Parkinson's Law: The Secret to Time Management Success

8 Aug, 2022 | Read in 5 minutes

Parkinson's Law means that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, and hence we should plan our work carefully and realistically. Read the article to know more!


Do you know what’s the secret to excellent time management and increased productivity? One of the time management and productivity hack techniques that we will cover is Parkinson's Law. Simply, Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for completion.

You've probably heard the news about Apple delaying the launch of the HomePod because they needed “a little more time” to refine it. Then about Windows delaying the sets feature of Windows 10 in 2019. Why does this happen? Parkinson's Law has a lot to do with it.

Basically, time management is all psychological. We naturally pace to complete projects on time. Project with a one-week or one-hour deadline depending on how much time we give ourselves to finish it. Or have you ever had to make a presentation that only took an hour to prepare? And you solve it. Let's call Parkinson's Law a best friend of deadline hunters. Agree?

Unfortunately, setting deadlines does not always boost productivity. Some people even feel unproductive as the deadline approaches. Well, with Parkinson's Law, you might find a way to overcome it. In this article, we'll learn how Parkinson's Law boosts productivity in less time.

What is Parkinson's Law?

Parkinson's Law is the idea that work will evolve to fill the time allotted for completion.

For example, you have one month to finish a simple product design revision. Realistically, it only takes two weeks. But because you know you have more than enough time, this task grows in scope. While you fix revision points, you decide to provide some innovations.

The revisions eventually grew more complex and took a month to complete. However, it may not fill the entire time with more work. But that's Parkinson's Law in action.


Cyril Northcote Parkinson was the forerunner of this Law. A British naval historian who wrote the essay The Economist in 1955. The first time everyone knows Parkinson's Law through this essay. Cyril then wrote a book called: Parkinson's Law: The Pursuit of Progress in 1958.

In general, his essay tells of a woman who has the task of sending postcards, a task which would take a busy person approximately three minutes. But, she spent an hour finding the card, half an hour looking for her glasses, 90 minutes writing a postcard, 20 minutes deciding whether to take an umbrella or not with her when delivering mail and so on until the end of the day. The story explains how a job expands to fill the allotted time.

Parkinson's Law in Time Management and Productivity

A study shows that when given a mission, we think about how much time is available to finish it rather than how much we need.

source: Pexels

The more time, (perhaps) the longer you delay it. You may also complicate the project until it feels even more difficult.

Parkinson's Law challenges the idea that working harder means working better. When you give a one-week project a one-week timeline, you will finish it on time. On the other hand, if you give the project one week and a one-month timeline, some unwanted things can happen, such as delaying, over-complicating, and adding unnecessary innovations.

The overarching principle behind this theory is the process of assigning accurate deadlines to the project. You can maintain the simplicity of the task and regain your time. Parkinson's Law tells us that sometimes, we have too much time to complete projects. Remember that working longer does not mean working better.

7 Ways to Overcome

Let's start looking at things from the positive side. Don't judge Parkinson's Law by its definition. There is always a positive side too. You can adapt Parkinson's Law in the section “provide necessary deadlines for each project.”

1. Set self-imposed deadlines

source: Pexels


First, you must know how you spend every hour and minute of the day. Start thinking about how much time you need for each project and set your deadlines.

To figure out the time you need, first:

  • Try to understand the project requirements. This step concerns creating a list of activities for each phase (if you're using Agile or Scrum).
  • Prioritise as needed. Once you have a list of project requirements, prioritise the most critical or complex tasks.
  • Decide who is involved. If you are the PM, you must have a strong understanding of the skills and weaknesses of each team member. Reach out who are experts in their fields to save your time later on.

2. Plan your work strategically

source: Pexels

Making a plan will help you manage the time you need. In Scrum, there is a Sprint Planning phase that serves to outline several things, such as:

  • Product Features
  • Deadlines for each backlog
  • Required resources
  • List of increments for each team member

You can also make long-term or short-term plans with this strategy. Through this process, your productivity will increase.

3. Pomodoro technique

If you're new to the Pomodoro Technique, here's a quick summary: this technique involves focused work sessions with frequent short breaks. The goal is to boost productivity and reduce burnout.

Pomodoro breaks the strategy into six steps:

  • Sort tasks on the to-do list and timer.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Do the task, don't open things that distract you for a while.
  • Stop doing the job when the timer goes off.
  • Take a short break of 3-5 minutes.
  • Repeat steps 2-5; when it's four times in a row, take an extended break (15-30 minutes), and go back to 1.

4. Stop working late

Don't work past working hours! Set time limits that prevent you from having free time during the day without doing anything (except on weekends). We all know that working late can be dangerous for physical and mental health.

Instead of working late, try to allocate time effectively or widen deadlines. Working too late can also hinder productivity.

5. Use time management tools

Using time management tools is a great way to manage time. Tools will help manage priorities, create to-do lists, collaborate with teams, and time management.

Understanding Parkinson's Law is essential to maximise your time and control it. When you complete a task before the deadline, you can use your time to rest or do other work. The goal is to be more efficient and grow productivity.

Wrapping Up

The right decision is to use Parkinson's Law to determine how effectively you use your time. Cut the time you don't need and allocate it to more critical activities. The right time for the project will result in high-quality work. Try this and see how productive you can be.

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