In an earlier post I mentioned that ‘what’, ‘how long’ and ‘when’ describe the building blocks of project planning. We’ve just tackled scope (the ‘what’) so now it’s time to take a look at ‘How Long’ – or, in more technical terms, estimating.
Figuring out how to estimate your work is important for a couple of reasons.
You can’t accurately plan or schedule if you don’t know how long it’s going to take, and it also helps you figure out if you have scoped out too much (or too little) work.
So how do you estimate your work? For a small or indie-biz it’s pretty straightforward. Some of the projects or tasks you’ve set out for yourself you’ve probably done before; you intuitively know that it takes you, say, 4 hours to produce a new pattern and cut out pieces for 10 items.
For activities that are new or unfamiliar, it’s best to think through the individual steps of an activity, assign an amount of time to each step (start with a conservative estimate, meaning you allow yourself lots of time) and then track how long it actually takes you to get it done, making adjustments as you go.
For example, let’s say you’ve decided to increase your social media activity; you’d like to have more of a presence on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. These are ongoing ‘maintenance’ activities, so one way to estimate them would be to break them down into initial set-up and daily chunks:
Set up Facebook Page: 4 hours
Set up Twitter Account: 2 hours
Look up and join relevant Flickr Groups: 3 hours
Daily Twitter reading/responding/tweeting: 20 mins
Daily Flickr uploading/surfing/gallery making/ group sharing: 30 mins
Daily Facebook admin: 45 mins
In this example you would plan for a day or two of getting your accounts set up and then spend about an hour and a half a day on social media activities.
Breaking everything down and measuring it in this granular way is not always necessary; with time and practice you may not need to do it at all.
It can, however, be very helpful when you’re grappling with the enormity of new projects and activities you want to commit to, and not sure if and when you’ll have the time to get it done.