A Beginner’s Guide to Parkinson’s Law

When it comes to productivity, there’s a law you need to know about. It’s called Parkinson’s Law and it states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. I’m sure you’ve seen it in action.

Think about the last time you cleaned your house. If you had all weekend to do it, it pretty much took all weekend. But when you get a call that your in-laws are stopping over later that day, you suddenly get the same amount of work done in just a couple of hours. That’s Parkinson’s Law working for you.

By simply being aware that this law exists, you can keep yourself from spending all day on a task that should only take you an hour or two. But you can take it even further and make sure your days are filled with productivity – both at work and at home.

To take full advantage and get as much done as possible you need two things. You need to know what you should be doing and you need a timer of sorts. A kitchen timer will work, as will the countdown alarm on your smartphone. Any sort of alarm that will count down will do. Look around and see what you can find, or head to the dollar store to grab an inexpensive kitchen timer.

Some people find they work best with the old-fashioned spring-operated kitchen timer that makes a soft constant clicking noise, while others find it distracting. Use what works best for you.

Combine that timer with your to-do list and get to work. Look at the first item on your list and decide how long it should take you to get that done. If it’s a bigger task, break it down into 45-minute chunks of time. Set the timer and go… work as fast and hard as you can until your timer goes off.

Then take a little break, regroup, reset the timer and start again. Keep going until all your tasks are done or it’s time to go home. Of course, you can use the same principle at home as well.

Using a timer also works really well to keep your kids motivated to clean their room, or get through any other chores. They may not understand the principle behind Parkinson’s Law, but it works just as well for them – especially if you make a game out of racing against the clock.