Parkinson’s Law CAN Work to Your Benefit
It is more less common knowledge, that all work can be stretched out for the time available for its completion — whether it’s 2 or 5 hours — this is known as Parkinson’s Law.
It can be astonishing, when you realize that that’s an over 100% time difference, yet behaviour characteristic of settling on an assumption of how long something will take, and making this happen, are commonplace.
What causes this?
One reason it’s happening is that we don’t usually have an idea of how long particular tasks really take, so we feel that over-estimating will give is some space to figure things out first.
Also, there will be the statistical number of people who do it just because they are slow or don’t really feel like pulling their weight.
So, is it possible to make the Parkinson’s Law work to your advantage?
Increase your productivity — halve the time you normally would give yourself for a task, and test if it can be done in less than the norm. It probably can, and if the quality didn’t suffer — you’ve just got twice as efficient as previously.
See how much faster you can be. If meeting deadlines is an issue, try setting even closer deadlines and treat racing towards them as if it was sport.
Pushing yourself for a little while may teach you that if a job can be pushed to be done in 30 min, and you normally take 120 min to do it, perhaps 60 min is the optimum you should aim for?
Experimenting is always beneficial.
Learn to spot when a task is actually useless in its majority. There are things we do out of habit more than necessity, like reading all of the emails or tracking the company social feed. You think it’s important, so you allocate the first hour of the day for it, when in fact, usually half of the emails needn’t be read in detail, and half of the other pile do not need a reply.
Try assigning 10 minutes for all, instead of 60. It’s very likely that you’ll find that no harm was done, but a lot of time was saved.
The same will go for all meetings — half of the ones you go to, you don’t need to be in, and many more shouldn’t even be held. Never mind how long they last, the waste just keeps piling on.
Be tough: don’t go, leave half-way through and if you feel that an email isn’t worth reading — don’t. You can be surprised how much time you’ll end up with.
A great way to tackle your time consumption is timing and analysing it. Many people use the Pomodoro technique to set time limits, while others use the Time Reports to measure their progress over time.
The technology available is a good way to help out with this tricky issue. But first of all — just being aware of this rule is good start to making a change.
First published on the Kanban Tool Blog.