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The One Law That Business Owners Must Break


Last month I reached my boiling point.

My son Max was driving me absolutely crazy. And something had to be done about it.

What was happening?

Well, a couple of months ago, he started taking forever to get anything done. For example, if you told him to brush his teeth, it would take him 20 minutes. He just didn't have any focus. He would walk upstairs. Then get sidetracked by something on the way to the bathroom. Ten minutes later he still wouldn't have started brushing.

And then the real problem started last month. That's when his fourth grade teacher started cranking up the homework. Homework that should have been completed in 30 or 40 minutes was taking over 2 hours. And my son wasn't getting to sleep until 10PM or so. And I was getting overly frustrated.

Fortunately, at the same time as Max was having these issues, I was knee-deep in developing my productivity course for entrepreneurs and business owners.

And in my research on advanced productivity tactics, I came across Parkinson's Law. Parkinson's Law states that work will always fill the time allotted for its completion. So, if Max was given 2 hours to complete his homework, it would take him 2 hours.

The good news is that by creating a timed To Do list, we can all overcome Parkinson's Law. One example is this essay you are reading now. Formerly, my average essay took me one hour to write. For this one, I gave myself a strict 30-minute deadline. And unless this essay ends abruptly for you, you can assume that I succeeded in finishing it within that time.

So, how did I get Max to overcome Parkinson's Law? Well, I resolved that I was going to get him to use the same business productivity techniques that I was preparing for my course.

So, the first night, I told him that we were going to solve this problem. I sat down with him and we jointly identified the 5 or so tasks he had to accomplish. We determined a fair time period for him to complete each task. And we put a check box next to each task for him to mark as completed (note that checking a box after you complete a task gives you great satisfaction and energy with which to complete your next tasks).

What was most astounding for me was what I saw the next day when I came home for dinner.  I got home at 6:35 to find my son reading. Next to him was a timed To Do list that he had completely created on his own. He had already checked off half of his tasks and had just started his 20 minute reading block (see picture above of Max's To Do List).

Max's productivity literally doubled overnight. He completed his homework in half the time as usual, and did a better job of it. He went to sleep an hour earlier. And I got to spend more quality time with my wife.

Let me wrap up here, since I only have 8 minutes left in my 30 minute writing block. The key points are these:

1) You absolutely must have a list of the things you need to accomplish everyday, or key things won't get done.

2) You need to set time parameters for each task. Doing so will allow you to overcome Parkinson's Law and complete your tasks much faster. Having time parameters will also ensure that some tasks don't go over your time budget and force you to forego completing other key tasks.

3) Implementing this for my son was extremely easy and we realized immediate results. Implementing this in your business can also be easy, and you too will realize immediate benefits.

4) Creating timed To Do lists will not only improve your productivity, but the productivity of your team. In my office, everyone now has timed To Do lists, and collectively we are producing more than double than what we were accomplishing a few short months ago.

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Rick Raymond says

I experienced Parkinson's Law in college with my part-time job managing the last shift in a pizza parlor. My job included cleaning up and closing up. I found if I gave someone a job of cleaning all the food prep machinery used during the day they took about 30 minutes, and if I gave them 2 jobs they took... that's right .. 30 minutes. And three jobs was probably done in 40 minutes. In my situation there was an incentive on the other side which was to go home. Obviously performance was a requirement. The job had to be done right, and still 2 tasks could be completed in 30 minutes, or 1 if that was all I assigned.
Posted at 2:01 pm
Alison Gitelson says

I use the timed list when I am on tight deadlines. Apart from helping one to keep focussed it takes away the panicy feeling that you aren't going to fit everything in. The panic would otherwise slow one down anyway.
Posted at 11:31 am
L.T. says

Sounds like another tool to help avoid W4W ... work for work's sake.
Posted at 1:40 pm