How to Use Time Wisely and Stop Underestimating, Overestimating and Procrastinating
I was driving on the Baltimore beltway the other day and noticed a big LED sign spanning the highway typically used for Amber alerts and accident warnings, when I noticed that the message showing today was new.
This time, the sign was telling me that from my location on the beltway it would take me 12-15 minutes to get to Interstate 83, which was 10 miles away. Except there was a little hitch in their calculation. I was only going about 10 mph in stop-and-go traffic, so it would really take me 30 minutes to get from there to Interstate-83.
I’m wondering if the traffic gurus were aware of the stop-and-go traffic. They have cameras everywhere, so did they not take into account that traffic was not moving at a regular pace and adjust the message on the sign?
Then I got to thinking. What happens to you when you underestimate or overestimate how long it will take to do something at work? What happens when you forget to allow for travel time when you have to go to meetings off-site? What if you procrastinate on something because you think a task will be a long, arduous one, when really, it was only a 5 minute task?
Here are 3 helpful hints to help you use your time wisely and take more control of your day:
1. I’ve got plenty of time! (No, you don’t)
If you are consistently late to meetings and appointments, you’re underestimating the time it takes to finish up your last task or the time it takes to get to a meeting, even if it’s within your building. Either that or you just don’t respect other people’s time enough to be on time to meetings and by the way, that doesn’t send a professional message.
But in case you simply struggle with time, and you really do want to be on time, calculate backwards from your appointment to include travel time, the time it takes to wrap up a task before you leave and the time it takes to gather your things and go. Be conservative in your estimates. It’s more important to think it will take longer to wrap things up and to allow for traffic issues than to gamble that everything will be smooth sailing. This is not always the case.
2. Leave Procrastination Station
If you procrastinate on certain tasks because they seem daunting at first, you could be overestimating the time or effort you really need to spend on it or you’re trying to do too much at once.
Stop and think about what you’re pushing forward and ask yourself “what’s the very first or next small step I can take?” Raise your awareness of what you’re doing and how you’re thinking. Catch yourself, step back and then decide what you can do to keep your progress going. If you think steps through before actually doing them, you may find you can tackle a task easier or faster than you originally anticipated.
3. Enough is enough
Many professionals, especially entrepreneurs, have tons of ideas and interests in addition to their regular tasks and priorities. It’s common for me to find my clients easily distracted by all this and underestimate the time it takes to make decisions and incorporate these into their day-to-day plan. When is enough, enough? And how do you fit it all in?
a. Well, first, you have to know what your actions and tasks are leading to. Make sure they’re connected to your goals and are necessary to your overall objectives.
b. Attach a value to each task: which tasks are the revenue-generating activities, either directly or indirectly? These get top priority.
c. Create a list of ideas and interests separate from your daily to-do list. When you have ideas, you have to decide which ideas will get your time and earn your attention, and which ones have to go. Rank their value to your business. Which ones will get action now or in the near future and which ones will have to wait? The ones you save for later can go on this list.
d. Set a time limit for when you’re open to (or looking for) new ideas and information. If you’re not getting to your priorities because of all the “interesting things” out there, then it’s time to set limits and priorities.