Parkinson’s Law, simply put, is that a task will grow to fill the amount of time that you give to it.
- Give yourself 4 weeks to write an essay, it’ll likely take you most of, if not the whole, 4 weeks.
- Give yourself 24 hours to write that same essay, it’ll take you less than, or the entire, 24 hours.
A solution I’ve found that works for beating this law is to set deadlines within the deadline time frame.
A generic example:
Let’s say it’s 1pm.
And you have until 5pm to get a task done.
It’s likely that your brain will make you procrastinate until you have an hour or two left.
What snaps you out of procrastination is the panic part of your brain.
- Too much panic is bad -> Anxiety
- But a little panic is good -> Alertness
The goal is to kickstart the panic part of your brain earlier. At will.
And you do that by setting a mini-deadline (let’s say 3pm) during the duration of the larger deadline (5pm).
And make it a real deadline. Write it down. Repeat it to yourself. Make it feel real. Replace the panic for 5pm with 3pm. Trust me, it works.
And it doesn’t really matter when you set your mini-deadlines or how many you set. The goal is to get you actively working earlier than the original, larger deadline. So set them how you see fit.
Now, by the time it’s 3pm, you’ll have gotten a huge chunk of your work done, if not half or all of it. Then, it’ll be a smoother ride to 5pm as you’ll have less work to rush through.
At that point, you can reset your panic to 5pm.
And voila! You’ve beaten Parkinson’s Law.
The great thing is you can scale this solution up to work you have to do within a week’s deadline or 6 months deadline. Or even life goals with 2-10 year deadlines.
Just remember: Add solid deadlines within your deadline that will awaken the panic part of your brain early so you can get stuff done.