Improve your productivity with Parkinson’s Law

In 1975 British historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson claimed that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. This statement is named Parkinson’s Law. And it probably destroyed your productivity more than once. Here’s my story with Parkinson’s Law.

work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion


Parkinson’s Law and the fake productivity organisation

Months ago I took on an important design project. I had to design an entire brand’s identity for an event, and then organise the said event. During the month of May, I started to coordinate every step: I created a calendar, dividing each step into different smaller tasks, setting deadlines, etc.

We could say everything was perfectly organised. However, deadlines, as Parkinson’s Law suggests, conditioned my productivity. Let’s take the brand’s identity design for instance, which I divided into 4 smaller tasks: logo design, corporate stationery, adverts design and budgets. Each of these tasks had a 1.5-week deadline. So that in 2.5 months everything would be done and revised.

Time excess killed my productivity. Every morning I sat down to work and barely got anything done. I was stressed and burned out about my designs. Having so much time made me review each design over and over. Killing my productivity, my creativity and even my motivation to keep on working.

Using Parkinson’s Law in our favour

Yes, we can use Parkinson’s Law to improve our work. In general Parkinson’s Law takes us to set excessive deadlines. This is because we think having more time will allow us to review and correct our work calmly. But in reality, those deadlines end up being used as excuses to procrastinate or stress out instead of making us work in full productivity mode. How many times have you said, “I work best under pressure”? Everyone works best is more productive under pressure.

To finish my story: I ended up completing the entire project in 4 days, just one week before handing in the final bill. Those deadlines I had set didn’t help me at all. Because in the end, the deadline that counts is the one we cannot avoid.

Do you wish to be more productive? Set realistic deadlines and give yourself even less time that you think you will need. If you think it will take you 3 days, try completing it in 1 day. Take that deadline as an official client or boss deadline. That way you’ll take it seriously and work hard until completion. Try setting different deadlines and I assure you it will increase your productivity.

Parkinson’s Law applied to your routine

Take my work as an example once again. Every day I set half an hour to update my socials during breakfast. I post to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, reply to messages and comments, interact with other people posts, etc. Usually, procrastination makes people postpone these tasks during their workday, and sometimes they end up forgetting some of their to-dos.

Start by setting realistic deadlines (and give yourself less time), group similar tasks together and complete them all at once… Do this with your daily routines for an easy start. Accommodate your habits to fit your deadlines and you will get lots of free time that you can put towards all those things you have always wanted to do but never found the time. Make Parkinson’s Law work for you through experimentation. Try different deadlines and let me know how it goes. I try this method every single day and it works like a charm to boost my productivity!

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