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One Question to Know If You Can Predict Your Future

One Question to Know If You Can Predict Your Future

The Boston “Big Dig” project — a central artery and tunnel through the city — is one of the biggest engineering fails of modern times.[1] While it did get completed, it took way longer than expected. It was eight years behind schedule when finished, and the cost got way out of control. It was supposed to be $2.6 billion and became $24 billion counting interest on the debt. Concrete was mixed wrong. A ceiling collapsed and killed a car passenger. The entire process was a mess.

    But how did this happen? How did a series of capable adults and city officials so drastically miss on the time and budget for a large project? And what can we learn from it?

    We are bad estimators

    We often want to assume projects and new initiatives will go according to a best-case scenario, i.e. no delays, no interruptions, etc. That’s usually not the case. Other priorities arise. Distractions happen.

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    You should be positive about the projects you undertake, yes. But you also need to prepare for the worst — and since most of us aren’t great predictors of the future, we definitely need those plans. Think of a basic, daily example: the supermarket. Oftentimes you’ll tell yourself “20-30 minutes for essentials.” Then you end up there 1 hour. We’re not good at estimating time, in general.

    When we were considering a new feature on Lifehack’s website, we initially thought we could finish it in two weeks. That didn’t seem like very long. But the concept of “two weeks” doesn’t help identify the time for each section of the project.

    So we asked ourselves a critical question: Can I break this down into smaller chunks?

    We decided to break down the work like this:

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    • 1.5 hours for research
    • 3 hours for building the tools foundation
    • 1 hour for testing
    • 1 hour for amendments etc.

      When we broke it down, it seemed like 2.5 weeks was a more reasonable time estimate.

      If you break a big project into smaller items, it’s easier to estimate. What if you thought of a 15-week project as 15 one-week projects? Wouldn’t that make the planning more successful?

      Further breaking it down

      Break big chunks into small, manageable tasks, then work through those one step at a time. Repeat the question: can I break this down still?

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        Whenever you break something down, think about going even further down — a 15-week project can get down to a 20-hour chunk, but that 20-hour chunk can become a series of 2-hour chunks too.

        The goal here is to make things easier for yourself — and make the estimation of time more realistic.

        Some projects, like The Big Dig, are huge in nature. That is true. But even The Big Dig could have been broken down into manageable chunks and probably come in closer to time and budget expectations.

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        In your personal life, you can definitely execute this strategy. Just make the big, overwhelming projects into small, manageable pieces. Work through those. Eventually the whole big project will be done!

        Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

        If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, What Can? How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide) Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone? How Journaling Can Improve Your Life The Lifehack Show Episode 7: Following Your Calling

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        Last Updated on September 18, 2019

        15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

        15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

        You may think that you don’t have time for office organization, but if you really knew how much time that disorganization cost you, you’d reconsider.

        Rearranging and moving piles occasionally doesn’t count. Neither does clearing off your desk, if you swipe the mess into a bin, or a desk drawer.

        A relatively neat and orderly office space clears the way for higher productivity and less wasted time.

        Organizing your office doesn’t have to take days, it can be done a little at a time. In fact, maintaining an organized office is much more effective if you treat it like an on-going project, instead of a massive assault.

        So, if you’re ready to get started, the following organizing tips will help you transform your office into an efficient workspace.

        1. Purge Your Office

        De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while?

        Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc.

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        Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations – if they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.

        2. Gather and Redistribute

        Gather up every item that isn’t where it belongs and put it where it does.

        3. Establish Work “Zones”

        Decide what type of activity happens in each area of your office. You’ll probably have a main workspace (most likely your desk,) a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders,) and a supply area (closet, shelves or drawers.)

        Place the appropriate equipment and supplies are located in the proper area as much as possible.

        4. Close Proximity

        Position the equipment and supplies that you use most within reach. Things that you rarely use can be stored or put away.

        5. Get a Good Labeler

        Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets drawers. Not only will it remind you where things go, but it will also help others who may have a need to find, use, or put away anything in your workspace.

        6. Revise Your Filing System

        As we move fully into the digital age, the need to store paper files has decreased.

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        What can your store digitally? Are you duplicating files? You may be able to eliminate some of the files and folders you’ve used in the past. If you’re storing files on your computer, make sure you are doing regular back-ups.

        Here’re some storage ideas for creating a smooth filing system:

        • Create a meeting folder – Put all “items to be discussed” in there along with items that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, etc. It’ll help you be prepared for meetings and save you stress in the even that a meeting is moved up.
        • Create a WOR folder – So much of our messy papers are things that are on hold until someone else responds or acts. Corral them in a WOR (Waiting on Response) folder. Check it every few days for outstanding actions you may need to follow-up on.
        • Storage boxes – Use inexpensive storage boxes to keep archived files and get them out of your current file space.
        • Magazine boxes – Use magazine boxes or binders to store magazines and catalogs you really want to store. Please make sure you really need them for reference or research, otherwise recycle them, or give away.
        • Reading folder – Designate a file for print articles and documents you want to read that aren’t urgent.
        • Archive files – When a project is complete, put all of the materials together and file them away. Keep your “working folders” for projects in progress.
        • File weekly – Don’t let your filing pile up. Put your papers in a “To File” folder and file everything once a week.

        Learn more tips on organizing your files here: How to Organize Your Files for Better Productivity

        7. Clear off Your Desk

        Remove everything, clean it thoroughly and put back only those items that are essential for daily use.

        If you have difficulty declutter stuff, this Declutter Formula will help you throw away stuff without regretting later.

        8. Organize your Desktop

        Now that you’ve streamlined your desktop, it’s a good idea to organize it.

        Use desktop organizers or containers to organize the items on your desk. Use trays for papers, containers for smaller items.

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        Don’t forget your computer desktop! Make sure the files or images are all in organized folders. I’d recommend you clear your computer desktop everyday before you leave work.

        9. Organize Your Drawers

        Put items used together in the same drawer space, stamps with envelopes, sticky pads with notepads, etc.

        Use drawer organizers for little items – paper clips, tacks, etc. Use a separate drawer for personal items.

        10. Separate Inboxes

        If you work regularly with other people, create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.

        11. Clear Your Piles

        Hopefully with your new organized office, you won’t create piles of paper anymore, but you still have to sort through the old ones.

        Go through the pile (a little at a time if necessary) and put it in the appropriate place or dump it.

        12. Sort Mails

        Don’t just stick mail in a pile to be sorted or rifle through and take out the pieces you need right now. Sort it as soon as you get it – To act, To read, To file, To delegate or hand off. .

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        13. Assign Discard Dates

        You don’t need to keep every piece of paper indefinitely. Mark on files or documents when they can be tossed or shredded.

        Some legal or financial documents must be kept for specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.

        14. Filter Your Emails

        Some emails are important to read, others are just not that important.

        When you use the filter system to label different types of emails, you know their priority and which to reply first.

        Take a look at these tips to achieve inbox zero: The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

        15. Straighten Your Desk

        At the end of the day, do a quick straighten, so you have a clean start the next day.

        Bottom Line

        Use one tip or try them all. The amount of effort you put into creating and maintaining an efficient work area will pay off in a big way.

        Instead of spending time looking for things and shuffling piles, you’ll be able to spend your time…well…working and you’ll enjoy being clutter free!

        More Organizing Hacks

        Featured photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva via unsplash.com

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