Have you ever wondered why it takes so long for you to get something done? Or why you may have such limited free time?
There is actually a theory as to why this happens, and it’s called Parkinson’s Law.
What is Parkinson’s Law?
Parkinson’s Law dictates that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Meaning that a task will grow in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.
Essentially, however much time you give something, it will end up taking that long. The longer you give it, the more important it will seem as well.
For example, if you are given a proposal at work and it’s needed by next Monday, you will naturally find a way for it to take until next Monday. But, if the proposal is needed tomorrow you will find a way to get it done. This will lead to a better prioritization of your time, minimizing distractions, and cutting out unnecessary “fluff” that may be added with more time.
Social media has only added a greater challenge to people’s productivity, with the average person checking their phones 52 times per day! Be careful of this, it’s an immediate distraction leading down a rabbit hole difficult to crawl out of.
Another good example is when planning a wedding, where Parkinson’s Law is applied to money. If you are given a budget of $40,000 for a wedding, guess what, you’ll probably spend damn close to $40,000. However, if you have $8,000, you will get it done for that. Knowing this limitation, or ceiling, helps with decision making. You find locations that are less expensive or free, cut down the guest list to close friends and family, and find a more economical solution for food and drinks.
How to use this to your advantage
It’s all great to understand Parkinson’s Law, but what good is it to you if you do nothing with it?
Understanding it is the first step, then using it to your advantage is the second. Implemented correctly it will make your work and home life more productive and efficient, improve your health and longevity, and give you more free time for what you want to do.
For so many, especially business owners and stay at home parents, there are always multiple things on the “to-do” list (anyone that has been in our office has seen my multiple sticky notes all over the desk), and it’s never fully completed. Many people also “don’t have time” to take care of themselves, when it might just be a shift in mindset or awareness that is needed first.
The best way to attack this is to set a personal deadline or time frame to a task or action, and stick to it. Telling someone else helps keep on track and accountable as well, keeping you from giving in.
Here’s a good little tip I have recently learned:
If something on your list takes less than 3 minutes to complete, get it done immediately. Even finishing a simple task will leave you feeling accomplished and make it much easier to complete others. This is why Navy SEALs make their bed every morning, to start the day with a small win.
Make sure to take a step back and think about how you can set a time frame, financial ceiling, or other boundary around what you’re doing. You will be more efficient and productive, giving you time for the things you really value.
Don’t make excuses why you are not where you want to be. Use this knowledge and awareness daily, and control your fate.