Parkinson’s Law

Expanding TimeYou may not be familiar with the name, but you have probably heard the definition:  “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”  This concept was first publicized in 1955 by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an article for The Economist and later became the major point of one of Parkinson’s books, Parkinson’s Law:  The Pursuit of Progress.

Parkinson, who worked in the British Civil Service, saw firsthand how a bureaucracy provided no incentive to work hard, fast and/or smart, and now we know this phenomenon is not restricted to government work.  If you are not careful, it will seep into your National Agents Alliance business and will thwart production.

What the “Law” means is that if you give yourself eight hours to complete a one-hour task, then the task, in your thinking, will increase in complexity, causing more stress and tension about having to get it done.  Conversely, when we assign the right amount of time to any chore, we gain back more time and discover that the task is not really complex.  Many people are amazed at how quickly and efficiently some tasks can be done when they set a strict deadline.

Why do people allow Parkinson’s Law to govern their work?  In government bureaucracies it’s easy to fall into the trap because there is very little accountability, so “who cares?” In government people rarely lose their job over poor production, and it happens in business when an employee feels that their work is not appreciated.

For a National Agents Alliance agent it matters!  As an independent business owner you learn quickly that you are responsible for your own results and profitability, so getting things done in a timely manner can make a big difference in your income.

More importantly, you have to understand that, for new agents, working independently from home is probably a new experience and the temptations for procrastination are great.  With no boss to set deadlines it is real easy to let Parkinson’s Law creep into your work habits.  You can get up from the desk and wander to the refrigerator, play with the kids or just visit with family members or neighbors. With no sense of urgency to complete the work, the eight-hour work day becomes a thing of the past, 14-hour days become routine and you begin to feel that you are always working.

So, what to do the top producers at National Agents Alliance do?

Here are some of their suggestions.  Make a list of your tasks and assign the amount of time it would normally take to complete them.  Then challenge yourself to finish each task in half the allotted time.  Treat the time limit like an unbreakable deadline from a boss or client, but you are now the boss enforcing the deadline.  This is your business.  Treat it as such.

Most of the very successful entrepreneurs are very competitive people, so start treating these deadlines like a competition that you have to win.  Beat the clock without taking shortcuts; you still have to do things right.  Soon you will know exactly what a reasonable time to finish a particular task is.

Start by restricting some little time wasters; like handling emails and surfing the web.  If you usually spend a leisurely 20-30 minutes checking emails, allot no more than five minutes.  Don’t give these tasks any more attention until you’ve completed everything on your to-do list that day, at which point you can so some email reading, social networking and web-surfing to your heart’s content. Just don’t spend all your spare time that way!  Learn to focus on the important tasks.

When you start running a tight ship in your own home office you will be more efficient, more profitable and you’ll suddenly discover that you actually have more free time to live your life the way you want to live…and isn’t that why you wanted to be your own boss?


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