Parkinson’s Law has been recited as “work expands as to fill the time available for its completion.” What the heck does that even mean and why does it matter? It means that if something must be completed in a year, it will be done in a year. If something must be done tomorrow, it will be done tomorrow.
We tend to create plans based on how much time we have and when the deadline approaches, we start to make tradeoffs to finish the task by the deadline.
Is this true for you? I know it is true for me and for our company, and for the clients we have the privilege of serving.
Here’s What Parkinson’s Law is NOT. It is certainly not a reason to set unreasonable deadlines for projects you have. It is, however, a tremendous evaluation tool, and a fantastic optimization tool. Here’s how to use it as such…
2 Steps to Start Beating Parkinson’s Law:
Step 1: Start asking yourself counterfactual simulation questions. You’re thinking, what is a Counterfactual Simulation? It is a sophisticated way to simply apply your imagination by consciously asking a “what if” question, and letting your mind imagine the rest. Counterfactuals can be very useful because of their flexibility: you can simulate anything you want. The answers to these types of questions help us to stop wasting unnecessary time by using all the time we have, instead of all the time we need. Big difference between the two.
- Sample 1: What would it look like if you finished the project on a very aggressive timescale?
- Sample 2: What If you had to write an entire book in a day, how would you go about doing it?
Step 2: Inject the Pomodoro Technique into your daily planning routine. Perhaps you’ve never heard of the Pomodoro technique before. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally into 25 minute segments of intentional productivity separated by short breaks before you launch into the next segment of productivity. All you need is a simple timer. We recommend not using your phone and using an old-fashioned timer. And here’s the process:
- Choose a task to be accomplished
- Set the timer to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings
- Take a short break (3 – 5 minutes)
- After every 4 “Pomodoros” take an extended break.
So if you are like the rest of the world and you start to procrastinate on something, you’ll automatically default to using all the time you have to complete a task, instead of just the time you need. When that starts to become your problem, simply remember these two things:
1. Counterfactual Simulations
2. The Pomodoro Technique
Follow those two steps and watch your overall output skyrocket. Be great!