We all have moments where we want to get more done. Whether that be to finish a new project, execute on a task or travel to the place we’ve dreamed about for so many years. We have good intentions, but we don’t always follow through.
But there is a solution, a nifty little trick that can help you get more done and be accountable. It’s called Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law states that any task will take exactly the amount of time that has been allotted for it.
If you allot yourself one hour to get caught up on all your emails when it normally takes you 4-5 hours, you’ll surprisingly find that you can probably get it done in an hour.
I can spend an hour and half looking for the perfect photograph to go with this blog post. Or I can spend 10 minutes and get the same outcome (hope you like what I picked). The amount of time you mentally allow yourself to spend on a task is how long it takes to get it done.
The problem is that most people never set a firm deadline or schedule the time to complete a specific task. They just say it needs to get done, without a time frame, and expect that they will get to it.
Have you ever been impressed with the amount of work you can get done right before a deadline? Or when something really needs to get done how much you can execute? That’s Parkinson’s Law working. When we have a firm deadline for completing a task, we’re much more likely to get it done.
Have you dreamed about travelling somewhere but still haven’t gone there? This is Parkinson’s Law at work again. If we keep putting off our travel plans to some point in the future you know what happens? We never go.
If you set an infinite amount of time for something you always tell yourself you’ll get to it “one day.” If you want your “one day” to happen, set a deadline and execute on it.
Isaac Newton was notorious for setting firm deadlines for everything he did. He was a practitioner of Parkinson’s Law as he knew the impact it would have in completing his writings and works.
Parkinson’s Law doesn’t just apply to time; it applies to space as well. It applies everything in our house, to shopping carts, to suitcases and even our pantries.
Grocery stores know the power of Parkinson’s Law. Over time, they made shopping carts bigger since it increases the amount we spend. An experiment found that when shopping carts were doubled in size consumers went on to buy 40% more, says Martin Lindstorm, a marketing consultant and author of Brandwashed.
The same applies to packing. Have you noticed when you pack for a trip, you fill your suitcase regardless how much space you have? Sometimes we even have to push down on it to close it. Or that your pantry is rarely ever empty; it is always filled with something, even if you don’t think you have anything to eat?
There is an art to leaving a part of the canvas blank. When we do we allow new things to enter our lives.
As humans, we need constraints to help us achieve the tasks we want to get done. In an interview with Chase Jarvis, Tim Ferriss said one of the things he wishes he had stressed more in his book The 4 Hour Work Week is consequences.
In the book, Ferriss talks about waging stakes and using friends as accountability partners or websites like StickK to ensure tasks get completed.
Let’s use StickK as an example of how waging stakes works. When you start with StickK you create a Commitment Contract, which is a binding agreement you sign with yourself to ensure that you follow through with your intentions—and it does this by utilizing the psychological power of loss aversion and accountability to drive behavioral change.
StickK explains that by asking users to sign Commitment Contracts, they help users define their goal (whatever it may be), acknowledge what it’ll take to accomplish it, and leverage the power of putting money on the line to turn that goal into a reality.
Even Tim Ferriss, a two time New York bestselling author and expert life hacker, needs to use stakes in order to keep himself motivated. We’re all human and we all face similar struggles. None of us are born with super human powers to get everything done.
If you want to start achieving more in life, it all begins with Parkinson’s Law. Set concrete timelines to achieve the things you want to get done. Add in some stakes and you’ll be amazed at how much you can really accomplish.
I want to see you do well. If you want help aligning with your priorities or excuting on projects send me an email fil(at)filipsierpinski.com and we can talk more about whether I can help you.
Dedicated to seeing you be the best that you can be,