Created in 1955 by Cyril Parkinson, the namesake concept (law) centers around the simple idea: Work is like gas expanding to fill whatever container we place it in.

What does it mean for your business and the writing tasks you complete as its manager for it to succeed?

Think of time as a container you choose for every separate task:

If you give yourself five days to complete a task, it will take you five days to deal with it. But it will take five hours to complete if you set a five-hour deadline for the same job.

Understanding this principle can help improve productivity for your tasks and encourage your team to be more efficient and proactive at work.

Below are the details.

Parkinson's law, allotted time, and student syndrome

So, according to Parkinson's law, work expands to fill the allotted time, aka the time you assign to every task within a business campaign. College students, business people, and startuppers often determine it when creating the timeline and schedule for the project.

How do we determine the allotted time?

Some specialists rely on insights from time management experts to estimate how much time each task requires. Others calculate mini-deadlines for individual tasks first or determine the time frames for the project's needs.

And Parkinson's law dictates that you can achieve the task within the time frame you'll schedule. Whether or not you believe it requires more effort, it will take as much time as you prescribe for its fulfillment.
It's all about psychology and the way our brains work:

Let's face it: even the most organized marketing specialists sometimes wait until the last minute to send a pitch, reply to an email, or fulfill any other commitment. Two reasons:

  1. They seek an adrenaline rush.
  2. Poor prioritizing skills, estimating all project-related tasks at the same level, and thus attempting to multitask.

The farther the deadline, the lower it is on our priority list. Postponing it to the last minute can guarantee a decrease in productivity.

A great example is student syndrome, which is about procrastinating until it is impossible to postpone a task any further:

Learning everything the night before an exam, writing an essay a few hours before it's due, or submitting a work even a day or two before the deadline if they can sense no one will enforce them.

Some professionals still succumb to this syndrome from time to time, and applying Parkinson's law can help deliver better results. The idea is to limit their allotted time.

For example:

  • Ask a colleague (or assign it to yourself) to submit a report within 24 hours rather than leave this deadline open-ended.
  • Take a task you gave a week to complete and assign it with a three-day window instead.
  • Condense a project's marketing campaign from six months to three.

It's the reason why this trick doesn't work in every case. Some business actions do require time for planning, creation, revision, and approval. That's why, when speaking of Parkinson's law and business productivity, it's critical to find a balance:

Given the law also works in the opposite direction, — too much time for a task can lead to more effort than required, thus making it more complex than it is — please do your best not to overdo the allotted time so that those extra hours make the task harder to complete.

In plain English, trim the fat off your business campaign to make it easier to get to the meat and focus on the core moments.

Boosting productivity with Parkinson's law

So, here's the deal:

Take a list of your individual or team tasks and set deadlines that are shorter than they were before. Don't focus on too long deadlines for a while; consider the actions that matter, thus finding shortcuts and avoiding procrastination.

Here are some practical ways to try Parkinson's law in business campaigns:

  • Cut your estimated timelines in half. Use data, insights, and timers to learn how long each related task takes for the project and cut deadlines by 50%.
  • Consider some buffer room for each task. Don't schedule it; keep it in mind so you're still on track. For example, if you need a report by Friday, assign it to be delivered by Thursday. This trick best serves creative tasks like writing an expository blog post where research can take longer, or writer's block can happen.
  • Be realistic and assign attainable time frames for task completion. Imposing tight deadlines when you or your team are already overwhelmed will lead to further procrastination, not productivity.
  • Keep a productivity journal. This practice of brainstorming, planning, and analyzing your goals and activities at work will help you see how to improve productivity.

If you or your team members still can't deal with new, shorter deadlines, it means you're too busy, and it's worth trying a bit longer deadlines next time. For instance, you can cut them by 70%, not 50%. The point is to make them shorter:

You'll likely still deal with a task as requested because your brain will start generating more creative solutions you'd not have considered before.

Also, you can try applying Parkinson's law to long-term projects and bigger goals, not only your daily tasks. Give yourself six months instead of a year for something, thus boosting your productivity. You know that the more time you think you have, the more you'll waste it doing non-essentials.

For better control, consider visual timelines where you and your team will see how much work is left or how much effort a task takes. Productivity coach Alyssa Coleman suggests going further: Set reminders at the halfway point of your long-term projects or goals. If you have not started by that day, it will signal that postponing is no longer impossible.

Long story short:

Parkinson's law can help you overcome the psychological barriers of procrastination. Start limiting the allotted time for individual and team tasks during marketing processes — and you'll see how it cuts non-essentials and saves time for more actionable and efficient steps toward your project's success.

Author's Bio: 

By Lesley Vos, a content writer and strategist crafting texts for websites on education, career, and self-growth.