Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fill available time

April 13, 2011 — Leave a comment

You glance up at the clock and hope your last reading was incorrect.  It wasn’t, which means your assignment is due in 1 hour.  You understand that things like this happen but there is no way you’re going to complete the task in two total hours.

Or is there?

This situation happens all too often in work and in life.  What is the general result?  We focus intensely on the item, use all available resources at our disposal, and manage to pull off the miracle.

If you had one week to do the task, would you have finished it in two hours?  Probably not, it might have taken the entire week.  Say hello to Parkinson’s Law.  Parkinson’s Law states: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Just because we finished the task in two hours doesn’t mean it was a masterpiece.  Sometimes you skimp on the details but that doesn’t necessarily mean you did a bad job.  Many of the tasks that we complete at work would turn out ok with less time spent on them. At some point you can start experiencing diminishing returns and the extra time you spend on the task is probably not worth it.

This is where the 80/20 rule comes into effect and you need to realize that some tasks might be perfectly fine when the 80 has been knocked out.  This is especially true if your time can be spent more productively elsewhere.

If you’re very busy, the best way to handle this is to prioritize and spend the most time on very important tasks. There is only so much time in a day and you can’t kill yourself on all of them.

Do you ever experience Parkinson’s Law?

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