Even when you know where your work comes from, you have to have time to complete the actions, tasks, and projects, that bring the results you’re seeking. And figuring out how long things will take is often difficult. Here’s some help in getting better estimates.
- Travel times between one place to another. Time yourself for repeated trips (for most trips, once is enough). If you haven’t been there before, ask Google maps for directions. If traffic is a problem, multiply Google’s estimates by 1.5 or 2 (or if you live in L.A., by 3).
- Transit intervals: this is the time it takes for things to get to you from somewhere else. This could be anything from snail mail to how long it takes Bob to get something done for you. Keep some records and calculate an average.
- For things you do more than once. Time yourself by using a count-up timer or writing down starting and stopping times.
Shrink to fit: This is probably the most under utilized method of them all and perhaps the most powerful. You’re probably already aware of the tendency for things to grow to fit the space allotted. This approach takes advantage of that, in reverse. To use the shrink to fit method, decide how long you’re willing to spend on a particular task and then discipline yourself to stick to that and finish the task in that amount of time. Period. No matter what.
Shrink to fit requires you to be rather strict with yourself, at least at first. You’ll want to let yourself off the hook–but it you stick with this, you’ll begin to learn to hold yourself to a higher standard on a regular basis (which is an extremely valuable skill). Shrink to fit also combats tendencies toward perfectionism by making you figure out what’s good enough. Finally, shrink to fit activates your focus and improves your ability to prioritize.
No matter what method you choose, you’ll benefit from improving your understanding of how long things take and your productivity will go up as a result.
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