Your Time, Money and Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law is in the work throughout the day, but we may not be aware of it.

If you’re a busy mum running a successful business (and household) or steadily climbing up your career ladder, it’s highly likely you’re a time management queen with a good grasp of Parkinson’s Law.

Or do you find yourself with plenty of spare time after submitting an essay at school?

Maybe you finish writing your blog post within 2 hours you give yourself time for.

You too are a highly productive person and apply Parkinson’s Law effectively and efficiently, even if you may not know what Parkinson’s Law is.

Below I’ll explain what Parkinson’s Law is and why understanding it will increase your productivity and help you use your two most valuable resources well: time and money.

The Origin of Parkison’s Law

Parkinson’s law is originated from a British Historian, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, when he published an article on The Economist in 1955.

The article begins with:

It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Take the author’s example given in the article.

An elderly lady can spend her entire day in writing and sending a postcard to her niece in southern England.

From selecting the right postcard, composing a message and finding the address to deciding whether to take an umbrella to the nearest postbox.

Her entire day’s activities would take a busy man 3 minutes to complete.

But because the leisurely lady gives herself an entire day to finish her task, she takes her sweet time and spends the complete day on it.

Parkinson’s Law is Everywhere

We see Parkinson’s Law works everywhere.

A contract worker who signs a contract with one week deadline.

In reality, it takes only 2 days to finish it, but he expands the work to fill a week to complete it as per the contract.

A college student who has a month deadline to submit an essay.

With focus and dedication, it would take her solid 5 days’ work, but she fills the time, the entire month, and submit her essay on the last day.

Office workers who’re contracted to sit through 9-5 when the actual work could take the half day.

They expand the daily duty to fill 9-5 before clocking off.

The implication of Parkinson’s Law is that it doesn’t matter how much time you have in a day unless you plan the day in the most effective and efficient way and therefore use it wisely.

It also highlights that the time available has very little to do with how productive our day can be.

How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage

Knowing the existence of Parkinson’s Law and thinking through its implication is the first step to use Parkinson’s Law efficiently.

And here comes the next step.

Observe and Set the Right Expectation

Observe time that takes to complete your daily tasks.

Since Parkinsons’ Law is ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’, allocate the least time to each task to get more work done.

The least time allocated creates intensity and urgency.

Which forces you to complete the task quicker.

For example, how long do you usually take to read and reply to an email?

If it shouldn’t take over 20 minutes but you stretch it to 40 minutes to an hour, admitting it is the first step.

Next, allocate 20 minutes of deadline and stick to it.

If you’re new to blogging, publishing a blog post in 2 hours can be challenging.

For an experienced mum blogger, allocating the entire day to the same task would be a waste of time.

Remember, you take as long as you give time for completing a task.

To use your time efficiently and use Parkinsons’ Law to your best advantage, learn to set the right expectation by assessing your abilities critically and allocating the optimal (and shortest) deadline to each task.

Watch out whether you’re creating an unnecessarily long buffer time, wastefully stretching out your performance just to fill the time.

Money and Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law can easily dictate our spending habits too, which can lead us to waste money.

If you allocate $500 to food on your monthly budget, you likely end up spending all of $500 on food even though you can feed yourself comfortably with $350 worth of food.

The same goes for all your budget.

We use up the max resources and justify our action.

Challenge Yourself with Rewards

Imagine you have a mountain of paperwork to get through each day.

Nothing new there… until one day your boss comes and says you can go home as soon as you clear all the paperwork.

Suddenly a day’s work gets done in a few hours and you go home singing and dancing!

If the company rewards our work performance, our work efficiency soars.

Even when your company isn’t so generous, don’t let it deter you from using Parkinson’s Law to your advantage.

You can still challenge yourself by mastering as many tasks as you can.

Challenge yourself to take up more responsibilities and learn as many skills as possible at the shortest time available.

Your advanced skill-set is the ultimate reward, your great asset. 

Final Thoughts

When you observe your day through Parkinson’s Law, you’ll see so many ways of increasing efficiency in all areas of your life.

From cleaning your bathroom to writing a book, challenge yourself as often as possible and see if you can get it done at the shortest time available.

Create your own rewards system every time you reach a new level of efficiency scrutinised under Parkinson’s Law.

When applying Parkinson’s Law to your best advantage, you’ll increase productivity each day.

And use your two most important resources, time and money, superbly well.

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