People Interact

Blog about people-centered design by Lisa Chow and Sandra Sajonas.

Monthly Method Spotlight: Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s LawParkinson's_Law_Book

What: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” is Parkinson’s Law. It is the title of a book which made it well-known.

When/why: Remember when you were in school and you worked on an assignment the last minute when you had weeks to work on it, yet somehow you aced it anyway. Yes, it might have been luck or Parkinson’s Law might have been at play. This is not to say that procrastination is good, but when you have too much time to complete a task, many of us are bound to procrastinate. Sometimes it doesn’t take as long as you think to complete a project or task successfully.

Keeping Parkinson’s Law in mind when working on project tasks, milestones, and timelines is useful. When you are working on a project, keep in mind that if you drag the project out too long, you not only lose momentum but the work somehow expands to fill the time available. This is not to say that one should rush a project, but one should keep this law in mind when assigning, working on, or delegating project tasks.

How: Underestimate the time it will take to complete the project among your internal team. This is not about over promising and under delivering. It’s about setting challenging but realistic deadlines for your projects and for each project task. A mild sense of urgency is a good thing. Say, for example, you’re working on a book chapter or presentation. The deadline is in 3 months. Set a deadline of having a first draft in two weeks and asking a colleague to look it over, followed by a revised second draft by the third week, etc.

Tips: Decide what needs to be done and by when. Schedule the time you’re allotting for the task. Focus on the task at hand. Avoid distractions. Perfection is the enemy of progress, the task needs to be completed successfully, not necessarily perfectly.

Interested in using/applying these methods in your work? Contact us for information.


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