How beating Parkinson’s law is the secret to increasing your productivity
On a Monday with your deadline the very next day, you’d get task A done quickly, giddy with excitement that you did it! However, on a Tuesday with a similar task B that is due next Friday, you won’t feel like working.
In fact, you’d work the entire week, only to get task B ready the night before its due date, leaving you with a guilty sense of being unproductive.
So, why did you finish task A before task B even though both were similar by nature? Before you tag yourself as a procrastinator though, know that there is another force at work here called Parkinson’s law.
To elaborate, Parkinson’s law is defined by the following (somewhat famous) maxim.
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Let’s dive into the details:
How does Parkinson’s law slow you down?
Joel Falconer, writing in Lifehack, explained the case, “if you give yourself a week to complete a two hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting so as to fill that week. It may not even fill the extra time with more work, but just stress and tension about having to get it done.”
When you have a lot of time to handle one task, one of two things can happen:
- You start dreading the task, stressing about it, and consequently, dilly-dallying around it
- You start but the work expands so much so that you don’t finish it until you are dangerously close to the deadline
Luckily, we have a cure — the pomodoro technique
The solution is to limit the time you spend on work where Parkinson’s law has the chance to sneak in. In other words, set deadlines and work within time blocks so that you don’t end up dedicating additional time than what is required by a task.
Fortunately, the pomodoro technique is an ardent supporter of deadlines, working in blocks of time, and breaks (!) as well. This productivity system focuses on working in bursts for 25 minutes and taking a 5-minute break after that.
Once this one work session, also known as pomodoro, is done, hit repeat to get through 3 more pomodoro episodes before you take a break of 15–20 minutes and resume.
By following this technique, powered by a timer such as focus booster, you are not spending any extra hours on the task at hand. Moreover, the ticking timer gets you working, fighting your internal resistance to start. In other words, you can easily crush procrastination before it raises its head.
Using the pomodoro technique to get work done
Thanks to this productivity hack, you can limit the amount of time that you may otherwise be wasting as you stress over an item on your to-do list.
Here are two instances when you can follow the timer to get more done in less time:
1. You can start working on major tasks by dividing them into pomodoro episodes. So, that’s goodbye procrastination.
2. You can handle those pesky, small tasks quickly by batching them together and working on them all at once in a single time block. For example, you can respond to your emails within a pomodoro session instead of taking an hour. Or, you can get through your social media notifications and reply to all the blog comments in a pomodoro as well.
Take home message
If you’re struggling to get started, ask yourself the “what if” question as Josh Kaufman suggests in his book, The Personal MBA. So, the next time you start working, ask yourself, ‘what if I can complete this task in X hours instead of X days,’ set your timer, and unlock your productivity.
Enjoyed reading this? Make sure you check out the science being the pomodoro technique and how the pomodoro technique can help you achieve more in less time.