Manage your time efficiently using sociological laws

Everyone is short of time, yet we are all equal and have 24 hours in our day. Why do some people seem to do more in their 24 hours than others? Several colleaguesaskme: “How do you find the time to do all this?” It’s not just a matter of organization. Several scientific laws exist and explain this dilation of time according to individuals. I propose to study a few of them, so that you too have “more” time.

In time management, you have to know your main enemy. And it’s not the clock, but yourself. By better knowing yourself (and your colleagues), you will (re)gain control of your time.

Weinberg’s law – calculation of the duration of an activity

To find out how long a task or project will take to complete, make your most reliable estimate (in minutes, hours, days or weeks), add one, multiply by two and round up to the next ten.

What this law shows is that it is almost impossible to determine, in a methodical and repetitive way, the time required by a task. This only applies to humans, machines have standard processing times. But we are very different from machines and deal with much more complex tasks. The quality of the evaluation depends on the experience of the planner. Here are some things to consider when you want to estimate the duration of a job.

  • Task: what variables have changed? Consider the scope: adding or removing one or more elements for example.
  • Responsible: everyone works differently, the same task performed by two people will not take the same amount of time.
  • Stakeholder: same thing, for the same task, if I work with other people, I won’t have the same turnaround time.
  • Context: have the laws, procedures, paradigm changed? They can speed up or slow down the work.

Golub’s Law – impact of planning on the total duration of a project

A well-planned project will take three times longer than expected to complete, a carefully planned project will take only twice as long.

Since it is almost impossible to estimate the duration of each activity, it is impossible to know the total duration of the project. However, some planning is required. Indeed, even if you are wrong about the estimation of tasks, as you will be estimating many tasks, on average, the errors should cancel each other out. For this we must be realistic. The optimists will be subject to the above law and the pessimists will over-process and be subject to Parkison’s Law. Indeed, it is not possible to finish a project two or three times faster than planned.

Parkinson’s law – time dilation

The work is spread out to occupy the time available for its completion.

For the same task, if I give you one hour, you will provide me with what you can do in one hour, if I give you ten, you will probably provide me with a better deliverable, but will it be ten times better than the first one? Not sure.

This law applies particularly well with the Pareto principle. The more time you have to do something, the more time you’ll take. Nature abhors emptiness and we fill our time as much as we fill our purses. This is the main risk of over processingthat affects so many people.

Murphy’s Law – certainty of the worst case scenario

The toast will always fall on the jam side. So if there is a way to crash a system, then it will inevitably crash.

Unexpected events are part of life, so you need to make time to deal with them. Applying Parkinson’s Law, this means that you should make time for the unexpected. If I have 10 hours to do a job, I should plan it in 9 hours, to save myself an hour to deal with unforeseen events, they will happen, I might as well plan them now!

Fraisse’s law – subjective time distortion

The activities you like least always take more time than the enjoyable ones.

This is purely subjective, as observations have shown that it is rather the opposite, but procrastination helps you think more about the less exciting activities, so they keep coming back to you and make you feel like you are taking up all your time. You have to give yourself enough time to do them, and prioritize them, so that you can move on to a more enjoyable activity and give them more time!