Parkinson's Law and How to Deal

Chances are, if you're an entrepreneur, you've come across the topic of "time management" quite often. And if you're anything like me, you look at individuals who seem to manage it all with amazement. Those that own their own business, have and invest in their family, are involved in their church, sit on boards of non-profits, and somehow have enough time to volunteer in their community. But the important thing to remember is that everyone has the same amount of time to work within - 24 hours in a day. Nothing more, nothing less. No one person has an edge or advantage over another. But the difference is time management and prioritizing.

Tim Ferris'  The 4 Hour Work Week

Tim Ferris'  The 4 Hour Work Week

There is no shortage in articles about this. And if you ever visit the likes of websites such as Inc.com, Fast Company, or Entrepreneur, you'll stumble across articles such as "how to make your mornings more productive", "how to get things done", and "how to juggle everything in life... and more". I'm not going to go that route. Instead, I'll give you a personal testament to Parkinson's Law, something I recently read in a Tim Ferris book entitled "The 4 Hour Work Week". Whether you like the book or not, the Parkinson's Law section is incredible and extremely relevant - especially to today's entrepreneur. 

So what is Parkinson's Law? A recent Economist article  defines this law and gives this example: 

"...Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and despatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil."

To simplify, if you give yourself an hour (or a day in this example) to complete a task, it will take you that long. Your mind will add steps and processes that do not need to be included. Likewise, if you give yourself 15 minutes for the same task, you'll get it done. Why? Because you will eliminate waste, and remove things from the process that are wastes.

To give you an example from my own life, I am a procrastinator to the max. If you know me, this would probably surprise you because I have learned time management. I have a lot I need to accomplish each day, so I give myself tiny deadlines and also communicate these deadlines to peers and those above me so as to create urgency in my timeline.

Based on my own experience of managing a demanding full-time+ job, traveling, creating a consultancy business, having time for social activities and friends, and involvement in my church, I've compiled my top 3 list of "how to cope with time management". So here goes: 

1) Communicate deadlines early and often. Need to finish a project? Tell your peers and your manager or an accountability partner when you'll have it done. Give status updates frequently and make sure they hold you accountable to the original timeline. 

2) Break your day down into tiny sections with goals. This shouldn't be complicated. For me, I make a to-do list each morning with the top 5 things I absolutely, positively have to complete. I start with the most difficult, and give myself a certain amount of time to complete (if it's a task - if it's a strategic project, refer to #1.). I use an online "egg timer" that counts down on my 3rd screen so as to keep me on track to the task.  

3) Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Know what's important to you, and always put those things first in life. If you have a family, they should always be a priority. You may have to make some personal sacrifices, but make sure you're the one sacrificing rather than others. Get up an hour early to knock some things off your list. Lose some of the things that aren't as crucial. Above all, make sure you're spending time on the things that really matter.