Productivity, Work

Parkinson’s Law + work/time expansion…

Since we’ve been home all week 24/7, I’m missing most of the “anchors” in my life right now. It’s nice, in a way, to have some total “free for all” days, but also still odd. (Less odd now than it would have been a few years ago, since we have become fairly used to this slower pace throughout the pandemic, but things had revved back up around here in the past months.)

This is actually something I sometimes struggle with in general, since I work from home full time. If I don’t plan my time well, life or something ends up filling up that space, and not necessarily how I might truly want it filled.

You’ve probably heard of “Parkinson’s Law” before (quoted often in time management books and articles): “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

Basically, the theory states that, in general, a task will take as long to complete as you give it (adjusting effort as needed). Remember college? If you waited until the night before the paper was due to start it, it always still got done…. 😉

I can vouch for this being true, for me, many days. Even in non-work related tasks. Especially in non-work related tasks!!

I remember some years ago I had gotten in a habit of picking up groceries during Ethan’s 1 hour soccer practice (meaning I had less than 1 hour to get the groceries, from start to finish, including drive time). I ALWAYS managed to get my groceries bought and paid for in that hour! But today, if I go on a random Saturday afternoon, I can easily blow past the 1 hour mark without even trying (or noticing). Not saying this is a “problem” per se- sometimes it’s nice to just casually wander around- but it’s just an observation. And in truth, I’d probably rather do something else than spend an extra 30 minutes walking around the grocery store.

It’s been happening this week, too. Without my “anchors” (i.e. having to stop morning routine by 7:00, kids needing to leave for school by 7:35, kids needing to get to sports at a certain time, etc.), I feel myself kind of bumbling around. It’s fine- like I said, I know this is temporary. But it still feels a bit strange! I have been going to bed too late, because, why not? Don’t really “need” to get up super early…..

Yesterday I ended up working from 10-6. I worked out at 8 p.m.!!! Despite having the whole day “home”, I barely found time to read…because I sort of piddled away the morning hours on… ???. Haha.

Anyway, I know myself and I know I do best with fairly stringent routines (though I do enjoy the option of flexibility, greatly). I remember TOO clearly my inpatient nursing days…having to wake up at 5:15 a.m. sharp, jump in the shower, get ready, be on the road by 6:15 a.m. to drive downtown, park, walk a mile to the Transplant unit, punch a clock by 7 a.m. on the dot and start a day on my feet of constant, non-stop patient care (of very sick patients!!) for the next 12+ hours until at least 7:30 pm (usually more like 8…), reverse everything to get home *hopefully* by 8:30 p.m, shove some food in my face, kiss my kids good night and collapse into bed, exhausted (then get up the next day and do it all over). I’m tired just writing and remembering that.

I do not miss that routine. 🙂

But like I said, I know I feel my most productive and HAPPIEST, too, with some kind of routine, a schedule, something to keep my days in check, so that everything I do doesn’t just keep oozing into the next thing… even things like writing this blog post! I can spend an hour puttering around with a blog post (if I “have the time”), or I can spend about 20 minutes. End result is usually the same! Haha.

Okay, on that note, off to plan my day quick!! 🙂 Have a good one.

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for a nice, hot shower.

3 thoughts on “Parkinson’s Law + work/time expansion…”

  1. I’m tired reading about that old day too! Wow.

    I totally agree that things will expand to fit the time they have. I’ve started doing a Sunday afternoon pop into the office to clear emails so I go in and start afresh (or close) on Monday morning, and it’s amazing how often I can power through everything in an hour. Equally, if I said I had three hours available, I’m sure I could fill that too!


  2. Your nursing days sound super long and hard. No wonder you had your husband get the kids to daycare. Would have been tough to fit that into an already packed day! I agree that things will fill the time you give them. That’s why people say if you want something to get done, ask a busy person! Or why you often get the worst service in a restaurant when it is DEAD!! I’m looking forward to having more of a schedule when I return to work next week. There is no schedule to our days right now because his naps will vary in length and I never know when his longest nap will be. I haven’t felt well this week so have opted to rest during his naps but today I felt better so I tried on clothes during his first nap and got through everything as he ended up taking a super long nap. I was rushing like I was going to have to be done at any minute though!!


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