There are practical steps you can take to fight against Hofstadter’s Law, discussed in idea #1 above.
If you’ve ever participated in a group meeting, then you’ve probably had the following experience. There is a set number of agenda items, with some agenda items more important than others.
But the group spends the entire meeting covering the less important items, time runs out, and you never addressed the most important items.
In his book Parkinson’s Law
, naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson calls this tendency the Law of Triviality.
As Parkinson explains it: “the time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.”
He gives the example of a budget committee meeting scheduled to discuss two topics: building a bicycle shed, and building an atomic reactor.
The committee members are reluctant to discuss the atomic reactor because the details are complicated and challenging.
But everyone is happy to give their opinion on building the bicycle shed because the details are easy compared to the atomic reactor. Even though the discussion about bicycle shed is less important.
Here are two steps you can take to help ensure that your meetings aren’t derailed by Parkinson’s Law of Triviality:
1. First, you can order the agenda items by importance. In the above example, organizing the agenda so that atomic reactor was the first item would have helped the committee members focus on the most important item.
Second, you can set strict time limits for each agenda item. This is called timeboxing
, and you can use it to limit the amount of time spent on less important topics.