Parkinson's Law

Parkinson's law states:

'Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.'

Which means that if you have an assignment due to next week, the assignment will only be finished next week. But if you're given 2 months time for the same assignment, then the assignment will take 2 months to complete.

Time pressure forces you to complete a task in the given time. If there is no pressure attached to a task then it will take forever to finish. Therefore, the more time you give yourself for a job, the more time that particular job will take.

The more time you're given, the more important a task will seem. A task that has to be finished within an hour isn't perceived important, but a task that's to be finished in 2 months will become a mental monstrosity.

Complexity also rises in relation to the allocated time, the more time allocated, the better the perceived quality of the task should be and the more work your mind thinks it will take. Therefore making it overly complex and difficult.

If you work under time pressure, you have no choice but to do the absolute minimum required to get the task done.

'If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.'

How Do You Use The Law To Your Advantage?

Embrace deadlines and constraints! They're your best friends. Force yourself to work agains the clock.

When you are given a task without a deadline, set the deadline yourself and hold on to it. Promise yourself something nasty if you don't make it. (Ex: eat a can of cat-food).

Always state a deadline when you delegate a task, the shorter the deadline the better.

Deadlines should be as immediate as possible and time constraints as short as workable. The more time pressure you feel, the more focused you will be and the more work you can complete.

I prefer to work in timed-bursts of 25 minutes to keep the pressure on. I keep a 5-minute break between each burst. When time's up, I force myself to not work any further. This way, I try to finish my work in the burst and speed up my thinking and acting. It also increases my focus and improves my quality of work.

Variations On Parkinson's Law


The more money you earn the more money you spend.

To become rich, you have to break the law and resist the urge to increase your spending if your income increases. This effect is also known as the second law of Parkinson.

Storage space:

The bigger the available space, the more junk it can hold.

What happens to people who buy a bigger house? It fills with stuff. Not because they need it, but because they have the space available and space needs to be filled.

Generalizing the law:

The demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource.

The reverse is not true.

comments powered by Disqus

Return from Parkinson's Law to Fluent Time Management

Return from Parkinson's Law to Time Management Skills