How to Use Parkinson's Law to Get Things Done

This past summer, I helped my dad prepare his house to sell so he could move into an apartment. My parents' house was not large, but was substantially bigger than his apartment! He had also lived there for 50 years. I had a friend to help get things show-ready in 5 days. It was a crazy amount of work, but the 5 days provided a time-container of sorts. Looking back, I am thankful it was such a short amount of time because if I had a month, it would have taken a month. And having a friend there to help who wasn't as sentimentally attached to the "stuff" was a godsend.

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." This line in The Economist by Cyril Parkinson is known as Parkinson's Law and took on negative connotations regarding bureaucracy. I have found it to be the perfect description of how I work best to complete things.

Use your people-pleaser tendencies for good

I am a people-pleaser by nature (an Obliger from Gretchen Rubens' Four Tendencies, a Peacemaker/Type 9 from the Enneagram, an I and an S from DiSC), and so I use Parkinson's Law by telling someone I will complete a project by a certain date. The work expands (or contracts) to fit into that amount of time.

Check-in with a mindful moment

When I am working on something for public consumption (preparing music or a presentation), I can find myself getting into perfectionism mode. I want it to be a deeply meaningful experience. Sometimes, I will get so wrapped up in these tasks because I enjoy it immensely. I have learned to tame the perfectionism beast by setting aside an hour or two to complete something. If I find that I am not quite finished, I will use the Perfect 15 Minute Day method to pause briefly and ask myself if I am at a stopping point or if I need to continue. This brief check-in provides me with a mindful moment to see how I am really doing on something. Usually, things are good enough!

See what you can accomplish in 10 minutes

I use Parkinson's Law to work on something I don't like doing (ahem - dishes, I am looking at you!) I will give myself 10 minutes to wash dishes. It is amazing how many dishes you can actually wash in 10 minutes.

Inquiring minds want to know - how do you or will you use Parkinson's Law to your advantage?


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