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  • Jeremy Cooper

Parkinson’s Law

My family love to go camping. It’s the fresh air, relaxed days, allowing the kids to go a little bit feral without going full cave child and spending time with friend. The problem with camping is that you need to take quite a bit of stuff to be comfortable and cover the eventualities of British weather, it doesn’t matter how much space you have you’ll fill it, the car will be full to popping, so you buy a roof box and fill it, a trailer and fill it. If you don’t go camping (you really should try it) but it’s the same when you go away on holiday, you always fill the suitcase and you always hit your 15/23/32kg baggage limit depending on how generous your airline is.

Now, I talk with a lot of IT managers, engineers and leaders and the most frequent comment I hear when I ask how everything is going is that they’re too busy. This is often to be expected due to the demands on IT and the pressure on budgets and headcount to deliver more with the same or less resources than before.

Once you start digging under the covers it turns out that it’s very similar to camping. We work on a lot of project or tickets or initiates and they all have due dates. This can be when a ticket SLA is reach or a project milestone. What people then do is take the time allowed and fill the time which is where the busy work comes from. This is Parkinson’s law

What is Parkinson’s Law?

Parkinson’s Law is the old adage that work expands to fill the time allotted. Put simply, the amount of work required adjusts (usually increasing) to the time available for its completion.

You will fill that time as you can, you’ll meet that deadline as it’s what you’ve been set and sometimes people feel worried that if they don’t use the fulltime then you might have missed something.

Now, how do you avoid this happening? It’s time to go agile!!

When you get a task rather than just check the due date, take the agile approach and define the value and effort. The effort will tell you how long it will take and the value will show when it should be done by, if it’s really important and quick you could just do it, even if the due date is a week out. It gets it out of your head and the task is done! Win/win

Once you’ve assessed all your tasks you can work out your capacity to do them and then build them into your week, just be conscious of the due date. Don’t be afraid to push back if it’s low value, high effort with a short due date. If you explain your logic and approach, then most people will agree to your timelines

Give it a try and see the success you can have and the productivity.You’ll still fill your weeks; however, you won’t feel as busy as you’re delivering value vs busy work