ProdPod, a Productivity Podcast The Podcast of Personal Productivity Lessons in Two Minutes or Less

December 13, 2011  

In 1955, a British naval historian and prolific author, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, wrote an essay for The Economist, in which he wrote what now has become the renowned Parkinson's Law, that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."


In 1955, a British naval historian and prolific author, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, wrote an essay for The Economist, in which he wrote what now has become the renowned Parkinson's Law, that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." He was actually talking about bureaucracy expansion from his experience in the British Civil Service.  

 

Unfortunately for Mr. Parkinson, the meaning of the phrase he named "Parkinson's Law" has birthed several corollaries, many of which have computer-related meanings, and his meaning has all but bit the dust.

 

Now we have several versions such as...

Data expands to fill the space available for storage.

Storage requirements will increase to meet storage capacity.

and...my favorite...

Nature abhors a vacuum.

 

However, it's the Parkinson's Law corrollary in regard to time management that I think will pique your interest:

It states...the amount of time which one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.

 

 I recently read about a study in which several groups of undergraduate students were allowed to choose their own course deadlines in varying degrees, some were allowed no deadline, that is, to have everything submitted before the end of the course, some got to choose their deadlines during the semester but once chosen they were fixed dates, and then there was a control group with the professor's normal deadlines. Surprisingly, the ones with the professor's deadlines, scored the best. The second best were the ones with the self-prescribed, staggered deadlines throughout the semester. This provides at least some statistical evidence that humans are naturally bound to healthy pressure when it comes to the productive use of our time, and once again gives us heed to listen to Parkinson's Law when deciding how much time to dedicate to a particular task or project.

 

I hope you enjoyed this episode of ProdPod. I'm Ray Sidney-Smith and thanks for listening. Here's to your productivity success...in two minutes or less. 

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