Productivity tip – Pareto, meet Mr. Parkinson

Written by geordiejimb

Topics: Articles, Time Management

How productive are you? Do you know what the most important tasks on your list are? Do you even keep a list of things you need to get done?

Knowing what the most important tasks to get done are is half of the battle, and that’s where Pareto’s Law comes into play.


Pareto’s Law

Pareto’s Law goes something along the lines of eighty percent of the results come from twenty percent of the effort. In terms of productivity we can use this rule to help determine where we should be spending our time, and what we should be working on.

The idea is that if you can work out which tasks give you the biggest benefit and only concentrate on these – ignoring those time-consuming tasks that give hardly any benefit – your productivity level goes up – often doubling or better.

If only life was so easy, but it rarely is, not many of us can be disciplined enough all of the time.

Pareto’s Law is very helpful for prioritizing and identifying the best use of our time, but there is a serious problem with it – simply knowing what needs to be done is only half the battle.

Another approach commonly taught to improve productivity is using Parkinson’s Law.


Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law states that ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ which basically means that as long as you allow a task to take, that’s how long it will take.

The key to using this Law to improve your productivity is to set yourself tight deadlines for your tasks. Don’t allow yourself an hour to do a five minute task, because you’ll find other things to do and not finish for that hour.

If you don’t give yourself a deadline, how long do you think you’ll take to get things done? A lot longer than necessary, that’s for sure.


Pareto Meet Parkinson…

Now think of this scenario – you know what needs to be done first, and you know approximately how long it is going to take. You’ve given yourself a strict deadline to get it done… and you do it.

This is what getting things done should look like. There is no confusion over what to do next, no ambiguity, and you working through tasks in priority order and getting things done.

Even better, when you set yourself tight deadlines on your tasks, you automatically start looking for, and thinking of, ways to improve getting those things done, further refining your skills at identifying the important tasks, and working to get them done.

Let me know if you found this post useful, i’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!