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Estimating Time Accurately

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” – John Wooden

Week Twenty Nine

Estimating time and time tracking skills are important foundations to time management. They provide a guide to how long something will take, which dictates the resources that will be required. They also clearly outline what is needed to mark success.
Identify a big project that you want to do. It could be anything you desire to make a reality: a move or makeover, once in a lifetime vacation, a marathon, or a career goal.

1) Begin by identifying all that needs to be done. One way is to break down the project into its simplest parts – chunks that can be completed in half a day or less. Another way is to outline in detail where you are now and where you want to be and, through doing this, recognize the tasks you need to complete to close the gap. You can also accurately define your outcome or even flow chart the tasks requirement.

2) Next, clearly order the tasks you have identified and note any important deadlines.

3) Then, figure out who needs to be involved and get feedback from them. Find out what they think of your plan and any assumptions you have made.

4) Make your time estimates. Estimate the time needed for each individual task. Identify areas of risk for not meeting these estimates. Assume that productivity levels are at about 80% to factor in unexpected sickness, supply problems, equipment failure, accidents and emergencies, problem solving, and coordination. Ask others to challenge your estimates to see how they stand up to scrutiny. Add up the estimates for the tasks to give total amount of estimated time for the whole project. You can compare this time-frame to how long other similar projects have taken and come up with best, worst and most likely estimates.

5) Lastly, prepare your schedule by combining your task estimates with your task list. One way is using a Gantt chart (see below) to identify the projects critical steps. As you move through the steps refer back to your schedule and make any necessary adjustments.

TaskEarliest startLengthTypeDependent on
ADay 1one day
BDay 2one daySequential to A, Parallel to CA
CDay 2one weekSequential to A, Parallel to B then DA
DDay 3two daysSequential to B, Parallel to CB

Now you are familiar with methods for accurate time estimation and tracking. You have used them to come up with a plan for a major project in your life and are ready to implement it. As you do, don’t forget to check in with your estimates and adjust if needed. This process benefits you by providing you with a system to apply to any goal you have that requires concerted effort over a long period of time.