Parkinson’s Law is defined by the concept that tasks expand to the time allotted to them. It is a very interesting concept actually. Have you ever had a deadline the next day and accomplished something that you never thought could get done but somehow made it happen. All of a sudden there is a rush of focus, drive, and motivation to get the task done. Whether it was put off because of procrastination or some kind of last minute demand from someone, the result can be the same (of course also with a whole lot of frustration). Just like pretty much anything else, each situation is different. There are countless tasks that really can’t be done any quicker, so adding unrealistic deadlines and expectations for completion time will only stress you or whoever you are delegating the tasks out and is counterproductive. However, there are also many times when just adding structure and deadlines as well as giving yourself and/or your team a boost can increase productivity and actually get tasks done quicker and more effectively by not scheduling too much time for them. Here are five ways you can do this effectively.
Cut large projects into small pieces and each piece a deadline. Constantly having a deadline to deliver on as part of the project will allow you to stay focused and on track with the deadline in mind rather than seeing the whole task and getting overwhelmed.
Evaluate your schedule regularly. Whenever you think you can do something quicker and you don’t need the amount of time to do a particular task, you are probably right. It is much more natural to underestimate time something will take rather than overestimate, so any inkling of an overestimation of time is probably right.
Track the amount of time activities take. As you may have gathered from previous posts, I am a huge proponent of logging time. This way you can find the reality of how long tasks actually take, and you won’t be over or under-scheduling them. The more data that you have the more of a consistency that you can find.
Make a Time Budget. Having a guide to follow is very helpful as well. While It is best practice to trend towards overestimating time so that there is margin in your budget; however, do not go too crazy as well. Scheduling too much time to do each task will waste more time, as tasks will expand to the time allotted.
Find a good balance. Constantly pressuring yourself and your team to accomplish 12 hours of work in 8 hours days every day is unreasonable and will stress and wear everyone else. However, accomplishing 4 hours of work in 8 hours is a complete waste of time and unnecessary as well. It is worth taking the time to evaluate the task management and adjust accordingly.
Parkinson’s Law is a very useful productivity concept that serves as reminder that there does need to be a balance in your efficiency. It is best to avoid ditches on both ends. It is like going bowling, you want to get as close to the middle as possible with the greatest impact, and avoid the gutters on both ends!