Police Psychology | Parkinson’s Law
by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
In 1955, a year before my birth, an English historian who had worked in civil service was written up in the magazine “The Economist” about a law of nature that would control my life, in fact, controls many of us. He said “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” “Data expands to fill the storage available” is a corollary to the initial observation and finally “if you spend 10 hours on a project you will be twice as far behind than if you only spend five hours on the project.” I think these were meant to be humorous, but I am not exactly laughing about them. In fact, it may have been true back then, but now it is more like work expands to fill any time in the day, including the time set aside for relaxation and comfort, and sometimes even dinner.
Why does this happen? Why does it seem we are always running out of time? Why do deadlines appear even when they are not apparent at first? Of course, there is the obvious, that people’s natural tendency to procrastinate work causes deadlines to appear that didn’t exist before. People want to do non-work things more than work things. Deadlines are unnatural and imposed on us usually from outside. Everybody gets that. But what are the other reasons that works expands to fill the time allotted or usually more than the time allotted? How is it that we always seem to underestimate the time needed to complete a project? (more…)