Picture this: it’s a typical Monday morning in New Zealand. The kettle just let out a hearty hiss, declaring the readiness of your morning elixir (a.k.a. coffee), you’ve got your trusty laptop open to a blank Word doc, and you’re mentally arming yourself for another marathon workday. You’re as ready as a Kiwi can be on a Monday. But before you proceed, let’s pause for a moment, shall we? Let’s have a chat about the cult you may be unknowingly part of… No, not that ‘Tom Cruise jumps on couches’ kind of cult, but something far more insidious: The Cult of Busyness.

The Cult of Busyness can be likened to a sneaky ninja, or a hobbit in the ‘One Ring’. It’s invisible, it’s everywhere, and it’s got a grip tighter than a rugby scrum. It’s the belief that being constantly busy, working long hours, and having no time for leisure or relaxation equates to success. It’s like being stuck in a real-life episode of Black Mirror, where everyone is addicted to the status of busyness, and dopamine hits are delivered via the ping of a new email notification.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Great, another thing to worry about along with my mortgage, climate change, and whether the All Blacks will win their next match.” But hold on, because here’s the kicker: This cult is closely related to a phenomenon known as Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law is the idea that ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion.’ Yes, you read that correctly. It’s like knowing you’ve got two weeks to clean your house before your in-laws visit, and yet somehow, you find yourself at the mercy of a frantic last-minute surface wipe down, wondering where the time went.

Where did Pakinson’s law come from and what’s the link with the Cult of Busyness

This law, first coined by British naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson in a 1955 article for The Economist, has since permeated our lives, becoming an unwelcome guest at the feast of our work-life balance. It’s the force that’s secretly fuelling the Cult of Busyness, like an invisible puppet master pulling the strings, turning us into hamsters on a wheel, constantly running but never really getting anywhere.

In essence, the Cult of Busyness and Parkinson’s Law have formed a tag team, creating a potent mix of workaholism, burnout, and the illusion of productivity. They are like Frodo and Sam of workplace toxicity, embarking on an epic journey to Mount Doom, carrying with them the one ring of ‘busyness’ that binds us all.

But all hope is not lost. This article will reveal the origins of Parkinson’s Law, unmask the deceptive allure of the Cult of Busyness, and through the lens of Dialogic Organisational Development and a humanistic approach, we will uncover practical strategies to escape. So, buckle up and let’s take a trip down the rabbit hole, and see just how deep this Cult of Busyness goes.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The “Cult of Busyness” is a pervasive belief that constant activity and long work hours equate to success.
  2. Parkinson’s Law, which states “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” fuels this culture of busyness.
  3. The impacts of this cult are detrimental, affecting mental health, physical well-being, and overall productivity.
  4. Recognising and understanding our susceptibility to busyness is the first step towards addressing it.
  5. Implementing scheduling strategies and fostering a workplace culture that values effectiveness over busyness can help counteract the negative impacts.
  6. It’s essential to differentiate between being genuinely productive and merely being busy.

The Origins of Parkinson’s Law


Once upon a time, in the misty realms of 1955, a somewhat cheeky chappy called Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian, gazed upon the sprawling bureaucracy of the British Civil Service and had a comedic, yet profound, epiphany. He had a ‘eureka’ moment, mate! This bloke wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill historian, oh no, he was a keen observer of human behaviour, a Sherlock Holmes of the bureaucratic variety if you will. He jotted down his observations and, feeling rather chuffed, presented the world with an unofficial law – a law that elegantly described a peculiar tendency in human behaviour. The birth of Parkinson’s Law.

So, what’s the deal with Parkinson’s Law? It’s like the fallen pavlova at the family Christmas do, a bit of a disaster, yet somehow still appealing. Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” In simpler terms, if you’ve got a week to complete a report, it’ll take a week; if you’re given a month, it’ll stretch out to fill the entire month. Basically, it’s the procrastinator’s anthem, the reason why your kid insists they can’t possibly clean their room until the final minutes before bedtime.

Beauracracy begets Beauracracy


Parkinson based this law on his observations of the British Civil Service – the kings and queens of unnecessary paperwork and pointless meetings. He noticed that as the empire was shrinking, the number of employees in the administrative offices was inflating like a balloon. Bureaucrats seemed to be making work for themselves just to fill their time… and thus, Parkinson’s Law was born.

How does this relate to the Cult of Busyness, you ask? Well, let’s think about it. If your work expands to fill your time, and you’re always telling people how busy you are, what’s that say about your work? It could be a case of Parkinson’s Law in action, a never-ending loop of tasks that grow and swell just to fill up your workday. It’s like Lord of The Rings, but instead of an epic journey across Middle Earth, it’s an epic journey across your to-do list, and there’s no end in sight.

