Parkinson’s Law

Do you waste time?

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian, wrote a satirical article in The Economist based on his experience in the British civil service. He described how organisations had uncontrolled growth due to their self-serving nature with each department creating work for another.

As a British staff officer in World War II, Parkinson noticed numerous inefficiencies caused by a large bureaucracy. Incredibly, he observed that the British Colonial Office increased year by year  even though the British Empire was in decline.

Cyril Parkinson coined his observation to describe the inefficiencies of bureaucracies as “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

When we have too much time to complete a task, there is a tendency to do something else and defer, until the task becomes urgent.

If we need to to do something next week, it’ll be done next week. If something must be done tomorrow, it’ll be done tomorrow.

We plan based on how much time we have, and when the deadline approaches, we make choices and tradeoffs to get what we need to get done by the deadline.

If work expands to fill the time allotted to it, make less time available to get more work done quicker. When you reduce the amount of time that you have available to complete a given task, then you are making sure that you’ll focus on the essential elements of the task.

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