Using Parkinson’s Law to boost your productivity

Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law? It states - and I’m paraphrasing here - that work expands to fill the time available for completion. In other words, each task you’re working on will take as long as you give it. With Parkinson’s Law, the converse is also true, if you give yourself less time to do a job; you are usually able to find a way to get the job done, to as high a standard, in the shorter time period. Within reason, the length of time you put aside to complete a job will be equal to the length of time it takes to do the job.

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How does Parkinson’s Law work?

You might wonder why this occurs but it is rather simple. You are forced to become more focused whenever you feel that it is going to be a challenge to complete the job on time. When you allow yourself more time than you really need, you tend to be too relaxed. You become easily distracted and you put up less resistance to any potential interruption because you know you have time to spare. So, it stands to reason that forcing yourself to focus will actually improve your productivity. That’s what Parkinson’s law is all about.

I’m sure you’ve seen this in action. Your home needs to be cleaned and tidied but you cannot even muster the energy to get it done. It’s taking you all day to get it done and you don’t appear to be making progress. Next thing, somebody is coming over, maybe your partner, and suddenly you manifest a miracle of biblical proportions to get the place cleaned and tidied in 20 minutes.

When I first accepted Parkinson’s Law

I have known of Parkinson’s Law for many years but to be honest, I had always thought it was a bit of nonsense. Then, I started my journey of self-employment.

My friend Jay, works in a neighbouring town and he no longer lives in our home town. Our friendship goes back over 30 years so I really like to meet up for a chat. Because Jay works long hours at month end (he works in accounts) he regularly gets time in lieu, meaning he has time off during the working week. He often sends me a message, inviting me to meet up for a coffee; even though I am working. If I do not have a time specific appointment, I do go to meet him for the coffee and chat.

You are probably wondering what this has to do with Parkinson’s Law. It’s simple, when I first started doing this, I noticed that I got precisely as much work done on the days that I would meet Jamie for the coffee as I would on the days when we wouldn’t meet. This despite the fact that I would be losing an additional hour from my day (we like to talk!). Having an hour less available to me only encouraged me to be more focused and committed for the rest of the day.

How to apply Parkinson’s Law

Firstly, the bad news; I am not advising you to run off for coffee every 5 minutes. That won’t work. Instead, there are 2 simple strategies which you can implement to harness the benefits of Parkinson’s Law.

1. Set deadlines

Rather than just getting a job completed at a gentle pace, set yourself a challenging deadline and stick to it. By allowing yourself less time, you will be forced to work better and smarter. Doing this on a regular basis will save you a lot of time.

Note: You don’t have to put a specified time limit on every task. I like to set myself a goal to get a certain number of tasks completed before I have to do something which has a fixed time e.g. I set myself a goal this morning to have 2 articles written before I go to watch a rugby league match. This is the second article and I am about to meet my target.

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2. Assign more work for the day

There is no need to go overboard but if you want to benefit from Parkinson’s Law, you can just add an extra task or two to your workload for the day. By slightly increasing the workload, you reduce the amount of time you can spend on each task and as a result, you are forced to be more focused.

Note: The tasks you add must be important. Otherwise there is no real benefit to getting them done and you will be less motivated to actually do them.

The Organised Mind

Develop an organised mind which allows you to stay on top of your work and make the most of your time..

'The Organised Mind' will teach you to do so.

The Organised Mind eBook 3d PNG


Using Parkinson’s Law effectively will boost your productivity. It will lead to more motivated and energised version of yourself. There will be less time wasting and more focus as you complete more of your most important work. However, it is important to not overdo it or you will burnout. Make small adjustments e.g. one extra task or 5 minutes less to complete a 1-hour task. Assess the impact of the adjustments and then make some more. It takes a little bit of trial and error to find create your most productive day but Parkinson’s Law should definitely be a part of it.