Home > time management > If Only There Were More Hours in the Day

If Only There Were More Hours in the Day

When you have a project, does it tend to grow or shrink to fit into the window of time you actually have available to do it? Project Managers: have you ever seen a project finish under the projected time allotted for the work? Rarely. Software engineers: What happens when there is not a definitive due date? The project expands infinitely, right?

Is it procrastination? Maybe a lack of planning? Demanding timelines? Unrealistic expectations? What about limited resources?

Nope. It’s a phenomenon called Parkinson’s Law. No, not the degenerative disorder of the nervous system. The Parkinson’s that I’m talking about was defined way back in the 1950s by an Englishman named C. Northcote Parkinson.

A true cynicist, Parkinson said, “work will fill the time available for its completion.” More generally, Parkinson’s Law says: “The demand upon a resource always expands to match the supply of the resource.”

Side Note: Have you noticed the reverse is not true?

There are several corollaries to Parkinson’s Law:

  • Data expands to fill the space available for storage.
  • Buying more memory encourages the use of more memory-intensive processes.

I’m going to venture to say that Parkinson’s Law impacts every single one of us.

  • Do you have a problem with space? Did you get a larger desk or office because you “needed more room”, only to find that you’ve now managed to fill up the new, larger space?
  • Do the items on your To-Do list get crossed off? No matter how much your list grows, responsibility and diligence help you get it all done… eventually.
  • Does your bank account balance get really frustrated with you sometimes? As an individual’s income rises, their costs of living and lifestyle increases to meet their income level.

So, victims of Parkinson’s Law, how do we get around it? Feel free to share your suggestions using the comments funciton. Here are a couple of mine:

  • Manage your time: try working with a kitchen timer. Studies show that 48 minutes is a good increment of time for completing a wide variety of tasks. Set your timer, get to work, and don’t stop until it dings. You’ll love the results.
  • Manage your space: try thinking smaller. If you’re going to fill it to the gills regardless of size, maybe a smaller desk or bookshelf will cut down on the number of things gathering dust. At home, replace your sports equipment closet with a Wii.
  • Manage your money: pay yourself first. Set up automatic transfers to your savings account on payday. If you can’t see the money, you can’t spend it, right?
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Categories: time management
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