills up the whole container.

Why do we schedule almost always one-hour (or half-hour) meetings? It’s conditioning. It is what we usually do. It’s rare that someone says, “You know I think we can get that done in 12 minutes.”

You can use Parkinson’s Law as an invitation to think: “How much/little time do I truly need for this task?”

A point close to home: How long does my writing these Brilliance Nuggets take? The answer is however much time I allow for it. Some days I spent hours (because I dig deeper into a topic). Other days, I set a tighter time limit and make myself complete the nugget within that time frame.

The Key Takeaways

  • Consider challenging yourself (and your colleagues) with the question: “How much time do I really need for this task?”
  • Take your best guess.
  • Take care of the task as effectively as possible and see how long it took. That way, you have a more accurate time estimate next time. 

This process is like having a time creation machine. Now, that is cool!

I’m Curious

What is your experience with Parkinson’s Law?

Live Brilliantly,

Dr. Stephie

P.S.: I appreciate you commenting and sharing this Brilliance Nugget with others. Thank you!

Stephie Althouse

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