2 min read

Parkinson's Law & The Art of Creating Sensible Deadlines⏳

This post is written by Mohit Mamoria, Co-founder & CEO of Mailman. A Gmail plugin that spaces out the delivery of your emails, so you only get emails at designated times. This helps you spend less time in your inbox, and more time doing quality deep work. You can sign up for a free trial at mailmanhq.com

Parkinson’s Law is the old adage that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. The term was first coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in a humorous essay he wrote for “The Economist” in 1955.

He shares the story of a woman whose only task in a day is to send a postcard – a task which would take a busy person approximately three minutes.

But the woman spends an hour finding the card, another half hour looking for her glasses, 90 minutes writing the card, 20 minutes deciding whether or not to take an umbrella along on her walk to the mailbox … and on and on until her day is filled.

That’s Parkinson’s law at play. Working expanding to fill the time allotted for it.

How to prevent the Parkinson’s law from working against us?

The solution: Create Sensible deadlines

How to implement? (steps)

  1. Break down the job to be done, what are its various components, and who are the different stakeholders
  2. Set the expected time required by each component of the work.
  3. Add expected time of all components and add some extra buffer time for the unexpected obstacles that may arise.
  4. After all those are added up, you get the expected time required to complete the job
  5. Now set a deadline using all this information

This is how you set sensible deadlines. Vague deadlines make you a victim to the Parkinson’s law.


Break the job at hand into smaller components, write down the expected time required to complete each component of the job, add them up and add some buffer. Now you have a sensible deadline at hand.

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