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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.

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Featured photo credit: clocks/blue2likeyou via flickr

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Rashelle Isip

Blogger, Consultant, and Author

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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