A Simple Tracking Form to Better Estimate Your Time

You can't manage your time if you don't know how long things will take. A simple tracking form will help you estimate better than a pro. 

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #377

Today's topic is a journey through innocence, self-deception, despair, and ultimately, redemption. Yes, we're going to discuss estimating.

Earlier this year, I started a business called Ideas Unleashed (this is true, by the way), working with experts—authors, speakers, consultants, and professors—to build businesses around their content. My first hire was overachieving intern MG, who has since become my business partner and superhero sidekick. It's basic capitalism: hire people smarter and better than you are, and pay them less.

We have been writing proposals to build partnerships with experts. We've also been developing my own content business. (Learn about productivity and career webinars I'll be putting together over the coming months.) "Expert Partner Stever" is our learning laboratory. We can experiment and learn with him, so we can bring immediate expertise with external partners.

It's All in Your Head

We're launching a series of productivity webinars for Expert Partner Stever. We'll just put up a shopping cart page, reserve a webinar platform, and send out three little emails. That's three or four hours' work at the most. Our brain says so. And the little movie in our brains is surely how reality will play out. After all, it's a fantasy movie in our heads, and everyone knows that if you have a fantasy movie in your head, the real world will oblige by making everything turn out that way.

Then Mother Nature decided it was payback time for all those years I used margarine. For unknown reasons, the shopping cart wouldn't talk to PayPal. Then it would, but then there was no way to import purchasers into the webinar platform. Then the webinar platform couldn't send out emails, and our email platform couldn't send out webinars. Tech support department took a day and a half to get back to us, and ... 40 hours later, we were ready to go.

Remember that fantasy movie? We should have known better. Any post-pubescent teenage boy will tell you (I can't speak for the girls) that just having a fantasy movie in your head doesn't mean it's going to happen in real life.

Estimates Matter

When you're running a business, knowing how long things take is crucial. Work takes time and labor. If our estimates are wrong, we'll misprice our work and can't deliver on our promises. To integrity-driven overachievers like me and MG, that would be a disaster. Our egos would crumble, we would burst into tears, and then we would have to buy tissues to blow our noses, further driving up costs, and turning the whole train wreck into an unmitigated downward spiral covered in soggy tissue paper.

What will save us from this fate is simple: learning. We need to get better and better at high-quality estimates.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.