Parkinson’s Law

Ferriss popularized the personal version of Parkinson’s Law, which correctly notes that our work expands to fill the time we give it. The original Economist essay on the topic also embeds an organizational version of the law, which I read to say that if you leave a group, or a team, or a company to operate without sufficient structure, they may converge toward unexpected and unproductive behaviors.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2021/09/01/revisiting-parkinsons-law/

Pithy sayings are punchy. (For example: Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the allotted time.) But they’re also woefully inadequate; there’s no room for depth or surety. In this case though, it turns out that Parkinson’s Law is based on actual research… into the bureaucracy of the British Navy. Who knew that this pithy little phrase is actually a real model based on actual research. (…uhm, Parkinson, that’s who.)

There are plenty of ways to turn Parkinson’s law into actionable direction: Ship it. Iterate and course-correct. Show me your discard pile. (That is to say, do sub-par work until your work is up to par.) Minimum viable noun. (Which urges one to chop off everything not absolutely necessary in order to get that noun into the world sooner.) All of which, I’m semi-surprised to note, are about constraining the time allotted to do the work. It’s all about moving the goal posts closer.

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