Friday, August 5, 2011

Work Expands to fill Time Available

According to the always insightful Wikipedia:

Parkinson's Law is the adage first articulated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson as the first sentence of a humorous essay published in The Economist in 1955:

“ Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. ”

It was later reprinted together with other essays in the book Parkinson's Law: The Pursuit of Progress (London, John Murray, 1958). He derived the dictum from his extensive experience in the British Civil Service.



So, think about it. Have you ever had a task or a chore and you knew you had four hours to accomplish it, and so, it took the entire four hours (or more)? And, on the opposite side, have you ever had a task and you knew you only had 30 minutes to accomplish it; so, you hustled your bum and barely got it done it time?

I believe it is true!!

Often times when I feel overwhelmed by my to-do list, I will set the timer on the stove for 30 minutes, and I will attack the first item on my list. Then, when the timer goes off - - whether I've accomplished the current item or not - - I will move on to the next time on my list and reset the timer. And so on. When I do this, I accomplish so MUCH more in my day than when I casually move from one item to the next on my list. And, even if I don't finish each item on the list, I know that I made a huge dent in it during those thirty minutes.

What time management tricks help you during a  busy day or week?


  1. Help - I'm hopeless at time management Margo. What I need is a timer - I'll let you know how I get on!

  2. I wake up early. I make a list. And I say "Gina, get shit done. Get it done well. And pretty PLEASE, get it done quickly." :-)

    <3 Gina Blechman

  3. That's me and competitive running. When I run against someone fast, I run faster. So yeah...I totally get your race against time.

    And I have set the timer too. It helps!

  4. Great post! I usually try to set a slight schedule for myself, but try to leave a little wiggle room - in case I slack off. Most times I get stuff done, but procrastination is my enemy!

    Have a great weekend! :)

  5. Interesting idea, yes and no. Sometimes I think a task will take ages is done quickly and others I think will take a few minutes and they take forever. Maybe that's the other law of sod! LOL! :O)

  6. Time is a funny thing. When you set the microwave for one minute and stand there waiting, it seems to take a long time. But when you only have a minute to do something, it flies by rapidly. If you ever watch "Iron Chef" on tv, the participants have thirty seconds remaining and calmly finish on time. Now, a N.Y. minute is something else...