Time optimistic?

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: Time Optimistic?, TTT - Things Take Time, Uncategorized |

“Look at this!” The Finnish manager gazes at her excel file in which she compares the estimated planning to the reality. “The Power Point template had the old logo, I spent twenty minutes just searching for a similar presentation, that a colleague sent me last year. It took fifteen minutes just trying to the title to fly in on the image. And then I had not even started writing on the content: “She stomped her surprisingly neat red shoes impatiently under her desk while the words left her mouth in a steady stream of consonants and some saliva splashes. “I guessed that the preparations would take 10 minutes!”

The ability to time estimate how much time you need to finish a task is clouded by your too optimistic judgement thinking that you are getting things done in “an ideal world”.

When do things work exactly according to your plan? Do you sometimes have few (or no) margins? Why is it so difficult to estimate the time for a task realistically?

 Being a time optimist is very common and something that affects us all, according to researchers. We want to get many tasks done and often ignore all or parts of the steps in the process. Realizing how long it took you last time you did something similar, will give your brain a better chance of estimating time more realistically for you.

It reduces the risk of a culture that is based on an “everything-takes-10-minutes” optimism. That type of culture leads too often to stress in organizations too many unrealistic deadlines.

When our participants are invited to focus on all relevant information to estimate the time of their tasks, they immediately notice that their planning is more accurate.

“Now I have revised my to-do list and found a simple way to calculate the exact time needed.”

I’m back in Sweden on one of my favorite companies and listening to an experienced technician. He has traveled a lot in his job and with a charming white beard and his many stories he had clearly been the entertainment at lunch time. I smile when I think of his story about how his colleagues in all the years insisted that they indeed are going to buy a bottle of whiskey at each airport and how he had the whole attic full of bottles. He had not had the heart to tell his colleagues that he does not like whiskey.

Last summer, he had been very worried when it was so warm. What if the whiskey would catch fire up there? And so it had become a huge project for him and his wife to carry down all the bottles to the basement instead. With tears of laughter in our eyes we wondered if it had not been easier to tell his colleagues that he did not like whiskey ..? Someone suggested that the basement could be a possible location for the next company party.

A few years before retirement, he had now, after a week’s time estimations come to a deep insight regarding his perception of time. “At first I guessed how long I thought the tasks would take this week and then I wrote down and measured how long it actually took, and now I have learned that if I multiply my “guess list” with pi (3.14 ) I will get the accurate time for the tasks. “

If you are an optimist when it comes to time issues (if you breathe and live on earth, it is quite possible that you are) and want to estimate how long your tasks will take, make sure that;

1) you recall how long it has taken you before 2) you make room for margins … if things do not go like clockwork ..

3) you go through all the steps for getting the task done.

When I grew up we lived several years in Sri Lanka (no, my parents were not missionaries). When ever we visited a restaurant, we learned quickly that we had to order our food at least two hours before we got hungry. So we did not have to fill our empty stomachs with bread.

The years in Asia and Africa made me realize that margins are necessary.. Despite this I can sometimes be too time optimistic in Sweden, since everything work so amazingly well here … in the summer time…

Thanks to all who have been in touch with me this week and worrying about my health. Such kindness! I am fully recovered with no magic cure. The nephrolithiasis who insisted on my attention, came out in a natural way.

 Wish you a really relaxing weekend with plenty of margins!

Petra Brask without slippers

“TTT – Things Take Time
Not planning anything will take even more time “


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