In the end, Parkinson’s Law is a cheeky little devil, whispering in your ear that you’ve got plenty of time to finish your tasks, leading to bloated work schedules and a culture of busyness. It’s like a villain straight out of a comic book, a dastardly character that needs to be unmasked and tackled head-on. So, as we, continue our journey, let’s wield our metaphorical swords and shields and delve deeper into the Cult of Busyness and how we can break free from its grasps.


Unmasking the Cult of Busyness


Picture the Cult of Busyness like an episode of the X-Files, only instead of Mulder and Scully investigating paranormal activities, we’ve got people, neck-deep in workloads, slogging away at their desks, convinced that being insanely busy is the only path to success. It’s a belief system that has us worshipping at the altar of overtime, celebrating the martyrdom of missed family dinners and social engagements, in the pursuit of productivity. We’ve been led to believe that being busy is synonymous with being important and successful. But it’s time to pull back the curtain, to unmask this cult and reveal it for what it truly is: a grand illusion, a misguided ideology underpinned by Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law, an adage that states “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” is the proverbial wizard behind the curtain. This sneaky little law is the reason you often find yourself stuck at the office till the wee hours, churning out a report that could have been completed hours earlier. It seems to validate the Cult of Busyness, suggesting that the more time we spend on a task, the more valuable our effort. But it’s a flawed perspective that only fuels the fire of overworking.


A Dialogic Approach to Addressing the Cult of Busyness


Enter Dialogic Organisational Development, or “the antidote to the Cult of Busyness” as we like to call it. Think of it like the Ghostbusters of our tale, a methodology that enables organisations to challenge and change their narratives. Through dialogic interventions, teams can question the status quo of the busyness culture, exposing its pitfalls and manifesting new ways of working.

We Kiwis, much like hobbits, value our peace and quiet (minus the hairy feet, of course). But the Cult of Busyness has been creeping into our workplaces, whispering promises of prestige and success in our ears, enticing us to join its ranks. It’s exploiting our hard-working nature, guilt-tripping us into believing that if we’re not constantly occupied, we’re underperforming, underachieving, and quite frankly, underwhelming.

But here’s the thing: being human isn’t about working ourselves to the bone – it’s about balance, about recognising our needs beyond our job descriptions. It’s about getting a round of fish and chips with mates on Friday evening, about enjoying a rugby game without emails buzzing in the background. We need to embrace a humanistic approach to work, one that values our well-being and doesn’t equate our worth with our busyness.

So, it’s time to bid “kia ora” to a healthier work culture and say “haere rā” to the Cult of Busyness. Let’s unmask its not-so-glamorous reality, challenge it with dialogic organisational development, and champion a more balanced, humanistic way of working. Because, in the immortal words of Kiwi singing sensation Lorde, “We’re on each other’s team,” and together, we can break free from this relentless pursuit of busyness.


The Impacts of the Cult of Busyness


Like a cornered hobbit up against a truculent orc, we flee into a land of endless to-dos, conference calls, and email chains. The Cult of Busyness, that invisible Kiwi overlord, has us wrapped around its little finger. It’s not only sucking up our precious time like a Hangi feast, but also gnawing away at our mental and physical health.

Let’s delve into the mental health impacts first, shall we? Imagine you’re Frodo, carrying the burden of the One Ring. The weight, the pressure, the ceaseless worrying – it’s almost as if you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Well, welcome to the world of the Cult of Busyness. Constantly being on the treadmill of busyness can lead to undue stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s like playing an endless game of rugby without any halftime breaks.

But it’s not just our mental health that’s taking a wallop. Our physical health is also tossing about like a dinghy in a storm. Skipping meals? Check. Sleep deprivation? Definitely. A physical routine that consists mainly of sprinting between meetings and hunching over keyboards? Sounds about right! Couple this with a diet that’s more fast-food than farmer’s market, and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s like signing up for a bungee jump, but you’re not sure if the cord’s been attached.

The Cult of Busyness and Productivity

The Cult of Busyness doesn’t stop there, and why would it? Let’s have a chinwag about productivity, the supposed golden egg of this Cult. You’d think that being continuously busy would equate to being productive. Constant busyness does not always equal productivity; in fact, it often leads to burnout and decreased levels of efficiency.

Now, you might be thinking, “But I’m resilient! I can take it!” Much like New Zealand’s majestic kauri trees, we Kiwis are renowned for our resilience. But even the sturdy kauri is susceptible to dieback if the conditions aren’t right. It’s important to remember that being relentlessly busy without respite is not a badge of honour. It’s a one-way ticket on the Interislander to Burnout Island.

