Here are five of the more important laws that govern time

by: Harold Taylor

We have had several time-related “Lunch and Learn” sessions at the Sussex & District Chamber of Commerce this year covering activities such as organization, meetings and managing e-mail. Many of the suggestions offered were actually applications of a number of laws that collectively provide effective guidelines for those who wish to maximize their use of time. Here are five of the more important ones, along with brief explanations of how they can impact the way you manage time.

1. Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This explains why deadlines make us more effective. For example, if you have all morning to complete a task, it usually takes all morning. But if you allocate two hours to the task, you will probably be able to complete it within that time frame. All activities should have realistic deadlines, including meetings, projects and goals. If the deadline is unrealistic, it will put you under needless stress. That’s why it’s wise to allow a little more time than you think the task or project will take. But make sure you assign a deadline.

2. Pareto’s Principle: The significant items in a given group normally constitute a relatively small portion of the total items in the group. This was later expressed in more specific terms, indicating that about 80% of your results are achieved from 20% of the things you do. It’s critical to pinpoint those few priority items and complete them at all costs – even if it means leaving some of the less important tasks undone. This can be more easily accomplished by using a planning calendar to block off the time needed to complete the priority jobs.

3. Law of Diminishing Returns: The amount of time required to approach perfection increases exponentially the nearer the job is to completion. This explains why it seldom pays to delay decision-making until you get all the facts or spend an inappropriate amount of time on a task. The extra value received by doing a near perfect job rarely justifies the cost of the additional time spent. Always let the amount of time spent on any task be proportionate to the importance of the task. Don’t be a perfectionist.

4. Law of Comparative Advantage: You should assign, delegate or have someone else do any job that can be done at a wage less than you earn or desire to earn. This is another way of saying that you should not spend $50 per hour labour on $12 per hour jobs. Put a value on your time, whether at work or away from work. Try not to get involved in tasks or activities that yield less return than this value. Delegation, for instance, will free up time to work on tasks that can yield greater returns.

5. Pleasure Principle: A psychoanalytic concept suggesting that an organism avoids pain and seeks immediate gratification. This explains why we tend to procrastinate on distasteful or overwhelming tasks and work instead on those brief and pleasant tasks – even though they may be less important. When we procrastinate, we are frequently putting off what we want most in order to receive what we want at the moment.

In addition to keeping these laws in mind, you should also keep in mind that effective time management is not simply getting more things done in less time. It’s getting more important things done in the time that you have available.

Harold L Taylor, owner of, is a member of the Sussex & District Chamber of Commerce and a columnist with the Kings County Record,

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