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13 Feb

Getting a handle on your time optimism

Datum: 2017-02-13 15:52
Close up of the face of a watch, black-and-white

You can cure your time opti­mism. I did — and here is how.

Because, believ­ing in your­self and hav­ing an opti­mistic approach to the world around you is won­der­ful, but opti­mism regard­ing how long some­thing takes often comes back to bite you.

(If you are pressed for time (!), here is a video cov­er­ing what I share in this blog post.)

It might take longer than we thought to trans­port our­selves to where we need­ed to be at a cer­tain time. The assign­ment we were asked to do took longer than we antic­i­pat­ed to com­plete. The deliv­ery time of some­thing we need to have by a cer­tain day was not as short as we assumed. Sit­u­a­tions like these are typ­i­cal exam­ples of when things can get hec­tic or go a bit wrong in our work and life due to our mis­judg­ing or inac­cu­rate­ly esti­mat­ing of how much time things take.

If you con­sid­er your­self a time opti­mist then this should ring a bell, and every­thing always some­how gets hec­tic when the dead­line is approach­ing and you have to fin­ish up — even if you did your best to esti­mate how long it would take. It drains you to always have to speed things up, and you might even­tu­al­ly feel as if no mat­ter what you do, you are always late. But do not wor­ry — there is still hope for you.

I have been a per­sis­tent time opti­mist for years (and suf­fered some severe con­se­quences because of it too), but a sim­ple trick helped me and I want to share it with you today. Per­haps it will help you as well.

Dou­ble it!

When I had got­ten sick and tired of con­stant­ly being the time opti­mist who was always run­ning late, I decid­ed to dou­ble the time I spon­ta­neous­ly esti­mat­ed that things would take.

If I caught myself think­ing I will be there in ten min­utes”, I cor­rect­ed this esti­ma­tion by think­ing Alright, then let’s make it 20 min­utes”. If I was just about to tell some­one I will have it for you by tomor­row”, I stopped myself halfway and changed it to by the day after tomor­row”. If I was about to set my alarm clock to 6 am since it will only take me thir­ty min­utes to get going”, I set it for 5:30 am instead.

I can not say that I ful­ly com­pre­hend how or why this rule-of-thumb has helped me become more accu­rate when esti­mat­ing the amount of time things take, but for some rea­son it real­ly has. I no longer dou­ble my orig­i­nal esti­ma­tion (or per­haps I do, but I just don’t notice doing it any­more) and I no longer have to make tight cor­ners at the very end of fin­ish­ing tasks or when arriv­ing at meet­ings like I used to.

Do this

If you want to see if this super-sim­ple trick will cure your time-opti­mism as well, then from now on dou­ble all the time you spon­ta­neous­ly esti­mate things to take. That’s it!

More space right away

If you from now on dou­ble all times you set or esti­mate, then you will imme­di­ate­ly bet­ter your fore­sight as well as give your­self a bet­ter chance to get a first-hand expe­ri­ence of how long things actu­al­ly take — when you are not rush­ing or hurrying.

Sure, since you will prob­a­bly become more of a time-pes­simist than a time opti­mist, and as you get bet­ter at mak­ing accu­rate esti­ma­tions, you will have more and more time on your hands when you now arrive on time more often and fin­ish tasks before they are due. But, I am sure there is always some­thing you could do in that extra time — espe­cial­ly since many peo­ple are able to do many of their tasks more or less any­where nowadays.

You do not have to keep doing this for­ev­er. Just con­tin­ue until you notice that you are always on time and on top of tasks, and that you have increas­ing amounts of time over when arriv­ing ear­ly or fin­ish­ing tasks before they are due. When this is the case you are obvi­ous­ly ready to let go of the rule and go back to esti­mat­ing — only this time I am sure it will be much more accurate!

What was your trick?

Do you have some oth­er trick or rule-of-thumb that helped you set that time opti­mism straight? Tell me!

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