View Full Version : Blocking out time, getting behind, and feeling lousy!
12-23-2004, 09:05 AM
I've been blocking out time during my day to work on completing tasks that are part of a project coming due shortly.
I find that I'm getting discouraged as I rarely seem to be able to finish the tasks before the alarm rings to start on the next one.
Here are a couple of the problems:
I'm regularly underestimating the time it will take to complete the task
When I don't complete the task, the next task reminder beeps and I keep snoozing it.
Each time the reminder goes off, I'm reminded that I didn't get something finished.
I feel that I'm behind for the rest of the day
How are you folks dealing with this? Is it simply a matter of tripling my time estimates? I'm afraid that if I don't block off the time, I'll never get around to the long-term projects that I'm trying to pace.
12-23-2004, 10:17 AM
I'm regularly underestimating the time it will take to complete the task . . .
How are you folks dealing with this? Is it simply a matter of tripling my time estimates?
I hope there's an answer to this - I'm frequently amazed at how long so many things are taking to complete. I can foresee a future where I am very parsimonious with my time.
12-23-2004, 10:20 AM
I have found it helpful to track my time occasionally and compare my estimates to the actual time spent. This gives me a general idea how far off my time estimates really are. Then it really is a simple matter of padding your estimate up by a certain percentage. If you track your time for a while, you will probably have a better gauge of where your estimates go wrong. Basically, I think people (myself included) tend to be overly optimistic about what they can accomplish in a given time slot. The difficult part is when you come up with a more realistic estimate, part of you won't believe that it could actually take that long and you may wonder how you will get it all done, but that is no worse than what you are going through with having your timers for new tasks go off before you are finished with your current task. Ironically, in some cases tasks that seem to take really long only take a few minutes (e.g., loading or unloading a dishwasher). You can revisit tracking your time every so often to see if you time estimates are improving. The better you become at estimating time, the easier it will be for you to determine whether or not you can meet your commitments.
12-23-2004, 10:57 AM
Your post just gave me a personal "aha!" and even though I'm a GTD beginner, I'm going to leap in with my $.02.
Sometimes I've found myself in exactly the same spot you describe, and I finally realized I've imposed a conflict upon myself. I've tried to do two things at once: complete a specific task, and complete that task within an arbitrarily limited time period. I don't really know how long a lot of things take, especially when I'm doing pieces of them for the first time. How can I fairly expect to get those things done within a rigidly constrained timeframe? A long time ago, I was working on a business launch with someone who'd give me a critical piece of the project with the guideline that "it should take only X days/hours" to complete. Never having done it before himself, my partner had no earthly idea how long it would really take, and his completely unrealistic (and always inaccurate) estimates reflected only his lack of respect for my time and the importance of critical minutiae that were beyond his skills. He knew I'd get the job done, even if it took me ten, 15 times as long as he'd calculated. I internalized a great deal of unnecessary stress and anxiety in trying to meet impossible timeframes, and this happened over and over again. I was lucky--I decided to leave the project when the lunacy didn't abate, and went on to other work. Had I stayed, I'd probably have internalized this bad management practice more deeply in my personal standards, and split my time on task between working and self-flagellating about that fact that I wasn't getting enough done.
I now try to do one thing or another: Either work by time on a task and define success as having spent X minutes or hours on it, or work by task over time, and define success as having completed that task to the NA, whenever that point is arrived. I have to hang onto the successes because everything takes shockingly longer than I'd ever have anticipated, but even if it's in slo mo, things are getting done. I'm aware of the maxim that tasks expand to fit the time alotted, so I'm not mindless about the clock. I track the time it takes to accomplish things to get a better sense of how much I can get done in a given hour or day, but I've found that it works much better for my morale and accomplishment continuity to say "I'm going to do an hour on X" instead of "I'm going to get X done within an hour." It doesn't net me the internal drama, heroics, and demonstrations of performance prowess I used to get from meeting insane self-imposed deadlines, but that's a loss I can live with. I do find I'm acquiring a taste for opera, though. :D
I now try to do one thing or another: Either work by time on a task and define success as having spent X minutes or hours on it, or work by task over time, and define success as having completed that task to the NA, whenever that point is arrived. I have to hang onto the successes because everything takes shockingly longer than I'd ever have anticipated, but even if it's in slo mo, things are getting done.
I think that is the best way to do the work.
That points me to the citation:
Most people overestimate what the can achieve in hours,
but they underestimate what they can achieve in years.
12-28-2004, 12:28 PM
An old tip from a course I took years ago was, Make your best guess and add 50%. There are many factors besides "you" that result in things taking more time than you expect.
That being said, I prefer not to be abrupt with "timewasters" i.e. people, and choose option b, above. In the end, people are more important than tasks, and I don't want to turn people into tasks.