Think of that Project you started months ago. You hadn’t set a deadline, so it got lost among all the clutter. Accept it: without a deadline, you’ll never finish it. And it’s not us who say so, it’s Parkinson’s Law who does.

What is Parkinson’s Law?

Parkinson’s Law says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. That is to say, the more time you have to perform a task, the more time it will take you to finish it. Put it another way, if you’re asked to do something it will take you all the time you had available, even though you could have completed the task sooner.

For example, you have to write a report and have two weeks to do it (although it could be perfectly done in just one). You will end up taking the two weeks to finish it. Why don’t you double check your planning objectively and set a deadline within just one week? The report would be completed in less time and you could do other things.

How can I apply it to my day-to-day activity?

Parkinson’s Law tells us that we need limits and deadlines to help us have clear objectives and plan our work. Otherwise, we will use up all the available resources.

Here are some tips for you to get it:

  1. Set daily goals. When planning tasks, the best is to assign slightly tighter deadlines to each of them. Consider how much time you will actually need to complete each task and decide what part of the work you will do every day.
  2. Split tasks into smaller ones. Setting daily deadlines for big projects can be complicated. So the best is to divide them into smaller tasks that you can perform in just one day.
  3. Declare your commitment. Set a fixed deadline and communicate it either to your partners or to the person you’re going to send the work to. It’s a way of staying motivated and not eluding that task because you’ve already given your word that it would be done in time.
  4. Avoid falling into perfectionism. Many times we don’t complete a task because we brood over it to make it perfect. Forget about that, it will never be. So do your best and finish it so you can move on to another task.

What you need is to know objectively how much time you devote to each task in order to set goals and deadlines in a realistic way. Once you’ve done it, meet your deadlines and don’t let Parkinson’s Law ruin your productivity. Moreover, taking this and other productivity laws into account will help you better plan your day-to-day work.

Translation by Susana Castro.

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Image: Pulpolux !!!

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