I often have a hard time estimating how long something will take and how much it will cost. I’m certain I will never be able to predict the number of hardware store trips a project will require. But I have revived a fun estimating trick from my Information Technology (IT) days that serves me well in predicting the lapsed time for a project.
Take It to the Next Unit of Measure and Double the Time
This is how we would sometimes “jokingly” estimate projects in the software development world. For example, if you thought something would take 1 hour, it will probably really take 2 days. Or if you predicted something will take 2 weeks, you’ll likely be completely done with it in 4 months. One month drags into two quarters, and so on.
While the formula is intended to sarcastically expose low estimates, I’ve successfully usurped it to use as a scheduling aid for my handywoman helpers.
Since my helpers are full-time college students, their time to work with me is limited. And while I do have a lot to learn about accurately estimating projects, using this formula for scheduling allows me to have more realistic expectations. I can expect that a project I think is 40 hours (1 week) will reasonably span two months before completion — both because of availability of workers and potentially bad estimates.
Forget About It (Fuhgeddaboudit)
I love my plumber. (Yeah, I won’t be doing any of my own plumbing.) No matter the problem, his response will always be “Fuhgeddaboudit“. He’s from New York.
I’ve borrowed his motto for estimating all my small tasks.
What’s a “small task”? I loosely define that as one that can’t possibly take longer than two hours. So, for small tasks, I simply don’t bother to estimate. (I also don’t keep track of the number of times said “small tasks” have morphed into unbelievably ginormous jobs!)
In my case, the task needs to be done and it really doesn’t matter if it takes one hour or two days (although, if I’m working with a helper, obviously quicker is cheaper). So, I don’t bother to embarrass myself by estimating wrong. If asked how long a small task might take, I just shrug and say “Fuhgeddaboudit.” And then just get the job done.
But I Do Keep Track of Time Spent…
I’m trying to become a better estimator based on actual historical information. The software developer in me records time spent for each step. I hope to, as a result, be able to more accurately estimate time required for similar projects in the future.