Using Parkinson’s Law to increase productivity in your company.
For the worker bees of the world, productivity is king. They work long hours, hoping to show their boss how dedicated they are to their job with the hopes of promotion. Sadly, those who live by the words “work harder, not smarter” are most likely wasting most of those 40 hours a week, when they actually could be getting more work done and still have a good bit of personal time to spare.
The idea is not new. In 1955, noted British author Cyril Northcote Parkinson opened an essay in the Economist with the following words: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” The essay describes how the British bureaucracy had become bloated because officials favored the appearance that civil servants were working hard over the much more efficient alternative: working smarter, and shorter hours.
When workers in any context are given an ample amount of time to complete a task, Parkinson’s law posits that they will use all of that time to complete the task to look like they are busy. Not only is this a waste of resources, but it also actually creates stress on the worker as the task inevitably becomes more burdensome than necessary because they have drawn it out to fill a large gap of time. Parkinson’s law dispels the notion that just because an employee spends more time working on a task that it must result in a better quality end product.
It is not too difficult to incorporate these principles in your daily life and work routine so you can get more done in less time. It boils down to good time management, and changing the amount of time you think a certain task takes to complete. Start the day with a list of tasks, and for each one write down the amount time you think you need to complete them. Now cut that number in half.
This may cause you some apprehension at first, but give it a try. Most people overestimate the time it takes to complete a task because they are used to stretching the job out to fill an entire workday. Think of it as a game, and the objective is to beat the clock. This will make your work more fun and engaging as well. You may want to get your hands on a digital timer, as it is easier to time your tasks that way versus using a clock.
As you get used to this process, you may need to adjust your times if you find that getting them complete in the allotted time period is just impossible. This is likely if you are already fairly good at estimating the minimum amount of time you need to finish a job. Don’t cut the time down to the point where the quality of your work becomes rushed or shoddy. The idea is to experiment and find the true amount of time it takes to complete a task when you are purely focused on its completion.
The easiest tasks to squash are time-fillers such as checking email or maybe browsing the web for work-related articles. Cut down that 30 minute morning email routine to just five minutes. Then you have time left to get a jump-start on your next task, or perhaps find time to look at a few things that interest you. Everyone needs a little “me” time to get through the day.
As you become adept at reducing the amount of time it takes to get work done, you will find that you have extra time to do with what you want. You could take on more work, squeeze in some personal errands, watch a few videos on-line and still leave early on Friday.
Parkinson’s Law is only part of the battle to Increase Productivity!
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