Parkinson's Law (May 2024 Retro and Planning)

Here at Mental Garden, we've talked a lot about intrinsic motivation.

But there's also the other type – extrinsic motivation – that can be very helpful in certain situations, especially when you want to supplement motivation from within.

Recently, I finished a project that I was really excited about. Lots of internal motivation. But the project seemed very difficult and like it would take a long time.

By chance, I discovered a hackathon (coding competition) that gave me the opportunity to add two more ingredients to the mix:

  1. A deadline
  2. Skin in the game through financial rewards

The combination of passion + a deadline + skin in the game helped me get really excited about it. It caused me to spend many hours in a state of flow that would have been hard to reach on its own.

It also made it easy to prioritize relentlessly.

There were many times when I thought: "Wait – even though it would be so gratifying to work on this right now, it's not necessary to finish the project.” So I didn't do it, and put it off to "later" (=never).

And then I finished the project.

This was a very stressful last day, but I got something done. And this is not the first time a deadline has pushed me to finish something like this.

The idea behind this is called Parkinson's Law, which states that a task will take as long as there's time for it.

This can work in every direction: if I'd have had a week more, I probably would have finished a week later. If I'd only had one day for the whole thing, I’d still probably have finished something.

But I believe a deadline is not enough.

If you attempt a project with a deadline, and then you don’t finish the project and nothing happens, then that’s like there isn’t really a deadline at all. There has to be some kind of consequence.

So for this Retro and Planning, try using the idea of Parkinson’s Law for one of your own projects. Here we go ✨