One of the most effective ways to work smarter and become more productive is to apply Parkinson’s Law to your tasks, projects, and goals.
In fact, I’m using Parkinson’s Law right now while writing this blogpost. Parkinson’s Law has literally doubled my productivity — and it can do so for you as well.
Parkinson’s Law states that ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’ which means that if you give yourself an entire day to complete a two-hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting.
We will, in fact, take the entire day to accomplish this relatively minor task.
The extra time might not even be filled with more work to actually improve the quality of the output. Often, the extra time is just filled with more stress, tension and worrying about how to get it done.
Most of the time is spend on procrastinating and distractions.
You’re Already Familiar With Parkinson’s Law
Whether you realized it or not, it’s very likely that you’ve already experienced Parkinson’s Law and used it to boost your productivity at the times you needed it the most.
Do you recognize any of these situations?
- You had two months to finish a project and you only started to work on it with real intensity a few weeks before the deadline
- You had all semester to write a paper and yet you wrote it in the last four days before the deadline and handed it in at the last moment
- You had weeks to prepare for an exam but you only started studying 2–3 days before
Well, I’m way too familiar with the above scenarios (I used to work like this in college for years). Many people are, in fact.
You’ve been procrastinating for weeks on end, and suddenly you become this productivity machine who manages to get the task done — and quite well most of the time.
This is because you’ve made use of Parkinson’s Law (but not in the most healthy way). Maybe you had to pull a few all-nighters and load up on coffee and Red Bull, but you made it work nevertheless
You also see Parkinson’s Law often in sports. In the last few minutes of the match, teams start to increase their effort and go on the offensive more often. They only have a limited time left in which they can win the match, thus they increase their effort and avoid wasting any time.
This is exactly what you should do with your day-to-day work as well if you want to become highly productive and get better results in less time.
Cut Your Deadlines, Double Your Productivity
The essence of Parkinson’s Law is to set deadlines that are much shorter than you’ve ever set them before. This forces you to focus on the essentials, avoid distractions and stop procrastinating — making you highly focused and productive.
When you have too much time available for completing a task or project, you won’t feel the necessity, motivation or pressure to work with focus and intensity. As there’s space available to waste time, stress and worry, you’ll (subconsciously) make use of this space.
Remove this space by making your deadlines shorter. Much shorter.
In fact, try cutting your deadlines in half. Set your new deadline at 50% of the time it originally took you to complete a task or project. This may seem unrealistic at first, but you may be surprised at how much more productive you become. It’s very likely that you’ll find ways to get it done within the limited time — and get it done well.
If you can’t make new the deadline, it either means that (1) you’re still too distracted and spend too much time on the non-essentials or (2) you need to slightly loosen your deadline for the next time until you find your ideal ‘sweet spot’.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can start to set unreasonable deadlines. You can’t build a skyscraper in a day. The more complex the project, the more time it typically takes to complete.
However, Parkinson’s Law is a really good thought experiment to see how much time you can win in your normal work-day. It might require some trial and error before you find a deadline that you can reasonably achieve, but you’ll save a lot of time and energy in the long-run.
How I’m Using Parkinson’s Law Right Now
As I said before, I’m using Parkinson’s Law at this very moment. In fact, as I’m writing this, I only have 31 minutes and 35 seconds left in order to finish, edit and upload this entire article.
As I have to make finishing this post within the self-imposed deadline, I’m forced to be fully focused, avoid distractions, eliminate time-wasting non-essentials and focus on the things that truly matter.
Prior to applying Parkinson’s Law, it took me way too much time to write a single article. And the extra time didn’t even help with improving the quality of my writing.
In fact, most of the time was wasted away procrastinating, changing the topic six times, pondering over irrelevant details and getting distracted by things like e-mail and social media.
I used to spend about six hours writing a blogpost, while nowadays I’m able to finish it in about two hours. And the results are much better than in the past!
Because I didn’t give myself a strict deadline in the past, I felt like I had all the time in the world to complete an article — and I acted accordingly.
This is why Parkson’s Law is so powerful. You become more efficient with how you spend your time, energy, and attention as you have to finish your task or project within a limited amount of time. There’s simply no room for wasting your valuable resources.
Applying Parkinson’s Law On A Macro Level
Besides applying Parkinson’s Law to your daily tasks, you can also apply Parkinson’s Law to your bigger goals and projects in order to work with more impact, focus, and energy.
What if you decide to cut the deadline for your goal or project in half? It may look impossible at first, but in most cases, you’ll find it’s quite doable.
Instead of giving yourself 4 months to achieve something, try to achieve it in 2 months. This shorter deadline forces you to work smarter, come up with more efficient strategies and focus your resources on the most important tasks instead of wasting time on the non-essentials.
Once again, the more time you give yourself to accomplish something, the more time you’ll waste procrastinating, stressing and focusing on non-essentials.
The less time you give yourself, the more effective and efficient you’re forced to become.
Now Do It
Improving your productivity and achieving better results in less time can only be done by taking action upon your knowledge. Therefore, I highly encourage you to apply Parkinson’s Law for your next workday.
Start small by picking out one task and slash its deadline in half.
Use a timer to see how much time you still have left. Visually being confronted with your deadline helps you to stay focused and work with more intensity.
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