Do Your Tasks Take Too Long?

There is a law regarding that called Parkinson’s law. Simple stated ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’. (If you have some time to kill read Prof. Cyril Northcote Parkinson paper on this that he wrote in 1958.) Professor Parkinson suggests this law is widely recognized in the saying ‘It is the busiest man who has time to spare’, something I think we all recognize.  

So how do we combat that law? In the blog ‘The Value of Focus’ posted September 7, I told a story about a pair of entrepreneurs that seemed to understand Parkinson’s law and use it to their advantage.  The trick is having a deadline for the task to be completed.

Here is another law that we are all familiar with but I did not realize it too had a name. The ‘Pareto Principle’ also known as the ‘law of the vital few’ or the ‘principle of factor sparsely’ or as we all know it the ‘80-20 rule’. Wikipedia gives a pretty good explanation of the principle and its many applications if you are interested.

If we apply that to productivity in general we could say that 20% of your time/effort yields 80% of your results. Or put another way 80% of the value comes from 20% of the activities.

Let’s examine what happens when we combine the two rules: We have an important task that has a looming deadline. We only have an hour of available time to move this task to completion. Because of our limited time we really focus on the task. The result may not be as perfect as if we had a week to spend however remember 80% of the value comes from 20% of the activities and on the other hand we may wind up with a better result because we haven’t overcomplicated or over polished things.

I like deadlines and often impose earlier deadlines in order to complete the tasks I have started so I can concentrate on the next project. That way they are out of mind and I can focus on the next task.  (The Zeigarnik Effect see The Value of Focus Blog).  If you don’t already use these two rules to improve your productivity give them a try, and let me know if they work for you.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at


About Janet, doing it better.

I grew up and still reside in Northern Alberta. While I have numerous interests I am passionate about the Peace River region, its innovation, its people, and the creative spirit that envelopes us all.

Posted on September 28, 2011, in Business Productivity, focus, productivity, productivity tools and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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