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How to Estimate Time Frames

Oftentimes, time-management problems result from unrealistic estimates of the time it will take to complete each task. It can be tempting to tell colleagues or clients what you think they want to hear when they ask you how long a task will take.

If you do this, you’ll find that the actual time that it takes to complete a given task often exceeds your optimistic estimate, and you disappoint your clients or colleagues. It’s far better to be realistic from the outset.

Determining time estimates

A simple equation will allow you to estimate time frames effectively. This equation relies on your using your knowledge of the requirements of each task and your experience of both smooth-running activities and not so smooth-running activities.

With this knowledge, you can create three time estimates for each task:

  • Likely time — The amount of time it usually takes for you to complete the task, or the time frame that you are most comfortable with.
  • Shortest time — The least amount of time that you have taken to complete the task in the past, or the shortest time you think it would take you to complete the task now.
  • Longest time — The most amount of time that you have taken to complete the task, or the longest time you think it would take when you take into account what might go wrong. This should be based on your experience of the task in the past along with foreseeable difficulties.