Parkinson’s Law states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Regardless of whether you choose to spend your day on the most important or least important priorities, your entire day will be filled with whatever is in front of you… Unless you choose to do something about it!
Have you ever had an important project you had to complete for a month and thought about it every single day? And then when you finally did it, it only took a couple hours, felt amazing to complete, and left you wondering why you waited so long to do it in the first place? You’re not alone 🙂
A couple years ago, I was in a leadership program. On Friday night at 8:30 PM, they assigned an out-of-body activity based on our personalities. Despite its bizarre nature, I will share the activity with you for the sake of your afternoon entertainment. I was assigned to propose to an invisible person in a 5 star restaurant and had to get the entire restaurant’s attention as I got down on one knee and proposed to…. No one but an empty chair. For reference, this was before I started dating my fiancé Rachel. This task was to be completed by the end of the night… I had to find the restaurant, set it up, and make sure I was taking a big enough risk to feel accomplished. Beyond overwhelming, but I got it done!
Can you imagine how many hours I would have spent psyching myself out about the fake proposal and trying to enroll restaurants into my vision for it if I didn’t have to do it that night? If they would have given me a week, I would have taken a week to get it done. If they would have given me a month, I would have taken a month. The reality of Parkinson’s Law is the more time passes before we take action, the more time that activity can spend in our minds haunting us, almost to a paralyzing state.
Have you ever wondered how some people in the world are able to get so much done in a day and others feel completely overwhelmed with a significantly less workload? We all have the same amount of time in the day as Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West or any other inspirational figure taking massive action in their lives. So what’s the difference in how they operate? These leaders know what’s most important and focus on it.
We’ve all received hundreds of emails a day or spent way too long scrolling our news feeds witnessing Parkinson’s Law in effect for ourselves. How can we use our awareness of this law in our favor to live a more productive and happy life?
The following are three simple steps you can take –
- Decide on what’s most important to you each week
Who do you want to spend your time with? What needs to happen for your family, your clients, or other priority areas for your life?
- Work off the list of what’s most important to you instead of your inbox
Condition yourself to check this list before diving into the notifications of the latest emails that came in.
- For activities that require deep work, schedule time in your week specifically dedicated to focus on them.
And don’t make exceptions… After all, You are meeting with a very important person…Yourself!
To be a connected leader in today’s fast-paced work environment, it is important to respond timely to every inquiry. However, the word timely doesn’t mean responses need to take place immediately.
In this notification-filled world we live, immersing ourselves into deep, focused work you deem meaningful has become a rare commodity, especially in high demand leaders. Being able to focus on deep work is one of the most valuable skills a leader can develop. The work we create alone when uninterrupted is extremely important, yet we often don’t prioritize this time the way we prioritize meetings with others or responding to emails. E-mail by nature feels urgent, but the strong majority of emails are not urgent.
In 2018, it’s time to understand what’s most important to you, schedule time for it, and step outside of your inbox and into your priority to-do list greatness! And never let Parkinson’s Law decide how much you will accomplish in any given day! As Nas would say, “The world is yours.”