Own My Growth

Helping folks with practical tips to manage themselves better

Be Aware Of The Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson's Law

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion– This is the Parkinson’s Law.

If someone gives you a week to complete a proposal, you will take a week to do it. In contrast, if they give you a month to complete the same proposal, you will take a month.

Essentially, the more time you have to complete something, the longer you will take to finish it. The converse is equally valid. The less time you have to achieve your goal, the more likely you will complete it in the proposed time.

There is also a third dimension of Parkinson’s Law. If a goal or task does not have a specific deadline set, It will probably never get done.

Whenever we have something we want to complete, whether it is a project deadline to meet, cleaning the room, or attending to the tax filing, we think that the more time we give ourselves to complete it, the better the result will be.

However, the fact is this. In most situations, the bulk of the time is spent procrastinating, and only a tiny portion of the time is spent doing the task we want to do. 

For example, if someone gave you a week to prepare the presentation, it would take you five days before you start working on the presentation because you know you can knock it off in one or two days. So therefore, the task actually involves five days of procrastination and two days of actual work.

I often explain this to many of my mentees. We can think of a deadline like a fire in the distance. The fire is small when the deadline is far, and there is no heat to make us uncomfortable. So we focus on other things. However, as the deadline gets closer, the fire and the heat from the fire become bigger. Eventually, the initially small fire becomes so intense that you are forced to attend to it. At that point, putting out the fire is the only choice you have, and it becomes your primary focus. When you are likely to burn, you don’t procrastinate and waste your time on unimportant things- no checking emails, no social media, or any other distractions, only the task. When the deadline is upon you all the things that make up a considerable part of your procrastination become secondary and unimportant.

Parkinson’s law is an essential mental model for everyone to keep in mind. If you know you can complete something in a day, don’t give yourself two days to finish it. You might think that giving yourself extra time will get you better results. This is rarely true. It is just a fallacy. Attend to the task and complete it. A short tight deadline is often better because there is less scope for distraction, and you have greater focus.

Finally, No matter whether your deadline is near or far, it is still better than having no deadline at all. If there is no deadline to any task or goal, in all likelihood, it is a mere dream or desire. There is little chance that it will get completed.

When it comes to any goal or task, If you don’t have a fire becoming bigger every day, make sure you create one !! The intensity of a deadline is often necessary for us to promptly attend to our important goals.

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