Parkinson’s law is the adage which states that:
“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
Described another way, if you give someone x number of days to perform a task that can be performed in x-1 days, they will find a way to make it take x days.
This has significant impact to project planning, both for the Project Manager as well as the personal time management of the individual.
How to Improve Time Management as an Individual
Write it Down!!!
As individuals, productivity will greatly improve if the tasks to be performed on a given day are written down in plain sight. Simply stated, if you have five tasks to accomplish in a given day, write it on a sticky note on your desk, and cross each one off as they are completed. It gives you a sense of accomplishment to complete each task, and there is no delay time in determining the next item to complete.
To help determine which items should be on your task list, refer to the Urgent/Important matrix below.
Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent
These tasks should not be ignored and must be addressed and completed immediately.
Quadrant 2: Important but not Urgent
These tasks are where one would ideally spend most of their time.They will get be getting their tasks done as per the project plan.
Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not Important
These tasks are considered interruptions. Examples may include reading and answering emails, answering the phone, etc. Try to complete these tasks all at once at a set time during the day to help minimize the time to return back to the important tasks.
Quadrant 4: Not Important and Not Urgent
These tasks are time wasters and should be avoided. If it’s not important and not urgent, why would you do it? These shouldn’t be on your daily task list.
The better the individual project contributors can manager their time, the greater the chance of project success. With better individual time management, the project manager is able to be more aggressive when entering PERT values for project tasks.
How to Improve Time Management as a Project Manager
If Parkinson’s Law states that one will fill time as given for its completion, a project Manager must also account for this in project planning. PERT calculations are a valuable way to factor in the uncertainty related to determining the length of a task, and give the project manager a set of numbers that can be used to help calculate a realistic project length.
More to come on using PERT alongside project buffers…
-communicating the PERT Optimistic estimate as the time allotted to the resource to avoid Parkinson’s law, but use the overall PERT calculation as a realistic project schedule to develop the appropriate buffer.
-Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, Spiral project planning