Parkinson’s Law

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My dad had Parkinson’s disease. You may know someone who has it. I’ll save the conversation about the condition for a later blog post. Something with the same name sounds like it might be related…but it’s not. It’s something called “Parkinson’s Law”. What is it? It’s the old adage that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. The term was first coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an essay he wrote for “The Economist” in 1955. Here’s a quick definition:  “If you have more time, less effort is needed.” However, “if you have less time, then more effort is needed to complete the task.”

Here is why this matters and why it’s an important leadership principle: If you want something done faster, give it less time.   According to Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” It’s been verified in a number of studies. What this means is that you can make the mistake of allowing too much time for a task.  You’ll find more often than not, you never get anything done.

But don’t get bummed out because you can flip this law on its head and leverage the principle for good.  Goal setting, wise planning, and defining your tasks will all help. But, here’s the one thing that has helped me enormously.

Create a timeline for your tasks.

I threw away my “to-do list.” It just made me feel guilty. I have put every task into my calendar. I’ve given it a start time and an end time. Do I adjust it? Of course! But things get done more quickly and efficiently. Seriously, this might just make a serious difference for you.

Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

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