So, there you have it. The Cult of Busyness: the invisible wraith that’s draining people of their time, health, and productivity. This isn’t about villainising work or effort. It’s about recognising when it’s all a bit too much and taking steps to break free. It’s about ensuring we aren’t just busy for the sake of being busy, but rather, we’re productive, healthy, and – above all – happy.


Practical Strategies for Breaking Free from the Cult of Busyness


Imagine yourself as Frodo Baggins, the unassuming hobbit from Middle-Earth (AKA New Zealand), embarking on a perilous journey to Mount Doom. The precious ring you bear? It’s not a ring of power, mate. It’s the “one ring to rule them all” concept of busyness! And, like Frodo, you’ve got to chuck it into the fiery pits of Mordor to regain control of your life.

First off, our self-awareness strategies. Much like Frodo needed to come to terms with the weight of his task, we need to recognise our overcommitment to busyness. Sure, we’re not fighting off Orcs, but the constant barrage of tasks and deadlines can feel just as daunting. This starts with understanding why we fall prey to Parkinson’s Law. Is it the fear of appearing lazy? Or is there some notion of heroism in overworking? Unravel these threads, and you’ll find your reason.

Next, we dive into the trenches with our scheduling strategies. Samwise Gamgee didn’t just wander haphazardly towards Mordor; he and Frodo had a map and a plan. Time blocking is your map in the realm of productivity. Dedicate specific chunks of time to tasks and stick to it. Remember, working longer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re achieving more. As Gandalf would say: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Workplace Culture

Now, onto changing the workplace culture. This is like convincing a room full of dwarves, elves, and humans that hobbits could actually carry the fate of Middle-Earth on their small shoulders. It seems impossible, but guess what? It happened. Encourage a culture that values productivity over hours clocked. Maybe it’s time to re-look at those policies or to encourage employees to leave on time and take regular breaks. Let’s go, New Zealand, this isn’t the Mines of Moria; it’s your life!

Sure, Frodo had a fellowship to help him, but breaking free from the Cult of Busyness doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Reach out to others who feel the same way. Form your own fellowship of productivity, share strategies, and support each other. Remember, even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

So, grab your metaphorical elven cloaks and your lembas bread as you embark on this epic journey to slay the dragon of busyness. It won’t be easy, but as Frodo and Sam showed us, it’s absolutely achievable. And just think of the Shire-like peace you’ll enjoy when you’re done. Now, who’s up for second breakfast?




As we draw the curtain on our whirlwind tour of the Cult of Busyness and Parkinson’s law, let’s pause for a flat white and reflect. The Cult of Busyness, that glorified, hustle-and-bustle lifestyle, is not just a New Zealand problem – it’s a global epidemic. Like an insidious version of footrot in sheep, it creeps up on us – unnoticed until we’re limping around, overworked and under-joyed. Tied up with Parkinson’s Law, it’s as if we’re all unwitting extras in a twisted director’s cut of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, where work simply expands to fill the time available for its completion.

The impacts of the Cult of Busyness are as subtle and profound as a rugby scrum on a cricket pitch. Our mental health takes a hit of All Black proportions, leading to stress, burnout, and other wellness woes. Physically, our bodies bear the burden of this unending busyness, from sleep deprivation to a lack of time for movement and nourishment. Productivity ironically plummets — like a kiwi in flight, we may look busy, but we’re not getting anywhere.

But there’s hope, fellow Kiwis! Like Frodo and Sam, we can cast the ring of busyness into Mount Doom. Recognising our busyness addiction is the first step towards freedom. We must learn to differentiate between being busy and being productive, just as we know the difference between a kumara and a potato.

Next, we need to take control of our time like a dog takes control of a sheep. Implementing scheduling strategies can help us curb Parkinson’s law. Remember, you’re the shepherd of your time, don’t let it run amok like a rogue flock of sheep.

Changing Culture Changing the Cult of Busyness

A change in workplace culture is as crucial as switching from rugby to cricket in the summer. Creating a culture that values effectiveness over busyness, that rewards results and not time, can help us all break free from this cult.

So, New Zealand, it’s time to rise like the morning sun over Te Mata Peak. It’s time to break free from the Cult of Busyness and take back our time, our productivity, and our wellbeing. Let’s redefine what it means to be busy, to be productive, to be successful. The next time someone asks how you are, let’s strive to say something other than ‘busy’. Because, as we now know, busy isn’t always best.