If you don't watch this carefully, it will eat your life up, into far, far less than it could be!

Basically, things rush into our "time space" to fill it up, often displacing what is more valuable and more effective for life.  The classic sign is a life of less value, usually accompanied with "overwhelm", anxiety and stress.  And people get so busy that they have little time for perspective, for determining what should be done that has more value.  Their lives often become trivial or end up having far less value than they could have. 

The classic example is the "good guy" who wants to contribute to the world and who values his family but does not seem to have time for them.  He fails to leave any margin to allow for extra things to crop up that need his attention and time, so he is working hard past midnight on Saturday nights, stressed and behind, not getting enough sleep, overwhelmed, feeling guilty.... He is desperate to improve his life and handle those problems and he wants to "reinvent his life" - but he never has time for it, leaving a started planning process with zero action on it for months and months - and he continues to live his Groundhog Day, living the life of a gradually boiling frog... and never time for reflection and perspective.


Essence of the law:  The "space" or time available is filled up with whatever is available rather than what is valuable.  "The amount of time spent on a project expands to fill the time allotted to it."

The effect:  We get busy (we fill up the available time space with low level activities) instead of producing the highest desired results. (We do the opposite of Living The 80/20 Way )

Another effect:  We spend to the limits, not the actual realistically set limits, but the limits of our credit.  We eat without limit, to the degree that it is available (and 2/3 of use are overweight and killing ourselves).

The solution:  Decide what is most valuable and insert that into the space. 

This is using The Law Of Displacement, illustrated by inserting something into a bathtub full of water and it will displace the water.  Keep putting in more good stuff and the other stuff gets displaced.  The guy who realized this was said to have exclaimed "Eureka!")


Make sure you have thought out what you want as a priority and insert that into the time slot, allotting a reasonably tight timeline.  (And if there is a misestimate, you should have time that can be reallocated away from a lower priority activity.)


Your life will be filled with mediocrity, with the randomness of whatever comes into it.  You'll being "at the effect of" circumstances.  And you'll always be too busy to do what really matters... too busy to have a good life. 

If you want to be happy and have a good life, it is essential that you heed this law!   


“The time spent on something will expand to fill the amount of time available.” 

Or:  “The space allowed will be filled up with whatever is most immediately available.”

Parkinson's Corollaries:

A vacuum sucks in whatever is closest and most available. (Such as memorized or automatic negative thoughts...)

An empty time slot will be filled with crap, or what seems most urgent.


We normally are the victims of "Parkinson's Law". 

We automatically and unintelligently fill up the amount of time and space allowed.

We keep on ending up with a larger and larger house and higher and higher expenses and lots more "stuff", most of which adds very little - except it usually adds alot of needless stress and/or the time taken to earn more money typically displaces more valuable activities for yourself and your fulfillment.  (In the Lifestyle section we look at changing that: "So here we look at all the "stuff" to see what we can "manage" so it doesn't manage us.")


“The space allowed will be filled up with whatever is most immediately available.”

This works for physical space also and maybe for eating and other excesses, where there is no cognitive, committed limit set.


Insert what is most important into the space (of your life) or nothing will happen.

Use your higher brain (cognate) to commit to and set a defined limit (time, food, etc.).

Set a restricted amount of time and put it into a timer, so that there is an alarm to increase your awareness.  Remarkably powerful and a huge amount of time is freed up from it.  The Timer Tool.

See the other solutions suggested, below, from other sections of this site.


See Stephen Covey’s book:  First Things First. 

Also, on this site, read the Life Management materials and the Productivity materials, including especially:
    Payoffs, Diminishing And Increasing Returns, When To Quit  AND
    The 80/20 Principle (one of the most valuable super-principles of all time). 

Use the 80/20 Principle to manage your life, as suggested in the sister to this site:  Living The 80/20 Life  Your life will be several 100%'s better!  Read Richard Koch’s book, Living the 80/20 Way (links to Amazon), as it will be one of the most valuable lessons you learn.


"A project tends to expand with the time allocated for it." If you give yourself one thing to do, it will take all day. If you give yourself two things to do, you get them both done. If you give yourself a dozen things to do, you may not get 12 done, but you’ll get 7 or 8 completed."

From The Peace and Happiness Rules

If you take advantage of the corollary to Parkinson’s Law,  you will insert into your life that which matters (in this case learning and creating your own power to be happy) first, and let the small stuff fall where it may. 

"Shove more of that in and have less time for other things…"

From the Diet Principles List:

PARKINSON’S LAW (whatever is available will be consumed or drawn in)

     Use a 9 inch plate to eat off of. (Put the other ones in a remote place.)
     Clean out your kitchen of all “bad” stuff; fill it up with good, easy to eat


For those people looking for the “magic” bullet to having more time, they might want to look at why they are filling up so much of their time, when it is not a given that you must follow “Parkinson’s Law”.

“The space allowed will be filled up with whatever is most immediately available.”  (The Law of the Vacuum)   The amount of money spent will expand to take up the amount of money available (so take some away first!).  The amount of time spent on a project will expand to fill the amount of time allotted.  If there is time available during the day, we will fill it, but often not consciously.

Overwhelm - Reversing It

Funny how that happens, but Parkinson’s Law allows you to set the amount of time that will be spent, to toss out items and put in there what you will, especially “buffer” days where you can just work on prep items and on planning, without interruption or pressure (often out of the office!). 

Time spent need not expand to fill the amount of time available.


The Law Of Displacement - Crap displaces potential good stuff


Living The 80/20 Way


Time, Productivity Contents/Links