Parkinson’s Law has been coming up a lot lately – with friends and with clients – and while all of them have experienced it, most of them have never heard of it.
What I love is the reaction I get once I start explaining. It’s a growing, knowing smile. ☺ Let’s see if it happens to you, too.
Here’s a lightning fast explanation of Parkinson’s Law from The Personal MBA:
“In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British historian, wrote a humorous essay in The Economist based on his experience in the British civil service.
In that essay, Parkinson’s first sentence became his eponymous law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If something must be done in a year, it’ll be done in a year.”
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Didja smile? If so, is it because you know all too well what it feels like to wonder why something is taking forever to complete? And then realize you never actually gave yourself a due date?
We tend to underestimate the importance of a deadline. And the power we hold to set one for ourselves. If it’s true we will take the time we give ourselves, and we don’t give an end date, then this Law is saying that task will never end. That sounds like torture!
Here’s an idea:
The next time you give yourself a task (of any size), what if you took 20 seconds to ask yourself –what is my due date? Be reasonable. Think about it in the context of all the other things you have to do. Then set your date and put it on your calendar.
Pro tip: Set a reminder a couple times before it’s due.
Here’s a real-world Lindsey example:
Every year, my partner, Colin, and I take a month off in the winter for a sabbatical. This January, we are heading to Thailand and Bali.
We need to book our Airbnb in Bali and I’m setting the deadline as: November 30, 2018.
I know I’ll want to research a bunch of places, so I’m going to say my deadline for researching and narrowing it down to 2 options is November 28.
And on November 25, I’m going to put a calendar reminder – “Have you started your research?”
The reminders serve as a system to help me stick to my goal of November 30.
Sure, this may sound super obvious, using all of these reminders, etc., but why do so few of us do it? That could be a whole other post.. or three.
Here’s my main point: When you give yourself less time to do something, you end up with more time.
What is something you can create a due date for? And what reminders will you create so you stick to it?