As work gains in complexity one of the most challenging tasks to master is how to work as efficiently as possible. Our goal is to give people more time in their day so you can enjoy how you spend your hours, days and years. Today we want to talk about the concept of Parkinson’s Law and strategies to use to avoid it.  


Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. The risk is if you plan an hour-long meeting, you will probably use the entire time because you set the expectation for how long you need. Or if you have a deliverable due in two weeks you may think you should spend that entire two weeks working on that task. 

“People like to say if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done. But research shows people’s productivity is not linear,” says Elizabeth Tenney, an assistant professor at the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business who has written about time pressure and productivity and was quoted in the BBC’s Worklife column. “When people sit down to do a task, they’ll put in a lot of effort initially. At some point there’s going to be diminishing returns on extra effort. To optimize productivity, you need to maximize benefits and minimize costs and find that inflection point, which is where you should start to wrap up.” 

That might mean not taking up the full time allotted or working all the way up to your deadline, she says. “Cut yourself off rather than keep tinkering for the entire time.” 

It’s best to set the expectation that you have as little time as possible so you work efficiently and get it done faster. In our recent blog on Project Management Concepts, we discussed the concept of Scope Management which can help you control this issue. Instead of thinking you have two weeks until the deadline for the deliverable, you should spend an hour on the task. When you force yourself to kick it into a higher gear and get it done faster you have more time during those two weeks to work on other tasks. 

Another concept that can help is to use the Pomodoro Method. That’s a concept of just spending 20-25 minutes on a task at a time. By giving yourself a time limit, you immediately feel the need to work fast and efficiently to ideally get the task done in that set amount of time. It almost gamifies time management and is a great strategy for those who never know when to stop working on a task. 

If you’d like help with your team’s task management skills, let us know. We Coach , Consult, and Train people to optimize their time, talent, and technology. 

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