Murphy’s Law: 1 Gloomy View On How Things Usually Turn Out

Feb 13, 2021 | Business & Life Advice, Time Management

What is Murphy’s Law?

Murphy’s Law is the common adage that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

It is a fatalistic view of how things tend to turn out in life in general. Murphy’s Law doesn’t demonstrate anything nor explain something. It merely states a maxim: that things will go awry. People tend to give Murphy’s Law relevance when things turn out badly as a “reason to why it happened.” This confirmation bias is somehow very human.

Murphy’s Law Illustrated in 1 Image

Murphy's Law Illustrated in One Image -

Murphy’s Law in 1 Simple Video

Who said that “anything that can wrong; will Go wrong?”

The saying that “if something can go wrong, it will go wrong” is commonly known as “Murphy’s Law.” However, it is not entirely clear who mentioned first this idiom. According to the Wikipedia page, it is either Edward Murphy or George Nichols and his colleagues. Read more about the origin of Murphy’s Law here.

How Murphy’s Law and Hofstadter’s Law are related?

Both Murphy’s Law and Hofstadter’s Law convey pessimistic views on planning execution and project planning. In a nutshell, the project will be executed poorly (Murphy’s Law) to such an extent that the resulting delays will be longer than those already accounted for in the project planning (Hofstadter’s Law and the Planning Fallacy phenomenon).

“As per usual, trouble comes in several directions at once.” ― Garth Nix, Lirael

How Murphy’s Law and Illich’s Law are related?

Murphy’s Law conveys a pessimistic view on how tasks are executed (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”). A healthy work time management approach, such as suggested by Illich’s Law, can mitigate the risk of seeing Murphy’s Law prediction turning out to be true. Illich’s Law (or The Law of Diminishing Returns) suggests an appropriate balance between working time and resting time is the key to maximum productivity as negative productivity due to human errors arise when people work excessively.

What are the origins of Murphy’s Law?

Murphy’s Law originated in 1949 in United States, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The Law’s name stemmed from an epic attempt to use new measurement devices developed by Edward Murphy for the US military project ‘Air Force Project MX981’. Despite the name, it is impossible to pinpoint precisely who first coined the so-called “Murphy’s Law” between Captain Edward A. Murphy and other engineers working on the military project.

According to Edward Murphy’s son, his father was the first to state something along those lines “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then he will do it that way.”

According to George Nichols, another engineer working for the same military project, Murphy’s Law came initially as “If it can happen, it will happen,” through conversation among the other team members. It was named that way to pertain ironically to what Murphy said in an earlier interview about the test failure. During that said interview, Nichols recalls that Murphy blamed the unsuccessful attempt on his assistant, saying, “If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will.”

How can I use Murphy’s Law in Project Management and Planning?

In Project Management, Murphy’s Law’s strict application would be carefully planning for all the adverse events that could arise during the project. However, such a radical approach to project planning would not be beneficial in most cases, as it would yield extensive delays to mitigate all possible adverse events.

A more pragmatic way of counteracting Murphy’s Law is adopting a risk-based planning management approach. In a Project Management context, a simple but effective method of counteracting Murphy’s Law idiom is assessing the likelihood of the adverse outcomes and acting on the assessment’s results by establishing or improving existing standard operating procedures.

Here is the process overview: Firstly, list the consequences of adverse events that may arise during the project. Secondly, establish a short-list of the adverse outcomes having the most significant negative impacts. A Pareto Analysis is a robust method to build this short-list with a rational approach. Thirdly, work on preventive plans to reduce the risk of these short-listed events or establish contingency plans to mitigate the impact of those events.

Another way to prevent Murphy’s from becoming true is to adopt a minimalist approach when designing or handling a project. The least components or tasks you have, the least likely it is to make a fatal mistake. To facilitate such a lean approach in design or project management, omitting voluntary what is not essential and urgent – like recommended in the Eisenhower Prioritization Method – is the way to go.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Being focus is key to projects’ successful execution and timely delivery. Murphy’s Law reminds us that adverse events may arise anytime during any project if a simple task is not correctly performed.

