First introduced my Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an essay in the Economist, Parkinson’s Law is as follows:
Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
Wise words that we often don’t think about when we work. For example, if you take on a project and give yourself 24 hours to complete it, the time constraint forces you to get creative and focus on the bare essentials. In the end, not only do you get the work done, but you often innovate along the way.
On the other hand, if you have a week to complete the same project, you build it up in complexity and unnecessary distractions. In the end, you still don’t get a lot of the real work done until closer to the deadline. Imagine the same situation for a project that is due in 2 months or even without a deadline – sounds like a disaster.
How can we take advantage of this? We need to embrace constraints and use them to our advantage. When this happens naturally, such as when we have a task that requires immediate attention, simply go with the flow and get it done.
More often than not, our work lacks that immediate urgency. In these cases, we need to manufacture our own hard deadlines and by doing so, we can eliminate our tendency to procrastinate.
For those projects that are larger in scope, we need to break them down into clearly defined, manageable chunks, and use a similar approach.
Ultimately it comes down to creating urgency for your work that may otherwise not naturally be there. So the question becomes, how do you create urgency?