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‘WORK EXPANDS SO AS TO FILL THE TIME AVAILABLE FOR ITS COMPLETION’

Posted by sebastiandurandeu on July 11, 2008

This is also known as the Parkinson’s Law, written by Prof. Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an article from 1957.

“General recognition of this fact is shown in the proverbial phrase ‘It is the busiest man who has time to spare.’ Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half an hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar box in the next street. The total effort that would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety, and toil.

[…]”

Extracted from the Parkinson’s article.

“Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials.

If I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.
This presents a very curious phenomenon. There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of one another:
1.) Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time. (80/20)
2.) Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important. (Parkinson’s Law).
The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.”

Extracted from Book Excerpt: The 4 Hour Workweek.

Summarizing: “If you have only one letter to write, it will take all day to do it. If you have twenty letters to write, you’ll get them done in one day“.

This fact can be also stated as a Gas Principle, where everything expands up to fill every available space.

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