How Greek Astronomers and Egyptian inventors still rule our meetings today

Updated: Feb 9, 2019

The below is taken from my new book “ How to Make Yourself Promotable – 7 Skills to Climb the Career Ladder“.  At the end of the blog, there’s a link to buy it for the launch price of just 0.99 cents – but hurry, this amazing offer is only valid in July!

Do you find yourself chatting with colleagues over coffee when you know that you still have to finish a presentation for a meeting the same afternoon? Do you find yourself answering random emails when you have an important project due next week that requires at least 20 more hours of work? Are you so behind with your tax bills that you end up paying all the late-payment fees – again? If so, you’re suffering from procrastination, just as most people do at times.

Procrastinating is a very human tendency – in fact, a whopping 20%[1] describe themselves as chronic procrastinators. I’ve heard people state that they procrastinate because they work best under pressure.

If this applies to you, it’s because of Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. If you allow yourself to spend 30 hours a week on email, you will. At the cost of procrastinating other, more important projects.

Experts[2] on procrastination agree: the tendency carries a heavy price. The extra stress of working under pressure has high health costs. Procrastinators catch more colds and suffer more from insomnia: the short term effects of stress.Consequently, in the long term, they’re much more likely to suffer the serious effects of stress: depression and burnout.Procrastination also puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on others, which is detrimental to team spirit and business by increasing the burden of time pressure on your colleagues, clients and suppliers.

If you’re still not convinced that it is detrimental to procrastinate, consider the possibility that you might be in self-deception. How often does something get in the way of your plans at the last minute? You might have to give up another great opportunity because you suddenly have to finish a long-standing, high-priority task. On top of that, you cause unnecessary stress for yourself. Please believe the studies[3] that show that procrastinators do not perform as highly as people who get things done in a timely manner.

There is a solution: make Parkinson’s Law work in your favour. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to finish a task or project. If you prefer to wait till the last minute to put pressure on yourself to finish a presentation in two hours –grant yourself two hours only, but well in advance of the deadline. Create a meticulous time scheduling system, where you plan what you want to do ahead of time, and decide how much time is reasonable to spend on it. You’ll be able to increase your efficiency tremendously.

Not convinced about Parkinson’s Law yet? Consider the following. Have you ever wondered why meetings are typically scheduled for an hour, and seem to magically achieve their objectives in 60 minutes? Unless you have a very undisciplined meeting leader, chances are that your meeting will end at exactly the time you’ve scheduled.

This is Parkinson’s Law at work. We all take whatever time we have. Why not set the meetings for 15, 23 or 37 minutes? One hour, or 60 minutes, is a completely arbitrary measure of time, based on the ‘Base-12’ and ‘Base-60’ counting systems used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Isn’t it fascinating how a couple of Egyptian inventors and Greek astronomers who lived thousands of years ago can influence how long your meetings take today?

Once you realise that Parkinson’s Law can also work in your favour, you’re ready to boost your productivity to previously unimagined levels. From now on, set a timer for the tasks you want to complete. Take your most important projects and priorities, divide them into smaller chunks, and then schedule the time that you want to spend on these chunks. If you’ve so far tricked yourself by saying that procrastination is good, you can probably trick yourself to finish a task in a set time – even when it is one week ahead of the deadline!

If you discover that you have to spend a little more time than you originally thought you’d need to, that’s OK. You can revisit your schedule, because fortunately, you aren’t working on this last minute. After doing this for a couple of weeks, chances are that you’ll be so invigorated by the extra free time in your calendar that you won’t ever want to abandon these principles again. Your stress levels will go down, and you’ll feel much more on top of your workload.

Why don’t you give it a try? Do it for a month, and see your productivity soar.

If you enjoyed this, there is much more in my book, How to Make Yourself Promotable – 7 Skills to Climb the Career Ladder. The e-book is on offer for just 99 cents! But hurry, this launch offer is valid in July only. Get it on Amazon[4],Google Play or Kobo.

[1] Marano, H. (2003, August 1). Procrastination: Ten Things To Know. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from

[2] See, for instance, Tice, D., & Baumeister, R. (1997, November). LONGITUDINAL

STUDY OF PROCRASTINATION, PERFORMANCE, STRESS, AND HEALTH: The Costs and Benefits of Dawdlin. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from

[3] Ariely, D., & Wertenbroch, K. (2002, May 1). Retrieved October 1, 2015, from

[4] Amazon is not available in Singapore