How to Increase Your Productivity by Applying Parkinson’s Law

Dawn Bevier

The surprising way you really can get more done in less time

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You’ve got a goal. You’re working towards it and giving it one-hundred percent.

You’re doing what every successful person says to do: planning, organizing, reading, and talking to experts. Yet you’re not making progress.

Why?

You’re doing so much thinking that you’re not producing, and production is the heart of success.

And if this is you, don’t beat yourself up.

Lengthy examination on how to best attain a goal is a trait of most highly effective people; however, while these qualities can be beneficial, they can also be a reason for a lack of success.

For example, psychologists call this syndrome “analysis paralysis,” a term used to describe a person’s need to continually accumulate more knowledge to make a good decision or act on information already known.

And to be successful, people must move past this paralysis.

Time is a limited resource, especially if you have other priorities in your life besides accomplishing your particular aspiration.

This is why it’s extremely important to use time to its max advantage. You have to take the ideas and knowledge you’ve gained and put them into motion.

So, what can you do to move past the pondering and and start producing?

One strategy is to consider using “Parkinson’s Law.”

Parkinson’s Law

The basis of Parkinson’s Law revolves around the idea that setting deadlines for yourself allows you to work more productively.

The law , created by British naval historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson, was first published in an essay written for The Economist in 1955. His words were as follows:

“It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

In other words, if you give yourself a specific deadline in which to complete a task, your production will increase so that you meet the time limit.

Although Parkinson is given credit for the theory, his idea was proven true far before he coined the term.

The Guardian discusses the findings of John Pencavel, a Stanford University professor of economics. Pencaval’s research focused on a government decision made during World War I to reduce employees’ working hours in its munitions plants.

The goal was to give its exhausted workers a day off to recuperate from working seven days a week.

The results were extremely positive.

Information collected after the plan’s implementation showed that “the week’s output was slightly higher when the munitions workers worked 48 hours over six days, compared with 70 hours over seven days.”

Josh Kaufman, bestselling author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, explains why Parkinson’s Law can help you reach goals faster.

He states, “We plan based on how much time we have, and when the deadline approaches, we start to make choices and tradeoffs to do what must be done to complete the task by the deadline.”

This means when we are on a limited time allowance, diversion tactics such as checking emails and scrolling through social media get pushed to the side.

Why?

Because we realize the clock is ticking.

In addition, Parkinson’s Law also has a second advantage. Not only will it increase your output, but it may also increase your creativity.

An article in Harvard Business Review explains this principle by stating that “creativity needs some grit, in both senses of the word: an irritant to get the ball rolling (like a grain of sand births an oyster pearl), and persistence to push through to completion.”

Studies have proven “when there are no constraints on the creative process, complacency sets in, and people follow what psychologists call the path-of-least-resistance — they go for the most intuitive idea that comes to mind rather than investing in the development of better ideas.”

In short, when we face a deadline, our brain puts our creative faculties into gear, igniting the qualities of imagination and innovation.

Ways to use Parkinson’s Law to increase your productivity

Prioritize, assess, and divide

Lifehack states the best way to implement Parkinson’s Law is to make a list of all the things you need to accomplish. Once you have done this, estimate the time needed to complete each task. Then divide the time allowed for each task in half.

They suggest the use of a timing device when you begin working, such as one found on your phone or computer.

Separate large tasks into smaller ones

One easy way to make these time constraints less intimidating is to break the overall task down into smaller steps.

For example, let’s say your goal is to clean your house. Instead of setting a time limit for cleaning the whole house, decide on a limited time to clean the bedroom, dust the furniture, or mop or vacuum your floors.

Focus on the problematic aspects of the task first

When you begin to work under these time constraints, immediately dive into the “deep end.” Tackle the most physically or intellectually draining parts of the task first.

Though it’s incredibly tempting to start work on the easy aspects of a task, it’s also extremely detrimental to achieving your ultimate goal.

This is why you should commit to working on the most challenging parts of the task first. Then, once you complete the most taxing things, you can shift your focus to smaller, more trivial aspects of the job at hand.

The bottom line:

Parkinson’s Law is not about rushing. It’s about forcing ourselves to do what we really need to do: plan, focus, and prioritize. It’s about training our brain to spend less time on coffee breaks and more time getting the work done.

Albert Einstein said that “time is an illusion.” And while this may be true in physics, it is definitely not due in a hectic world filled with multiple responsibilities.

The truth is the better we use our time to do the things we need to do, the more time we have to do the things we want to do.

And I’m betting you want a little more of that time, right? I sure as heck know I do.

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Sanford, NC
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