Parkinson’s Law and why you need to rethink how you manage your finances and other resources

In a recent article, I wrote about Parkison’s Law as a tool to help you manage your time more effectively at work and achieve better results. Understanding how to use Parkison’s Law, or the observation that work expands to meet the time allocated to its completion, can help you save time and work smarter by moving deadlines closer, allocating specific times to tasks and projects and by prioritising the most important activities.

But time management is not the only application of Parkison’s Law. This law is at work in other areas of your life too and here is why you need to learn to recognise it and leverage it to your advantage.

Finances- The financial derivative of Parkison’s Law estates that your expenses increase to match your income. While it seems like a great accomplishment to be able to afford stuff you couldn’t buy before, you should be careful with the way you are spending your money. Why? Because overspending or using ‘retail therapy’ as a means to feel better about your life -as nice as your Instagram photos may look- leads to poor financial management.

Just think of all the extra money you could have if you saved more or if you invested a percentage of your income (maybe what you spend monthly on Starbucks drinks or dozens of pairs of shoes) in the stock market or another type of investment that could generate a passive income on top of your earnings. You could be making your money work for you and create more money that way. Instead, you are earning more than you used to but still have the same amount of money left at the end of the month. It makes no financial sense!

Learning- information and growth- This section is based on an adaptation of the original statement relating to computers, which says that data expands to fill the space available for storage. In terms of learning and development, this means that your existing knowledge (data) is taking up all your brain space (storage/memory).

Have you noticed how often you read or learn about something new and important only to forget about it a couple of days later? It is not entirely surprising, giving that digital technologies bombard us with new information at all times. Most of the information we come across daily is by accident and without purpose, therefore none of it, or very little stores in our memory. Why is this important? Because in order to make the best use of your full memory capacity, and in order to truly develop your skills and abilities, you have to reduce the oversized data you currently store. How do you do this? Simple. You just need to identify what you are interested in, or any skills you want to develop, and seek out the people or resources necessary so that you can understand and then apply.

The beauty of being a human and not a machine is that, unlike computers or other gadgets, our brains have the capacity for unlimited data storage, which is why we should make good use of it. The more we learn and store, the more our memory expands, allowing us to continue to learn, develop, grow and transform ourselves and those around us.

Food- In this context, Parkinon’s Law is the observation that your portions will grow to fill the space of the plate or cup you are serving them in. If you served the same amount in two plates of different sizes, the one served on a big plate is likely to look like a smaller portion than the one served on a smaller plate, which will probably look full. The implication being that using a bigger plate leads to eating larger amounts of food, more than you actually need at every meal.

This is a note-worthy observation given that many of us don’t eat a balanced diet in the first place and that obesity, diabetes and many other diseases are on the rise. It is also of great importance when cooking for children, as the way we present a dish will shape the way children perceive it. So in order to avoid overeating, and to stay in line with larger fitness goals, try to use a smaller plate and cup to serve your food and drinks.

Environment- Have you ever moved to a bigger flat only to realise that, somehow, despite having more space than before, your new flat is as full of clutter as the old one was? How did it happen? Did you stuff magically multiply? It might just have!

This point refers to the observation that the larger the space (house, wardrobe or garage) the more clutter you accumulate. Why is this important? Because if we don’t pay enough attention to how Parkison’s Law can affect our personal space we risk not having as comfortable and relaxing -or even safe- an environment as we would like to. After all, didn’t we move to a bigger flat to enjoy more space? So why are we accumulating all this rubbish?

Taking control of our belongings and choosing to recycle, to repurpose or just to refuse buying stuff altogether can support our larger goals of living in a spacious, clean and tidy space, where we can think, relax or bring up children more comfortably. We need to control our environment as opposed to the environment controlling us.

Now that you have seen how Parkison’s Law is related to pretty much the way you manage every single resource in your life, how are you going to apply this knowledge? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what action you are inspired to take.