stopwatch in palm of open hand

Do you under-estimate the time something will take when planning your work?

A client said she was discovering that many things were taking longer than she originally thought and had originally planned for. (We were discussing the progress she was making in taking control of her schedule and her results.)

This is not an unusual situation, but I was curious, so I started asking questions. For example, she had blocked 90 minutes to write a blog post, but was finding that wasn’t enough time. I wanted to know why was it taking over 90 minutes to write the post.

Like many people, she had collapsed TASK and PROJECT.

It turns out she was:

(1) researching the post,
(2) writing the post,
(3) editing the post,
(4) loading the post up to the blog,
(5) finding just the right image for the post, and finally
(6) publishing the post.

But she was calling that block of time “writing blog post.”

OK, now I see the problem. Like many people, she had collapsed TASK and PROJECT. So, when I asked her to schedule her tasks, she thought she was doing what I said, but in fact she was trying to cram a project into a time slot for a task.

Have you ever done that? And why do you need to keep them distinct?

Well, if she just devoted that 90 minutes to writing, she would have written enough material for 2 or even 3 separate blog posts. She would have kept herself in the flow of writing.

When you break your projects into the separate tasks, you can make huge progress even when you only have little bits of time available. But when you collapse the two – you might not even start because the whole project seems so overwhelming and you just don’t have the time!

How do you know what is a task, and what is a project? Well, the simplest definition: A task is a single action. Anything that requires more than one single step is a project.

Plan a party is a project. Set the date for the party is one task in that project.

Productivity tip:

Go back over your “task list” – make a note of where you are collapsing tasks with projects. See if you can batch the tasks that are similar.

I promise, you will get MORE done that way.

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About The Author

Terry Monaghan's picture

Terry is the CEO of Time Triage

With over 30 years of business and entrepreneurial experience, Terry’s unique technology has dramatically increased the productivity of Fortune 100 executives and entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. Whether it’s a corporate executive or a “solo-preneur,” the outcome of Terry’s methodology will give you an expanded level of freedom and productivity with results you can measure.

Terry’s clients find themselves working on what is most fulfilling and what really matters in moving things forward rather than what they previously thought they “had to do.” The things you hoped to get to someday become the things you work on today.

Terry’s work was recently featured in the New York Times best-seller Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte (Sarah Crichton Books, March 11, 2014).

Eliminating overwhelm, giving clients more time to focus and clarity about where to focus, and implementing what it takes to produce results beyond what is predictable are what Terry’s efforts are all about. Her high integrity, no-nonsense, practical approach to business operations has helped build trusted relationships with many high performing professionals, entrepreneurs, and executives.

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