Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
Let us say you are planning to send a greeting card to your friend. Here are few action items which can take as much time as you can allocate:
- Locating the best place to shop for the card.
- Going and spending as much time as possible to select the “best possible” card.
- You can’t send a card without an envelope and envelop has to be good to reflect your fine taste. Perhaps a pink will do the job. But a light pink is even better. Or a blue one? Ok you can spend some time and find the perfect one.
- The color pen you want to use should be the one which writes smoothly without smudges. Since you might need this pen for writing other cards too, so why not spend sometime to buy the best one. And don’t forget to try the pen on plain paper before actually writing on the card.
- Now have a relaxed moment (and a cup of tea?) and find the best words to write. If you are writing to someone “important” (like your would-be wife or your boss), you need to find the best words which express your thoughts without being mis-understood.
- Of course there are few more steps involving postage and dropping it to postbox etc. (But I am tired now so fill the details as you like.)
It can easily take a day. (if not days.) And I am sure you have seen this happen more than once.
Or you could just snap a card from any nearest place, scribe something like “best wishes, your name” with any writing instrument and drop it to the nearest postbox. This can be done on your way to/from office or supermarket. And it will take only few minutes.
You can find the application of this law every where in your daily life. Following activities are more common:
- Getting ready for a party.
- Shopping for clothes (or shoes etc.)
- Writing an article (or a proposal, application, book, resume, or blog post).
- Designing your business cards.
- Decorating your drawing room.
- Planning a barbecue party.
- Creating a power-point presentation.
So the trick is to just behave like you are really short of time or set a strict deadline for your things-todo. Going for perfection in something is often a sign of Parkinson’s law at work.