How to Use Parkinsons Law to Dominate Life
Parkinson’s Law should be a familiar concept to most of us; if not let me give you a brief explanation. It was first published in 1955 on the pages of The Economist in a completely different form from which we now know it. It has spawned many corollaries but the most important one to us goes thus: Work expands or contracts to fill the time we allot to it and the more people involved the less efficient it is until it becomes obsolete.
It is a very simple concept that we can see mirrored in our lives almost daily. Fifty man committees get les done than five man committees. If you wait until the last minute to do something then it only takes a minute to do it. That is why modern management has what is called the span of control. This is a management method in which a single manager is not directly responsible for more than five to seven people. Any more than that and gross inefficiencies begin to arise.
Implications of Parkinson’s Law
When you understand Parkinson’s Law, it is quite easy to understand why we always finish things at the last minute without fail. This is true whether we have one hour or one week to get the work done.
If we ignore the implications of the law then we will obviously set deadlines as far out as possible in order for us to have enough time to do the task in the best manner possible. The interesting thing is that work that has a tight deadline usually has the same or even a higher quality than work that has been spread out over a longer period.
This happens because tight deadlines force us to focus our entire attention and energy on the task at hand. I’m sure you know that exercising concentrated focus is the most important thing that you can do for yourself when trying to get a job done. This means that all multitasking needs to be cut off at the root.
Many people think that multitasking is a way to get more done in less time. The real truth is that multitasking is the most inefficient thing that you can do with your time. Not only does it divide your attention between multiple points of contact, it makes sure you cannot give your full attention to any activity in particular.
I used to multitask and still fall into that trap at times. I have realized that whenever I do it, things take much longer to accomplish as a whole as opposed to when I do each one individually.
Utilizing Parkinson’s Law to dominate life
The way to use Parkinsons law to dominate life is actually very straightforward. Set tighter deadlines for yourself and keep your teams as small as possible.
The beauty of tighter deadlines is twofold, it creates a sense of urgency and forces us to cut out multitasking or in other words, forces us to focus on one thing. The brain is not really made to process two different sets of information simultaneously and it is a known fact that the best workers are ruthlessly focused.
Setting tighter deadlines may seem daunting at first because we are worried that we may or may not meet up with them. In order to get in the groove of setting tighter deadlines, it may be a good idea to start with tasks that will have little or no consequences if you do not meet up eg personal tasks.
Once you get comfortable setting deadlines in your personal life, it is time to use Parkinson’s Law in your professional life. Set shorter deadlines for yourself and your team. You will quickly get noticed by the boss and your productivity will have no choice but to shoot up.
There is one caveat that I would like to insert here. If you create a shorter deadline but only you know about it then it may not be as effective. In order for a shorter deadline to be effective, you need to communicate it to all of the parties involved. That includes your team members, your superiors, and yourself so that everyone hold everyone else accountable.
Managing team sizes
Have you ever played the telephone game? The one where children sit in a circle and one person whispers a message in the ear of their closest neighbor. The neighbor repeats the message in the ear of their neighbor and the message is passed around like this until it comes full circle.
The creator of the message announces what message he or she received after it passes through so many hands and compares it to the original message. It usually takes on a completely different form by the time it has come full circle.
This is the same effect we get when we add multiple people and levels to a team. Instead of multiplying productivity it actually multiplies inefficiencies. As an alternative to adding more people to an already large team, try and cut wherever possible, redundancies in this case, are not your friend. When you cannot cut people then try your best to introduce automation.
A rule of thumb to follow in this area is that any more than five to six people on a team and it becomes hard to manage. If you are new to the whole managing other people, I suggest you hook up with the people at getfriday.com. It is a virtual assistant program where you can outsource your work. In addition to being the boss (something that many of us need practice with) it will help you learn how to communicate clearly and effectively.
Sometimes you will get a virtual assistant that is not as well versed in English as you would like, you can change them but I like to stick with them because it helps me become clearer and more concise in my instructions.
Parkinson’s Law is a simple concept that can have profound effects on the way you get work done in your professional and personal life. Everyone wants to be more productive and this is a tried and tested method to do just that.
Although it may take a bit of trial and error to get the job done, it is well worth the effort when you begin to see spikes in productivity. When we are more productive, many things happen, we are able to demand higher compensation for the time we spend on any particular task and we have more free time to pursue other endeavors.
How do you think I manage multiple businesses?
Be on the lookout for the book that I will be releasing soon, it revolves around the theme thriving in a world full of mediocrity.