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Let’s Talk About Time Management – Part I

Mar 08, 2021

This week I’ll be covering the topic of time management. It’s a big topic that a lot of people struggle with.

For starters, how good are you at time estimation?

Do you find your projects take longer than you expect or that you are often late for appointments?

You’re not alone.

“There is never enough time or money; this much we all know,” according to a New York Times article. The next line is where it gets really interesting:

“Yet a new study finds that when people estimate how much of each they will have in the future, they are consistently more likely to overestimate their time than their dollars.”

BINGO. People are significantly WORSE at guessing how much TIME they’ll need for something than how much MONEY they’ll need.

I know this to be true from my own experience working with people. I regularly hear from people who struggle with time management overall, and time estimation in particular.

However, here’s where it gets tricky…When we don’t want to do something -- maybe dishes or the laundry or going through the mail -- we tend to overestimate how long it will take (it’ll take forever… I don’t have the time… it’ll take all day…).

When we want to do something, we generally underestimate the amount of time it will take (I’ll just make a quick cup of coffee…).


So what’s the solution?

Well, for starters you can practice timing yourself and keep track of the results.  That will help develop a feeling for how long common tasks, trips, and other activities take.


Tracking your time

For example: When you make a cup of coffee or tea, time it: the whole thing, from getting the cup out and filling it to heating the water and adding cream or sugar. Everything – no matter how minor -- takes time. 

For a timer, use something with a second hand or use your phone’s stopwatch app.

To make the exercise fun, guess in advance how long the task will take and then see how close you were.

When you check your timer or watch at the end, you will have visual evidence — reality—showing the time you took to complete the process. Were you under time or over time? 


Get in touch with your internal clock

Another little game I’ve always played with myself is guessing the time before I look at the clock. So, say I’ve been reading or sleeping for a while. I take a second to estimate what the time feels like to me and I make a guess. As a result of constantly guessing, correcting and adjusting my estimates, I have become very good at estimating the correct time -- right down to the minute.

When you have real data to analyze, it’s easier to see where and why your time estimations are off. Armed with that knowledge, you can better prepare for the next event.

I’ll be exploring different angles of time management throughout the week, so keep checking back for new information!

By the way, you can read the whole NYT article here if you want: