Parkinson's Law: Why we Waste so Much Time and How to Improve Time Management

Kathrin Jungwirth, Wednesday 27 March 2019 | Reading time: unknown

Everyone knows the situation when unpleasant tasks are completed at the last minute. Find out what Parkinson's Law is all about and how you can use it for better time management.


„Work expands exactly to the extent that time is available for its completion.“ ~ (C. Northcote Parkinson, 1955)


You probably know a couple of cases from your day-to-day work where we could easily transfer this quote to projects. At the beginning of a project, buffers are usually planned generously for the individual project phases in order to be able to react to unscheduled changes and not be delayed in the end. Nevertheless, at the end of the project there is stress and hectic activity and the on-schedule completion of the project becomes more and more questionable.

What is Parkinson's Law exactly?

The reason why it gets so stressful shortly before deadlines is often an overly generous time frame. This buffer often leads to procrastination and causes a lot of dawdling, especially at the beginning of the project as there is still enough time to complete all tasks on time. And so decisions are delayed and external partners remain on hold.

This phenomenon is very well described by Parkinson's Law: According to it, the time available to complete a task is always completely consumed. A task that should be completed in half a day can be extended over the whole day, if this corresponds to the given time frame. The founder of the theory, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, said:


"Work can be stretched like rubber to fill the time available to it.”


According to this view, a task or project would never be completed with less effort than planned.

How does better time management work according to Parkinson's Law?

So how to make better use of time? We have collected three different tips for you:

Tip 1: Work with stage goals

To ensure that the project team does not run out of breath in long-term projects, it is important to celebrate intermediate goals - i.e. to work with several milestones. As a result, project team members in complex projects with numerous activities and tasks do not lose sight of important stages.

If, for example, you are planning a trade fair participation in your marketing department, then the following milestones could be relevant:

  • Exhibition concept is defined
  • Stand area booked & confirmation
  • Orders are confirmed
  • Marketing materials complete
  • Preparations are finished
  • End of exhibition
  • Final meeting of team

With InLoox, the project management software for Outlook, web and smartphone, both you and your team always have all milestones in view. For this purpose, you create a clear Gantt Chart with activities, tasks and important milestones in the project planning.

Milestones are colored in the Gantt chart and structure the project plan into several stages


Tip 2: Efficient resource planning

Plan only as many employees as necessary for a project and choose the right people. That is, only those with the skills needed for the project.

With InLoox you store the most important skills for each team member. In this way, you can quickly locate the resources with the required know-how in the company and deploy them in the right place in the project according to their skills.

In the InLoox options, skills are created and assigned to resources.


When assembling the project team on the management page of your project, you can quickly and easily search the address book for people with the needed skills.

When assembling the project team in InLoox, you can quickly search the address book for people with relevant skills.


Tip 3: Reduce or eliminate buffers

In general, plan less time for meetings. Because tight schedules not only motivate you, but also your team. In this way, the most important points are processed efficiently and unnecessary excursion to irrelevant topics is reduced. 

Eliminate buffer times for individual tasks and avoid multitasking. Buffers are helpful margins for unscheduled changes, but they also have their downsides, as just described. According to Parkinson's law, there is no buffer left in the end and only delays in the project are passed on, but not earliness. This is why, for example, there are no single buffers in the critical chain method. Instead, there is an overall buffer for the project, while the individual tasks and processes are tightly synchronized to avoid procrastination. In this blog post you get a compact insight into the Critical Chain Method: The Difference between Critical Chain and Critical Path


InLoox - Transform your task chaos into streamlined projects

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