A a result, the project planning phase should include a thorough assessment of the project’s risks to highlight the most critical items and surround them with robust work procedures. Establishing reliable operating procedures both at the project level and the elementary task level mitigates the risk of Murphy’s Law becoming a standard of truth. Systems, processes, and Risk-based Management Frameworks are not self-sufficient, however. They need to be followed carefully, especially for critical project steps.

For more details about Murphy’s Law; please refer to this extensive article from For more content like this about time and work management methods, please read our blog ParetoAnalysis.Tools/Blog.

“Murphy’s Law states that, “If anything will go wrong, it will”. Positive side of this law is, “If anything good can happen, it definitely will happen” ― Jiten Bhatt



  1. Optimize Easily your Well-being with the 80/20 rule Approach - […] on life: the saying that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” derived from Murphy’s Law is just an…
  2. The Powerful Pareto Analysis or 20/80 Rule in Excel: FAQ - One-click Excel Pareto Analysis Add-In - […] establishing robust operating procedure and contingency plans on a short-list made of the project's adverse events having the most…

How to build a Pareto Chart in Google Sheets in 2 Easy Steps

This easy step-by-step tutorial shows how to build a Pareto Chart in Google Sheets. Download now the Free Google Sheets Pareto Chart template for immediate use.

Time Management: 1 Simple Eisenhower Matrix to Get it Right

The Eisenhower Matrix or Urgent-Important Matrix is a highly effective time management tool that uses 4 quadrants to prioritize tasks and increase productivity

Create a Pareto Chart in Excel in 2 steps – Easy Tutorial

The tutorial shows how to create a Pareto Chart in Excel in 2 simple steps after explaining the basics of the Pareto Principle or 20 80 rule.

Optimize Easily your Well-being with the 80/20 rule Approach

Happiness, the feeling of positivity, really is the foundation of productivity. - Miguel McKelvey Everyone deserves to have a happy and fulfilled life. Take control now of your well-being by applying the simple yet...

Wellness 101: Pareto Your Time & Energy To Be Your Best-Self

Pareto your time and energy so you’re always the best of yourself. Mood, Motivation, and Ability vary across the day: Pareto your time for the best outcome.

3 Tricks To Turn The Shiny Object Syndrome To Your Advantage

The shiny object syndrome is bad for productivity. Focus is key. Execution is everything. How do you stay focus and execute with all these new ideas in mind?

Why Your Best Time management Tool is Useless? 1 explanation

The Best Time Management Tools provide optimal task planning. That’s a great start, but that’s not enough. Learn here how to make your ambitions come true.

The Powerful Pareto Analysis Approach and 20/80 Rule: FAQ

All about the Pareto Principle, Pareto Analysis, 80/20 Rule, Pareto Law, and the Law of the Vital Few. Free Pareto Microsoft Excel & Google Sheets Tutorials.

Work Smarter – Get Help Right Now From an Excel VBA Expert

No time to learn VBA for your Excel project? Get it done: Ask a Microsoft Excel VBA Expert. Live Excel Help, Online Excel Assistance, Overnight Project Delivery

Pareto Efficiency / Pareto Optimality: 1 Perfect Allocation

Pareto Efficiency / Pareto Optimality is the highest efficiency level resulting from an optimal allocation where any change to it would make something worse off

Laborit’s Law / Law of the Least Effort: 1 clear explanation

Laborit’s Law or the Law of Least Effort suggests that humans prefer to carry out simple tasks that give immediate satisfaction to avoid stress or inconvenience

Illich’s Law or Law of Diminishing Returns: 1 simple concept

Illich’s Law or Law of Diminishing Returns suggests that optimal productivity is reached with an appropriate balance between working time and resting time.

Pin It on Pinterest