Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Parkinson's law is the adage that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". True that. Remember the last time you had to do a presentation for work or complete a project and you were in a time-crunch and you managed to complete it anyway?
When I am under time pressure I just figure out ways to do things quicker - it is not a hack / that I do a shoddy job - it's like I had a hit of NZT (Reference.: Limitless movie :)) and things are much clearer and obstacles get resolved.
Now I use the Parkinson's principle and a slice of gamification to speed through a number of everyday tasks. Here are my top picks ripe for Parkinson's law in your life:
1) Everyday chores: Doing dishes, laundry , cleaning up the living room
If the thought of folding another piece of laundry is making you want to gag and remove to your bedroom to watch another episode of <insert time wasting show on netflix here
> do this: Put on your favorite music video and just empty the dishwasher or fold laundry until the video is done. To spice it up even more - make it a competition - can I empty the dishwasher before the music video is done?! Challenge accepted!
2) Processing work email / Slack notifications
It's 1 pm and those pesky email notifications and slack notifications are driving you crazy. You are dreading all those unread emails piling up in your inbox and you can't help wondering if your are missing something important..... let's get this done! Batch your email/slack processing times - maybe you have a 10-15 mins break in between meetings - that's your time. Sure, you may not complete the whole thing but you will be making sufficient progress. Gamification tip : when am not feeling like it but I know it needs to get done I grab a piece of paper and mark out 5, 10, 15, 20,25,30... everytime I process 5 emails I cross a bubble out. Man, it feels great to strike those numbers off the list - and it makes me go quicker as well because I want to see how far I can get in the 15 mins.
3) Finishing up a preso for a client presentation or document eg a spec
Now this one is particularly awesome with Parkinson's principle. When you don't have a set deadline - you can spend 10 mins searching for that perfect phrase for your document or perfecting how a slide looks. It's just not a great ROI on your time. Here's what I do:
If it's a repeat presentation ex a roadmap preso to a customer and I've done similar ones a number of times before - I book out a time slot for half hour before the client meeting to prepare the deck. Sufficient time to get it done but not too much time.
If it's a net new doc / deck/ material I give myself a 30 min timeslot to get draft outline going. Usually getting an outline takes the most time - by forcing yourself to timebox it you aren't overthinking this. Think about your audience, create an outline or table of contents and put in everything you can . You can come back and edit or refine later.
4) Cooking. Ever watched chopped ? :) 30 mins is all the time you get to get that dish out the door. Go! I also tend to use the same strategy for meal prep - why cook for 1 meal when you can make something in bulk for 3 . Why use the instant pot for cooking one batch of lentils when you can cook rice and 2 varieties of lentils for 2 days all at once.
That's a wrap. Being aware of this principle and finding a way to apply this to things you do in your own life is going to save you tons of time. Try it out..!