Parkinson’s Law is well known, even if you don’t know what it is called, and it plays out in everything you do. 

Once you know about Parkinson’s Law, you can use it to improve your productivity. 

What is Parkinson’s Law?  The belief is that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. 

The Law states that the amount of time you give yourself to complete a task is the amount of time it will take to complete it.  

If I give myself 3 hours to complete this blog post, I will use all three hours.  If I give myself 90 minutes, I will complete the blog post in 90 minutes. 

Now that you know about the Law, think about all the areas of your life this Law impacts.  Grocery shopping, house cleaning, and any work task you have. 

I wish I had known about this when working full-time and doing my accounting designation.  I set aside Sundays to finish any of my reading and lessons.  And no matter how much I had left before I started for the day, it would inevitably take me all day to complete the remaining work, and I never finished early.  Had I known about this Law and knew how to use it, I may have been able to enjoy a few Sunday evenings. 

How Parkinson’s Law Works

When we set deadlines too far ahead, we will use all the time to accomplish the tasks. 

If you set a deadline earlier, you will reduce the time it takes you to complete the task. 

For example, I have this blog post to write.  If I give myself too long, I may take frequent breaks, check social media, email, or research the movie I want to see with my husband this weekend.  

However, if I set a tighter schedule, I’ll stay focused, find ways to do the task faster or more efficiently, or even delete unimportant parts.  I will find a way to get it done. 

Those cushy deadlines we set for ourselves are wasting more time than you realize. 

How to make Parkinson’s Law work for you

Once you know about Parkinson’s Law, you can make it work for you.  You can use it to get more done or get the same amount of work done in less time.  With the warm summer months coming, wouldn’t you like to get more done in the same amount of time so you can get outside and enjoy the heat?  I would. 

One way to make Parkinson’s Law work for you is to set realistic (non-cushy) deadlines.  When selecting a deadline, ask yourself how much time does this task realistically need to complete? 

Then set your deadline appropriately.  The best thing to do is to schedule the appropriate amount of time in your calendar and then ignore the task until the scheduled time. 

At first, you will not be great at setting deadlines and will need to train yourself.  One way to do this is to guess how long it will take you and then, when working on the task, stay focused and fight the urge to get distracted.  Then record the actual time it took and learn from the differences. 

If you overestimated, celebrate, learn, and adjust your estimates in the future.  

If you underestimated, assess and ask yourself why it took longer than anticipated.  Was the deadline unrealistic, or did you get distracted? Learn and adjust.  

Parkinson’s Law can creep in anywhere, so one thing you may want to have on hand is a list of fun, enjoyable things you will do with your free time. 

What is one thing you might change now that you know about Parkinson’s Law? 

If you don’t, will you start?  

The trouble is, you think you have time.


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