Beating Parkinson

Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

This means that if you have two hours to complete a project, it will likely take you two.  If you have four, it will take four.  If you have a week, you’ll still likely be working at the project 10 minutes before the deadline.

In non-profits, since resources are tight and we often involve volunteers, there can be a tendency to be flexible and generous on deadlines.  We tend to extend a lot of grace.  This means projects never end, or never really have a schedule.

I’m trying to be more dilligent with my team in setting deadlines so that we overcome those projects that never end and the tendency to continually say, “I just need to add one more finishing touch.”

Certainly having clear requirements and scope goes a long way to knowing when you’re done but this area is still a big struggle for me and my team.

What are some strategies you have used to conquer Parkinson’s Law, especially in a non-profit context?


1 thought on “Beating Parkinson

  1. Great post! I’m starting to realize that just because I don’t necessarily “need” something until [completion date for project] doesn’t mean that I have to wait for that date for it to be completed. Once we start a project, we try to figure out realistic deadlines and shoot for them. If we find it really takes more time, we adjust. We still take way too much time on some projects, though. For me, I have to find the balance between striving for excellence and moving forward to get things done.


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