How Long Does It Really Take?

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hourglassMary Poppins: Our first game is called “Well Begun is Half-Done.”
Michael: I don’t like the sound of that.
Mary Poppins: Otherwise titled “Let’s Tidy up the Nursery.”
Michael” [to Jane]: I told you she was tricky.

I have recently found myself plagued by what is sometimes known as an “estimation error.”
When guessing how much time a task will take, I either think it will take a lot longer than it actually does, or it takes way longer than I think it will.

(I think this started to happen [more] after I had children – just saying. You know, like when you think the diaper bag is ready to go and the baby spits up on your shirt as you are preparing to load her into the car seat.)

So I thought I had recovered over the past 10 years. Apparently not. Or I did recover, but have relapsed. Sigh.

Why is this such a problem? I procrastinate and allow myself to get overwhelmed and then have a shame attack about how I really should know better. Thinking it will take forever to vacuum, cook a meal, run errands, write a blog, call customer service (OK – THAT one is REAL) – I just don’t. I wait until I think I might have a “block” of time, but I never really do, and IF I do, I don’t want to spend it on hold, even if I can check Facebook or pour myself a Coke while I’m waiting.

My company once paid for me to attend an all-day time management workshop. I retained a few nuggets about email management and prioritizing. I still don’t multi-task well, though – my brain just doesn’t work that way & I get so DISTRACTED. (Maybe that was after kids, too… or after I turned 40 – there may be a theme here.)

I heard (on Facebook) that February is Time Management Month – created by the National Association of Professional Organizers. Well, why not?

Here are a few of my favorite strategies:

  • Breathe. (Always important and a great starting place.)
  • Make a list. Mark things off the list. Hooray for an accomplishment!
  • Just like exercise, calorie-counting, or budgeting – track how you spend your time, it reveals useful information.
  • Make sure you are doing something every day you enjoy, because that seems to make it easier to do the things you do not enjoy as much.

Conventional tips include: chunk tasks into manageable pieces, designate times for tasks & write them down then stick to the schedule.

My friend Robin helpfully reminded me about two more:
“Touch It Once” and “Set a Timer” (to overcome inertia and give my inner rebel a sense of having a choice when the timer goes off.)

My coach suggested when I’m writing I not have an internet browser open. It works – when I can be disciplined enough to do it.

Since I know some of you are much better at this than I am, please share your wisdome in the comments below. What works for you?

2 Comments

  • Great post! I have started something lately that has been incredibly helpful in keeping the house cleaner. I often procrastinate or ignore this part of the house – the gameroom and the kids’ bedrooms.

    So, now, I set a timer for 15 minutes and we 3 go in and clean one of those rooms. Then we move onto the next room. We all know it’s a maximum of 45 minutes and I think knowing when the end is really helps. And sometimes, if we need more time, we just keep on going until it’s done.

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