Hi everyone! Welcome to Productive Break's very first post. This article was inspired by a project I am currently working on.
For the aforementioned project, I have been analyzing some data this week. Initially, I had an action plan of everything I wanted to accomplish within a month, but Parkinson’s law crossed my mind when looking at the final list of things I needed to get done.
What Is Parkinson’s Law?
Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British historian, once said that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” which is now known as Parkinson's law.
Even though the actual deadline to finish analyzing the data is one month away, having that much time slows me down. Inevitably, I would run into some issue, take one too many breaks, and dread the act of just sitting down and finishing the work.
Instead, I have given myself a self-imposed deadline of two weeks to “beat” Parkinson’s law and avoid wasting time.
How Do I Apply It?
If you have ever worked on a long-term project or assigned one, you know that this law holds true most of the time. If the deadline is weeks or months away, we tend to take up the entire allotted time. However, if the deadline is just a few days away, we naturally get it done much faster with little to no discernible difference in quality of work.
So next time you are working on a project, assignment, or task, give yourself less time to finish it. Break the task into manageable chunks over a shorter period of time. By doing so, you will finish the project faster and free up more time.
For example, I used to spend at least two hours on emails every day. I never felt like I had enough time to go to the gym at the end of the day, and when I took a hard look at how I was utilizing my energy, I realized I was wasting time on emails. I started getting straight to the point and only responded to genuinely important emails. Now, I only spend an hour on my inbox and use my “extra" hour to go to the gym.
An easy way to get started is to download Cold Turkey (a free app and not sponsored), which is compatible with both macOS and Windows. I genuinely love this product because you can limit apps, websites, or even your whole computer when you need to focus. It’s very flexible, so you can add breaks and exceptions. I still come back to this app whenever I need to hunker down.
Be optimistic about your time estimates for tasks and you will be surprised at the difference it makes!
I would love to hear from you! Have you tried setting tighter deadlines? If so, how did it go? Let me know by leaving a comment down below!
P.S. Apple users can also take advantage of the “Screen Time” widget. You can set app limits, and even block specific websites (not many people know about this!). Just add the apps and websites you want to cap under “App Limits.”