Parkinson's Law: How to tackle it to Supercharge Your Productivity

Work stretches to accommodate the time available for its completion. Ever found yourself in a situation where you procrastinate until the very last minute when you’ve got too much time to complete a task? But then you go straight from lazy-mode to superhero productivity to meet deadlines without compromising the quality of your work at all?

The truth here is that you always had the ability to complete the task in that amount of time, but you ended up stretching it out to fill the time you had to finish it.

We all know the drill; does that mean you’re used to working at your peak only when you’re under looming deadlines? How can you tackle this unproductive behavior and overcome Parkinson’s Law? It turns out we have a few things that could help you get through it and supercharge your productivity. 

Rewarding Yourself with Incentives Complete the Task a Bit Earlier

Creating targets for early achievement of your goals and meeting milestones would mean you have more downtime in the process. It’s good to become more effective, but it won’t last long if you start burning out of your efforts. This aims to enhance your self-confidence and productive capacity. Besides, it makes you feel good and a lot more pleasurable being successful. Take a fast break, browse the internet, go for a stroll — do whatever comes to your mind — and enjoy the feeling of having deserved it. The trick here is to equate bonuses with outcomes, not time spent, so don’t get fooled.

Group Small Tasks with Deadlines

You can easily manage each tedious and tiny task by batching them together and working on them all in a single block of time. Parkinson’s Law often hits the hardest when you have massive projects with far-off deadlines. Of course, the best way to fix this is to break those big, tedious tasks into many smaller, bite-sized tasks, along with a few intermediate deadlines to complete. Deadlines allow your mind to zero in on the limited time left, and you’ll find yourself working even harder to make sure you meet the time limit. As a result, you’ll be able to complete the tasks and effectively supercharge your productivity.

Be Clear on What “Done” Means

Once a task is done, it is not always possible to know whether it is completely “done” or not. The more you become a perfectionist, the more likely you are a victim of Parkinson’s Law: there is always one more little thing to add, a little more change to make, isn’t it? Yeah, you always strive for better quality: the hard part is knowing where and when to stop, so you don’t overdo it for much time. If you suffer from the same problem, it helps a lot to identify the performance of your tasks accurately. The key is to be as precise about them as you can and then just stop when you complete them.

Challenge Yourself

A tight deadline or time limit challenges the brain to find out how to complete the work within the time you have on the table. Your aim is to inspire yourself and others to work differently and encourage them to take the necessary risks. It will entail going into your comfort zone, so understand that it means an element of discomfort for all – getting beyond the comfort zone. Bring this in as a challenge, not as a hazard. Encourage yourself and others to take up the task by making it fun and providing incentives rather than threatening with penalties and negative consequences.

Always Have Something on Your To-do-list

We often spend a lot of time on one task, simply because we are not sure what job to do next. Make sure you still have a few ‘next steps’ on your to-do list to keep the momentum going and prevent spending more time re-evaluating what to do. Move on from the attitude of ‘I have no time to think.’ Then, make your choices using experience and intuition. Instead, take action on them. The problem is clouded by too much thought and too much knowledge. Typically your gut reaction is the correct one.

Parkinson’s Law is subtle because your subconscious can come up with all sorts of very-rational-sounding excuses why you’re using the extra time. You do not even find anything happening often. But even though you note it as it’s going on, you’re not really doing anything about it, because you’re making a compelling case about why it’s okay “this time.” We encourage you to experiment with Parkinson’s Law concept to stretch to see what’s possible.