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How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Get More Done in Less Time

Black vintage table alarm clock showing the time for productivity.

Ever wondered why a task that should only take a few hours sometimes drags on forever? Chances are you keep putting it off till the last minute. But procrastinating like this may disrupt your workflow, productivity, and output. 

So if this sounds like a familiar situation, read on for how you can use Parkinson’s Law to beat procrastination and get more done in less time. 

Table of contents
What is Parkinson’s law
3 ways to use Parkinson’s law to increase productivity
Key takeaways

What is Parkinson’s Law 

Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for completion

Parkinson’s law plotted on a graph.
Parkinson’s law plotted on a graph

Cyril Northcote Parkinson first coined this law in an essay published in The Economist in 1955. Since then, Parkinson’s law has garnered a wide reputation. 

Let’s consider what this means in more practical terms and look at a few examples: 

Parkinson’s Law meaning

If you give yourself more time than necessary to complete a task, you’ll drag it on until the expected deadline, regardless of whether it impacts the task’s quality. This statement is true and applicable to both life in general and business productivity in particular. 

Parkinson’s Law examples

For a quick example, students are likely to complete their assignments just before the deadline. Of course, this assignment could take them a day if they put their backs to it, but it might drag on for a whole semester without a concrete deadline. 

Similarly, a procurement manager of a retail company may take much longer than necessary to procure materials for the next quarter. Why? They’ll likely spend more time discussing product specs and other requirements with sales and marketing when ideally the discussion could be much quicker if given a strict time limit. 

From both examples, there could be further implications that arise from this approach. For instance, the student might one day miss the deadline because they’ve grown comfortable leaving things to the last minute. And the procurement manager’s actions could affect overall team productivity and organizational management. 

This is why better time management is needed not only to reduce the risks of last minute setbacks but also to increase overall efficiency.

3 Ways to Use Parkinson’s Law to Increase Productivity

Now that you understand Parkinson’s law and its correlation to procrastination, here are three Parkinson’s law time management strategies to eliminate productivity barriers in your business.

1. Create and stick to deadlines

Creating and sticking to deadlines disciplines you. Instead of waiting for the stipulated time to complete a task, set up a tighter deadline. This ensures you wrap up the project or task on time. 

Here are a few tips on setting a tighter deadline:

  • Figure out how much time it should take to complete a task. 
  • Create a list of tasks, and break them up according to the predetermined time. 
  • Now, slash the allotted time for each task in half to run against the clock.
  • Finally, strive to beat this self-imposed time limit without skimping on quality. 

With these points in mind, let’s consider this example below: 

Imagine you plan to source a new product for your online store in four weeks. 

If three out of the four weeks are for market research alone, chop it down to two. This stringent deadline gives you ample time to fix up unforeseen issues as they unfold and still meet your launch date. 

A blue to-do calendar, showing a red deadline imprint on it.
A blue to-do calendar, showing a red deadline imprint on it

Setting realistic and tight deadlines is essential for overcoming procrastination. Subjecting yourself to conducting the research within two weeks helps to beat the clock and stay ahead. And the pressure this creates throws you into a competitive mindset driving you to rise up to the challenge.

Try the following techniques to create your deadlines:

  • The Pomodoro technique:

The Pomodoro Technique leverages Parkinson’s law of time management. It involves taking short breaks during time-limited, focused work. The goal is to increase productivity while ensuring the quality of the work isn’t impacted.

The Pomodoro Technique works on a simple principle: take a five minutes break for every 25 minutes work session. Thus, once you set this time limit, you can’t take a break while working until after 25 minutes. 

Pro tip: If you struggle with creating a realistic deadline, use the PomoDoneApp to self-impose deadlines and complete your tasks on time. 

  • The timeboxing technique:

This technique creates a fixed time for which you must complete a task. The timeboxing technique is crucial when working on significant projects, like packaging your products by hand or running an inventory. 

With this technique, you’ll split one big task into timeboxes (intervals), which you must complete before moving to a new one. 

So if you’ve got a project that requires four hours to complete, you can split your project into three timeboxes; Task A, Task B, and Task C. According to the weight of each task, you can assign Task A — two hours, Task B — an hour and 30 minutes, and Task C — 30 minutes. 

Doing this helps you prioritize tasks based on significance, size and effort.

The benefit of using the Pomodoro Technique and the timeboxing system is to avoid procrastination, overdoing tasks, and producing low-quality work. They help you stay focused, meet deadlines, and have enough time to work on other things, driving productivity in your business.

2. Use time tracking tools

Time tracking tools are tools that are helpful in measuring productivity. They assess and record time spent performing a particular task, so you can ascertain how much time each job requires. 

Use simple time tracking tools like actTIME and Timetrack to record time and fight distractions while working on projects. These tools allow you to manually or automatically track your progress. If you’re unsure how much time is left to hit your deadlines, set the tool’s reminder to alert you through a notification or an email.

Time management with time tracking tools will inform you of better ways to plan and schedule your deadlines for future tasks, and eventually, to overcome delays and increase your productivity. 

3.  Eliminate distractions

Checking social media notifications and other phone notifications in the middle of tasks encourages procrastination and increases the completion time of your tasks. 

To eliminate distractions, put your phone on do not disturb mode. Turn off all notifications and ensure your smartphone is far from your workspace or workstation. If these distractions are coming from elsewhere, it’s important to identify the key things that distract you and eliminate them accordingly.

Key takeaways

Parkinson’s law can increase business productivity, especially by giving tasks strict time limits. On the other hand, allotting more time than necessary to tasks can lead to delays in their completion. 

It’s key to schedule efficient deadlines for each task and stick to them. Also, use time tracking tools to measure progress. And when you spot a decline in productivity, evaluate and eliminate distractions to stay focused and get more done in less time.

If you’re ready to improve your time management, follow these tips and you’ll see an instant boost in your business productivity.

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