Parkinson’s Law of Triviality in Time Management, Economics and Finance

The Attention a Problem Gets is Inverse to its’ Importance


By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA

Historian Cyril Parkinson’s wrote in his book Parkinson’s Law,

“The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum [of money] involved.”

EXAMPLE: Parkinson described a fictional finance committee with three tasks: approval of a $10 million nuclear reactor, $400 for an employee bike shed, and $20 for employee refreshments in the break room.

The committee approves the $10 million nuclear reactor immediately, because the number is too big to contextualize, alternatives are too daunting to consider, and no one on the committee is an expert in nuclear power.

Bike Shed Effect: The bike shed gets considerably more debate. Committee members argue whether a bike rack would suffice and whether a shed should be wood or aluminum, because they have some experience working with those materials at home.

Employee refreshments take up two-thirds of the debate, because everyone has a strong opinion on what’s the best coffee, the best cookies, the best chips, etc.

Absurd: The world is filled with these absurdities. In personal finance, Ramit Sethi recently said we should stop asking $3 questions (should I buy coffee?) and ask more $30,000 questions (should I buy a smaller home?). Most people don’t, because it’s hard and intimidating. In any given moment the easiest way to deal with a big problem is to ignore it and fill your time thinking about a smaller one.




Assessment: Your thoughts and comments related to the Corona Virus Pandemic, meetings and time management and psychology are appreciated; especially the CARES Act.



2 Responses

  1. The “Rule of 4” in Time Management

    Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA


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