Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available. Put simply, we rarely work at our optimum speed.
Think about when you’re trying to finish a piece of writing such as a report or, thinking back even further, a school or university essay.
As you feel the deadline looming large, your hands type the words a little bit quicker. You think that little bit faster too and whilst you might be prone to mistakes, the sense of urgency produces profound productivity. If you think you have a week to do three essays, the three essays take a week. Yet, they all seem to be written on the last night of your half-term break.
So if you’d have just been given one day to do three essays, you’d have produced exactly the same thing. Work expands and contracts depending on the time available.
So next time you have a two-hour report to write, consider what might happen if you were only given one hour to do it. Probably the most important 20% of it – the stuff that adds 80% of the impact – could easily be done in an hour. In many ways, the less of a perfectionist you’re able to stomach being, the more you can push your productivity to higher levels than you thought possible.
By Arjan Richter