REFLECTION: Did that title catch your attention? In challenging economic times, anything related to economizing and budgeting tends to loom large on the radar. But, rest assured I’m not talking about money.
I am, however, talking about time.
You are probably familiar with Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fit the time available. I don’t know what kind of experience you’ve had with P’s Law, but I know I’ve experienced it in action again and again.
When there’s no time limit placed on researching a question or finding an answer on the web, I find myself cruising around the net, skipping from link to link, meandering, lingering, following my nose. Seconds, minutes, hours evaporate!
If I haven’t designated a ‘return time’ from an errand run, I’ll find myself distracted by shop displays, trying on clothes I don’t really need, or poring over magazine headlines on the drugstore newsstand.
ACTION: One of the real challenges in today’s world is that of realistically estimating how long something will take to accomplish. Allowing ourselves ‘all the time in the world’ or consistently underestimating time needed will cause us to fall behind, feel behind, and overextend ourselves time and time again.
Develop the habit of estimating and tracking. When you sit down to write a report, put a time budget on it. When you set out to research a question on the web, put a time budget on it. When you get together for a meeting with a colleague, put a time budget on it. When you start a clean-up task around the house, put a time budget on it.
Track the real time expended against your estimate. Review how accurate you are in your estimates. The difference between the estimate and the actual is your very own personal fudge factor.
If you find yourself consistently underestimating (for example, most things take twice as long as you anticipated), look for shortcuts or try working to a shorter time budget to keep Parkinson’s Law at bay. Or, alternately, build that fudge factor into future estimates for a more realistic grip on time.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” – A.A. Latimer
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: For a brief article on testing Parkinson’s Law, see: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901078,00.html
READERS WRITE: In response to the recent Pause message on Love Leadership, reader J writes: “I loved this newsletter as my partner and I were just this morning discussing this type of leadership that we both experience in our working environment, even though we work for different companies.
Along with the fear type leadership and mentality comes poor to no communication, and I feel very much like a fish out of water in my current office environment. As a result, where previously I was gung-ho to ask questions and be open and communicative, I am now finding I’ve withdrawn and I attempt to avoid any tasks that would require me to ask questions or consult with someone else.
I ‘herd’ my work to myself. It’s every man for himself and we feel powerless to affect any change to the point that we are both seeking other jobs…we don’t feel cut throat enough or on edge enough to cope. It gives us the feeling we are being eaten alive. Too bad Gregg’s book was not standard issue in the workplace!”