Parkinson's Law: Watch Out, Time Wasters!

Masterplan Team

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Do you remember when you were at school or university and often didn't finish your tasks until the last minute? Many of us are familiar with this phenomenon from our everyday work, and it actually has little to do with procrastination. Instead, Parkinson's Law comes into play here. In this blog post, you can find out what it is all about and what you can do to overcome it.

What Is Parkinson's Law?

"Work can be stretched like rubber to fill the time available for it."

This quote comes from Cyril Northcote Parkinson, to whom the law of the same name goes back.

Parkinson's Law states that you will stretch out the completion of your tasks until they fill the time available to complete them.

Or explained more simply: If you have 20 hours available for a task that can be completed in 10 hours, it is quite possible that you will also need 20 hours.

Why Do We Waste Time?

Some of us make full use of the time available for a task which is a real productivity killer. Others complete their to-dos at the last minute and increase their stress levels enormously in the process!

According to studies, most of us tend to do the latter: Using the entire time frame on a task. There are many reasons for this:

  1. We don't consider how much time we actually need for a task. Instead, we focus on how much time we have available for it and that's exactly the time we take.
  2. Even if a task were completed quickly: We feel like we have to utilize all the time we have available.

Example: Parkinson's Law in Everyday Life

Let's take an example that we are all familiar with:

It's your mother's birthday and she wishes for a new novel. You plan to spend your Saturday afternoon going to the bookshop to find a present. You might also want to get a birthday card and a box of chocolates.

Since your planned time frame is the entire afternoon, you'll probably be out that long and won't get home until around 4 pm. You'll probably spend most of the time thinking about the color of the book cover, individual book titles and different blurbs. You might walk from the bookshop to the stationery store, from there to the chocolate store and so on.

Not very efficient. In reality, you could probably have done this in your 30-minute lunch break during the week.

How Can Parkinson's Law Be Overcome?

So it's down to wasted time and inefficient daily routines. But how can you complete tasks faster in future?

The answer is pretty simple: strategic time management. Here are three methods that you can easily implement:

1. Set realistic deadlines:

Set due dates based on your capacity. This way you force yourself not to extend tasks to the available time frame. Don't ask yourself: "How much time do I have for this?" but "How much time do I need for this?"

2. Utilize timeboxing: 

In this method, you set a fixed time limit for completing a task. For example, you could set yourself the goal of completing a task within half a day.

3. Shorten your meetings:

The same approach can be applied to meetings, which often take up a lot of time. Schedule them shorter and you will find that you and your colleagues work more efficiently. If you would normally schedule a one-hour meeting, schedule it for 45 minutes instead. It's very likely that you'll still cover everything important in that time.


Parkinson's Law has a significant impact on our everyday lives, but by consciously managing your time and setting realistic deadlines, you can increase your productivity and reduce stress.

Use your time effectively to create more space for the things that are really important to you. Try out these methods to complete tasks faster and more efficiently.

Good luck with that!


Masterplan Team

Our team consists of learning experts who will always provide you with the latest trends, fresh perspectives and helpful inspiration for successful learning in your company.
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