I didn't know there was a name for it. But it's called “Parkinson's Law.” Parkinson's Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
C. Northcote Parkinson discovered this by observing government employees. I think he could have noticed it by looking at my day planner.
But I know I'm not alone here.
Many of us are guilty of assigning work to ourselves and blocking out time to get the work done. The problem is, we probably block out too much time.
- Half an hour to return phone calls (when the calls we need to make can realistically be done in just a few minutes).
- Two hour meetings seem to take two-and-a-half hours, but I can often summarize them in 2 and half minutes to the person who couldn't make it.
These are the two areas I'm guiltiest in practicing Parkinson's Law.
Years ago — before starting as an entrepreneur — I spent some time in retail. Busy retail… busy retail with demanding bosses. (Not surprisingly, those were some of the motivating factors for me to turn to entrepreneuring in the first place). In those times, when the mad rush would literally last for 12 hours straight, I learned what could be done in short periods of time: Two minute phone calls could be made in one minute without sacrificing quality. Thirty minute meetings became stand-up, on-the-fly discussions and the proverbial ball was never dropped.
I don't work in that environment anymore and in the years between I've started to relax my time management structure. Partially it's one of the rewards of working on your own… but we should all keep Parkinson's law in our minds when we're planning.
I'm going to start by shaving fifteen minutes off of each scheduled task. (Wow, I just gained a couple hours in my day!)