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Have you ever had the experience of working on a task with a month to complete it and yet you complete it just a day before the deadline (at max)?

Well if this has happened with you, know that you’re not alone.

We’ve all spent the majority of our time allotted for a task in finding “inspiration”, choosing the right things, taking enough breaks to retain your creativity (aka procrastinating where we use the breaks to scroll through our phones) and detailing it meticulously. Yet we end up finishing the work just the day before the due date or even less.

However if we are given a fraction of the time for the same task, we are able to complete it just on time then too. We cut out the time for getting inspiration and other filler stuff and jump right into working.

Have you ever thought why is it this way? This is not a coincidence, but it’s because you’re using Parkinson’s Law to your advantage (or rather disadvantage)! 

What is Parkinson’s Law?

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion

This means that if you give yourself a certain amount of time to complete some work, you’ll utilise the entire amount for the completion.

In other words, if you’re given tasks and a week’s time to complete them, you’ll get it done in a week. However, if you’re given only four hours in which to complete them then your brain will find any possible way to get all those tasks done in those four hours.

Remember the time, when a month before our exams we divided the thirty chapters as a chapter for every day? But when we didn’t complete them, we redistributed two chapters a day for 15 days? And when that didn’t work out either, we did the entire syllabus in 5 days?

We’ve all used Parkinson’s Law, isn’t it?

This law was given by Cyril Parkinson in 1955 in his book Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson was British naval historian who spent a large amount of his life with the British Civil Service. He had seen the bureaucracies of the British government who passed on the work from one department to another and always ended up using all the time until the deadline. 

He noticed that any amount of time allotted to a project was sufficient for its completion. 

It’s a little relieving to know that the British governments had similar patterns of procrastination to mine.

The logic behind Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law works not because it is some magical phenomenon but simply because 

  • We tend to have an inflated idea of how long a task is going to take us. This principle is something people don’t come into full realization of, until they test the law.
  • We always feel like we have plenty of time to do our work and distract ourselves by something more interesting than our work until it’s almost too late and then we panic.
  • We equate more time given with more effort required. We think if some work has been given a considerable amount of time, it requires great efforts – even when that is not the case.

Applying Parkinson’s Law

So how do you actually use Parkinson’s Law in your daily life to your advantage? 

The first and the most basic thing you can start off is by setting your own deadlines for yourself (and here’s the real deal), actually adhering to them.  

Consider these deadlines just like your official deadlines – you have no option but to complete your work by then.

Begin my estimating how much time each task will take you to complete. Then go ahead and set the deadline as half of that time.

After doing this multiple times, you’ll either be able to beat the clock and complete some of the tasks on the deadline or even before it; or in some scenarios you’ll take more time than the set deadline. 

The straightforward conclusion to this is that previously you had an exaggerated idea of the time required for the tasks you finished before the half deadline, and you knew quite accurately how much time it would take you to complete the task which you weren’t able to complete under the half deadline.

Another hidden benefit of Parkinson’s law is that you learn how to prioritize. When you halve your own deadlines, you sideline all the unimportant and extra parts of your work. You go ahead with all the important things in your mind which leads to more clarity.

Realise that the Parkinson’s Law is a law that applies not only in your professional work, but also in your personal life. Cleaning up your desk, doing the laundry, organising the shelves can also take way more time than acceptable if a deadline is not set.

Bottom Line

Remember that your work stretches on if you don’t set a firm deadline to it. Knowing Parkinson’s Law you can get much more done in the same amount of time.

What is something that you’ve apply the Parkinson’s Law to? 

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