Parkinson’s Law

by Mar 19, 2021Productivity

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According to the Anatomy of Work Index, 87% of people work two hours more every day. Parkinson's Law is killing our productivity.

What's Parkinson's Law?

Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote an essay for the Economist in 1955 that stated that work expands to fill the time allotted. Basically, whatever time we give ourselves, we will take that time to complete it.

Ever notice how you can Get Shit Done like a boss the day before you go on vacation? You only have one day before you shut it all down and leave it behind. You aren't going to mess around, procrastinate, or do piddly stuff. You prioritize and get done what needs to be accomplished in one day.

Parkinson's Law 3

How is Parkinson's Law making our days longer?

One reason is that our 2-3 minute conversation or office drive-by has been replaced with a 30-minute Zoom call. People hardly pick up the phone anymore, so we resort to video meetings. We're not going to schedule a 5-minute Zoom meeting, and as Parkinson's Law states, whatever time we allot, we will fill it.

It drives me crazy that everyone schedules meetings for one hour. Why? Because that's the default in Microsoft Outlook! Change your default in your settings to 45 or 50-minutes. Heck, have your IT do it for the whole company! Turn that 30-minute meeting to 15, or better yet, don't schedule an appointment. If it's only a 2-3 minute conversation, pick up the phone or create a Loom video.

One reason our Focus90 program works is that we only have 80-minutes in that focused work sprint. Members can tell you that in the last 5-10 minutes, we feel like we are sprinting to get finished. That little clock ticking makes us want to be able to say we completed the task.

Challenge: Find one thing you are doing this week that, because of Parkinson's Law, you took the whole amount of time to do it. Find a one-hour meeting and take 5, 10, or 15 minutes off and then go and take a biology break!

Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects