The real secret to time management

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Have you ever met Cyril Northcote Parkinson? Probably not — he’s a Brit and he’s been dead now for more than 20 years. But you’re probably familiar with something he brought to light (and named after himself) back in 1955: the idea that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

This quote is lifted from the first sentence of a satirical essay he published in The Economist back in 1955, taking a humorous approach to his observations of bureaucratic expansion and inefficiency.

A few corollaries, generalizations, and extensions have joined up with Parkinson’s Law, namely Horstman’s corollary, which says that work contracts to fit the time we give it. It’s a logical offshoot — and one you can put to work for yourself.

When you’ve got work to do, try a little experiment with yourself. Take a task you think will require half an hour to finish, and set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, how much of it have you done? Try it for something larger, like something you think will need 4 hours. Give yourself 3 and see what happens.

You may very well find yourself getting the same amount of work done, but in less time.

Doing so requires concentration, of course, and not letting yourself wander off and get distracted. But if you’re able to focus solely on what you’ve got to do, and you set yourself a strict amount of time in which to finish, you become more efficient, more effective… and more free.

You’ve just found more time!

Play around with Parkinson’s law and let me know your results. I can’t wait to hear!

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