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6 Tips to Estimate Your Time More Effectively.

6 Tips to Estimate Your Time More Effectively.

Do you have trouble estimating how long it will take you to complete a task or project?

Ever wish you could estimate your time more accurately?

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Below are six tips to help you better estimate and manage your time at home, at work, or anywhere!

1. Use similar past experiences and activities as a guide.

There’s something to be said about learning one from one’s past. If you’re unsure as to how to budget your time for a new activity, simply take a stroll down memory lane to see how much time you spent on a similar activity. If you’re unsure how long it will take you change after your Zumba class and head off to your next appointment, you might consider, for instance, how long it took you to change out of your work clothes, shower, put on a clean new outfit and go out to dinner with a friend. Your past experiences don’t have to be exact replicas of your current activities, just look out for similar components such as preparation and travel time.

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2. Appropriately identify time-dependent activities and actions.

Which of your current activities are truly time dependent and time sensitive? Are there any specific deadlines you need to keep in mind? It might be as simple as shifting your priorities. For example, estimating how long it will take you to complete your preliminary research for a first draft of a brand-new, 2,500 word blog post that is due at work one week from Wednesday is a bit more important than estimating how long it will take you to browse through this month’s issues of your favorite fashion magazines at home.

3. Track your time.

The best way to make sure you’ve actually estimated your time correctly is to track your time. There’s no denying the read-out on a digital timer or analog clock face; it’s crystal clear how much time has passed and/or how much time you’ve spent. Try tracking your time over a series of repeated instances. You could try tracking the length of your weekly check-in meetings at work or how much time you spend on Google+ each day. Your time log will help you make better decisions and will ultimately help you estimate your time more effectively.

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4. Make a detailed list of tasks to complete.

Not sure how long it’s going to take you to plan your grandma’s 90th birthday party? Try writing out a detailed list of smaller tasks related to a larger project. In the example above you might write out, “Create guest list,” “Send out invitations,” “Buy decorations,” “Buy food,” “Order cake,” and so on. You can then estimate how long it will take you to complete each of those smaller tasks. When you’re finished, simply add up all of those time estimates and you’ll have a general idea of how long you’ll need to complete the larger project at hand.

5. Add in a buffer of time.

One of the easiest ways to better manage your time is to simply give yourself a buffer of additional time. A time buffer can be a schedule-saver in case you’re caught in traffic or weather delays, you receive an urgent work request, or you just don’t give yourself enough time in the first place to do something. When in doubt, just give yourself more time!

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6. Know how long it takes you to complete a task.

How long does it take you to go through your emails in the morning? How about walking your dog, running a financial report, or putting on the finishing touches to a newly created logo for a client? Think for a moment about how long it actually takes you to complete a specific task. If you still need to further tune your estimates, ask yourself whether or not the task is something with which you are familiar. If it’s a familiar one, you’ll probably be able to complete it rather quickly; if not, it’s probably wise to add in a bit more time to your estimate.

How do you estimate your time? Do you use past experiences as a guide or do you take an educated guess? Leave a comment below.

Featured photo credit: clocks/blue2likeyou via flickr

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Rashelle Isip

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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