Parkinson’s law is spoken about since 1955, especially in the corporate world. But lately, it has lost its essence, as we have started to normalize late-hour works in the name of productivity.
Does productivity depend on quality or quantity? Let me give you an example. If you have ample time to prepare for your presentation, say ten days. And like me, you consider yourself productive. So, you will first select a theme for your slides, choose colors and pictures, font style, and so on. You would like your brain to believe that you are productive. But in reality, you are procrastinating disguised in work.
Now, if the time to prepare for the same presentation is two hours, you could have still managed it. You would not put time and effort into selecting the color, theme, font, or any low-priority things. You would devote the time to the ppt contents that include facts and data. Your clients, audience, or team are less interested in the look of your ppt but more in the information you provide. Commonly procrastination disguised as productivity is known as the Parkinson’s effect.
More Time X Low Effort = the same outcome
Less Time X High Effort = the same outcome
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Parkinson’s Law History
Sir Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian, and author, first published an essay on Parkinson’s Law in the ‘The Economists’ in 1955. A few of the famous corollaries include:
- Work gets complicated and lengthy to fill the available time.
- Work contracts if the time given to work contracts.
Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress.Sir Cyril Northcote Parkinson
Let the green line represent productivity, and the orange line represents procrastination. Productivity and procrastination are both upward sloping with respect to time. However, procrastination is steeper than productivity. It means that the more time you have, the more you procrastinate and work less after a point of time. Point B is the break-even point. Beyond this point of time T1, one procrastinates more in comparison to productivity or work. Let us take a look at the second graph.
Below point B, one is productive, and once more than T1 time is allotted for a specific job/work, he starts procrastinating. Here, procrastination is disguised in such a manner that you are tricked into believing that you are working. But in reality, you are busy with work that is less worthy in building the big picture.
How to heighten your productivity and efficiency?
Ecofunomics has already written two articles devoted to productivity and efficiency. Feel free to browse.
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Deadlines are good?
Technically a manageable deadline increases your efficiency. The constant reminder of the ticking clock helps your brain to work, manage faster. Hence, it increases your efficiency and productivity. Though I am talking in favor of deadlines, I would add that not all deadlines are healthy. You should state and point out when you need more time to complete your work. Haste definitely makes waste.
Let me explain. If you need two days to complete your project but your manager is harassing you to do it in two hours. Please step your foot down.
Note from the Founder
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4 thoughts on “Parkinson’s Law: Procrastination or productivity?”
The way Ecofunomics explains is amazing… love your articles …
Most Parkinson’s law have bell shaped graph, I like how you used linear graphs to explain it. New approach to the theory.
I like such simple articles. The extensive articles scare me. Ms. Roy and her intern’s articles make me feel as if i don’t know economics even though i am a BA in economics.
I guess this explains why people who do last min studies score good… we study all round the year yet score average.