Parkinson's Law

Weekly I/O#68

Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. The more time we allot for a work, the more time it will take to finish it.

Article: Parkinson's law - Wikipedia

Parkinson's Law, as observed by historian C. Northcote Parkinson, states that the time required to complete a task will always expand to fill the entire allotted time, regardless of the actual workload. In simpler terms, whether you give a task 5 days or 5 weeks to complete, you will likely finish it right before the deadline in both cases.

Parkinson's Law is ubiquitous in time management. For instance, if I have to publish an article tomorrow, I usually spend about 4 hours writing it and will submit it at the last minute. However, if I have the same article to publish next week, it might take me 20 hours to complete.

And guess what, I would still submit it at the last minute, with no improvement in the article's quality. Despite investing an additional 16 hours, the time is often wasted due to procrastination and perfectionism, which also explains why quantity is the most predictable path to quality.

Parkinson's Law also has some interesting corollaries:

  • If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do. (from Stock–Sanford)
  • In ten hours a day, you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day. (from Asimov, who also has a corollary to Clarke's Three Laws)
  • Data expands to fill the space available for storage.

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