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Measuring Time is Key to Success

The measure of success

What gets measured, gets managed – Peter Drucker, writer/ management expert, 1910-2005

Here’s a question for you: do you know how long it takes you to commute to work each morning?

Sure you do. You have most likely done it so many times, in many different circumstances, that you know what you can and can’t get away with.

As a professional, your day is, most likely, spent in a combination of meetings and independent work.

Lots of tasks shape your day. But how long do they take? For example, do you know how long it takes you to draft a proposal for a new client?

Guesstimating doesn’t count

If you don’t have a clue or are vague about the details, well, you’re not alone. Estimating how long work tasks will take to complete isn’t necessarily a natural skill. There’s always room for improvement.

Three of the tripping points to successful estimation are:

> never bothering to measure how long a routine task takes. You’ve never collected the raw data in the first place!

> thinking about how you feel about a task (love it/hate it/think someone else ought to be doing it) –  rather than the actual amount of time it takes.   For example, I used to hate watering the plants in my house (dirt, spilled water, climbing on chairs) – until one day I timed it.  Guess what?  It took two minutes. That’s all!  Now, because I know it will be over in the blink of an eye, I get it done regularly instead of postponing and procrastinating.

> scheduling a task based on how long we want it to take us. Or, in the case of attorneys, how much time you’d like to bill the client for the work – rather than the actual real-time measure of it.

Estimating makes perfect

Because estimating is such a critical time management skill, it’s a topic I teach all my clients. In order to create a work day plan, you have to become an expert in estimation!

The key to successful, proactive planning relies on accurately estimating how long your daily tasks actually take.

The more accurate your estimates, the more likely your plan will become a reality. It’s realistic outcome vs meandering from one task to another, without any sense of timing.

Take notes

To improve your own skills at estimating, start with a task and time how long it takes.  You may be surprised. It might take you longer, it might be quite quick. The time doesn’t actually matter – you’re looking at a yardstick measurement so you can use it in your plan.

Then take another task and measure that.

You’re information gathering. And what you learn sets you up for more accurate daily planning. Set those timers, go!