The Parkinson’s Law of time management

parkinsons law

Why do some simple projects seem to take forever to complete? According to Parkinson’s Law, the time it takes to complete a task is generally proportional to the time that is allotted for the task. In other words, if a project is given a deadline of one year, it will likely take approximately one year to complete.

This is because people tend to work at a pace that is dictated by the time available. This law can help us to better understand why some projects seem to take forever to complete. 

What is Parkinson’s Law?

Parkinson’s Law is named after Cyril Northcote Parkinson, who first wrote about it in an article for The Economist in 1955. In his original article, Parkinson proposed that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. 

In other words, if given two hours to complete a task, it will take two hours. The same task, if given four hours, will also take four hours. This idea has since been popularized and expanded upon by many productivity authors and thinkers.

The science behind Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law has been studied and backed by research. One study asked participants to estimate how long it would take to complete various tasks, such as reading a book or taking a trip. The study found that the participants consistently overestimated the amount of time needed. 

It implies that we can shorten deadlines for many tasks and output quality won’t change. It has implications for time management.

Understand the relationship between time and productivity.

time and productivity

Parkinson’s Law of Productivity can also help us to better understand the relationship between time and productivity. The less time we have to complete a task, the more productive we are likely to be. This is because we are forced to focus our attention and use our time more efficiently when time is limited.

That’s why it is often more productive to set a time limit, rather than working on it for as long as we want.

This natural tendency can have a serious impact on our productivity. It is important to be aware of it to manage our time and resources more effectively. Parkinson’s Law of Productivity can be used to explain why some people can accomplish more in a shorter period than others.

While Parkinson’s Law may seem like a negative thing, it can be quite helpful in managing our time and our workload. By understanding how Parkinson’s Law works, we can be more mindful of how we are using our time and make adjustments accordingly.

Parkinson’s Law at organizations

If an organization has a large budget and ample resources, it may take longer to complete a project than if it had a smaller budget and fewer resources. This is because the organization will likely spend more time and resources than is necessary.

Try to set shorter (but realistic) deadlines

If we want to be more productive, we should try to set shorter deadlines for ourselves. It can help us to be more productive, as it forces us to focus on the task at hand.

On the other hand, if a project is given a deadline that is too short, the quality of the project will likely suffer. In addition, the project may not be able to be completed in the time allotted. This is why it is important to be realistic when setting deadlines for projects.

Be the first to boost your productivity. Join our newsletter and get:

  • invitation to early-beta
  • exclusive productivity content