To determine how much time you will allow for a specific task or project, you should start by recalling how much time you normally took in the past and subtract any distractions, interruptions, unforeseen delays and so on – in order to get an ideal time. In the case of projects, you may have to consult with others who were involved as well. Do not panic yet. We are going to allow for uncontrollable interruptions; but many of them can probably be avoided, as we will see later.
For longer projects, break them into components, steps, or chunks, and estimate the time required for each separate part of the project. Again, subtract the delays, interruptions etc. and consult with anyone else who was involved in the project. The resulting time will still be just a rough estimate. And in the case of tasks that you have never encountered in the past, it will be a rough guess. But that is fine. As you perform the same or similar tasks again and become more aware of problems encountered, your guesses will become more accurate. Every time you complete a task or project that has been scheduled in your planner, jot in your planner the actual time that it took you to complete it. You may find it takes either less time or more time than you had anticipated.
Next, you will take a hard look at the types of things that interfered with your performance of the tasks and projects in the past and decide how these time wasters can be best eliminated in the future. A few of them may be impossible to eliminate, and you must allow for them. But you may be surprised to discover that with a few strategies that are covered in my book, Making Deadlines Work for You, you will be able to eliminate most of these time robbers.
Once you have the final estimate of how much time it should take you to finish those tasks or projects, schedule blocks of time in your electronic or hard copy planner to do the actual work. When you schedule it in your planner, you must allow more time than you think it will take to allow for unexpected interruptions. Here again you go by experience, but depending on your working environment, this could range from 10% to 50%. But you must first have a planning calendar that will accommodate a starting time and finishing time (deadline) for every priority task or project that must be done. I use a week at a glance planner that has each hour broken into half-hour increments.
In some businesses, deadlines play a huge role in success. For example, in careers such as event planners, writers, media, and project managers, setting and achieving deadlines are critical. If you are in the association management business, for example, you could have dozens of clients, each holding conferences, meetings, and other events on a regular basis. A conference might require several people coordinating different functions simultaneously. Once the date and theme are established, the program would have to be planned before the speakers were booked, and the speakers would have to be booked before the conference brochure was designed and printed, and the brochure would have to be ready before most of the advertising took place, and so on. One missed deadline impacts all the following deadlines.
It is critical for each person involved to meet the established deadlines or they would put the entire project in jeopardy.
Companies such as these look for deadline-conscious individuals who would work well under pressure and do not panic easily. There are such people, who, being resistant to stress, do not worry, panic, or otherwise become agitated when working with tight deadlines. They have been able to build stress tolerance, primarily through lifestyle and mindset, which allows them to escape the ravages of stress. This is discussed in more detail in my e-book, Making stress work for you, but it could take years to fully develop. With some people it is instinctive, due to their highly developed executive skills, those brain-based skills required to execute tasks, which include stress tolerance. For a detailed description of these skills you can refer to my e-book, Strengthen your brain’s executive skills.
Anyone with a positive attitude and self-discipline can increase their stress tolerance by scheduling adequate leisure time, developing quality relationships, participating in exercise and relaxation exercises (including mindfulness), getting adequate sleep, and otherwise maintaining physical and mental health. Every business requires deadlines and every manager, staff member, or other employee must be adept at meeting them, whether they are set by you or by your boss.
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