5 Ways to Make Parkinson's Law Work for You

overwhelmed parkinson's law

Parkinson's Law may have first appeared in print as part of a humorous essay, but this real-life phenomenon is a core principle of the Ridiculously Efficient workflow. Learn how to make Parkinson's Law work for you.

For those unfamiliar, the adage goes, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Here are a couple examples of Parkinson's Law in action:

  • You have just 15 minutes to write a blog post before leaving to pick up your child from school -- and manage to get it done just in time.
  • You dedicate your Sunday to cleaning out your bedroom closet, and a project that you thought would take a few hours ends up taking all day.

How can you harness Parkinson's Law in a way that benefits productivity and overall efficiency? Try one of these tricks:

  1. Create urgency. Creating a false sense of urgency helps you create an implementation temptation to fight distractions. Push yourself out of your comfort zone during work periods and, once you've achieved your goal, reward yourself accordingly.
  2. Schedule your day creatively. Add pressure to Step 1 by scheduling your day in a way that naturally creates pressure. For example, make lunch plans with a friend and force yourself to complete a challenging task on your to-do list.
  3. Set firm, challenging deadlines for every work-related task you do. Do not allow work tasks to take over your day. Schedule periods to churn out specific tasks, and if your inspiration falters, switch gears to another to-do instead of staring blankly at your computer screen.
  4. Track your workday. Measure where your workday goes to build self-knowledge and avoid overestimating how much time you'll need to complete a specific task.
  5. Build powerful incentives to finish tasks early. Balance your increased productivity with plenty of free time to relax and recharge. Efficiency is useless if it accelerates burnout.