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I have been a GTD practitioner for over a decade and have been a reader on this forum for a while and up until now I haven't felt the need to ask for help. I don't believe there is an easy solution to my question, but I thought I would enlist the readers for their thoughts.
How do you determine your weekly "capacity?" By that I mean how much you can put on your plate until you have to say no or renegotiate your commitments? All of my next actions are captured accordingly in my system and my commitments are in my calendar.
Every week I write out all my commitments and all of the things I need to get done that week, I do this because I like to see at a glance what I have going on and to make sure I keep focused. However, when look at the my weekly list I am left with not knowing if I have overcommitted myself or not.
I am not one to assign time blocks to each task or commitment. I have tried that in the past and I find it sets a false sense as I might miscalculate and it ends up adding a level of complexity that I find burdensome. Has anyone found a way of assessing this other than just a gut sense? Thanks in advance for your insight.
There are three ways to do this.
First, if you're working on a large project and need to do some serious resource scheduling, especially for a team of people, use MS Project or a compatible app. This does require a steep learning curve and some time investment in making your file work. But, there's simply no better tool.
Second, you can use the "Length" field in Toodledo to figure out how much time each task will take you to complete if you only worked on that one task, then come up with some kind of saved search to only see the tasks for a week. Your calendar app should give you a pretty good idea on how much time you are going to spend in meetings that week, plus you need to allocate some percentage of your time to all the other things like breaks, lunches, unforeseen events etc. If the total exceeds your available worktime that week, you have a problem.
Third, just go by your instincts. Worked fine for me so far.
The best task management system is the one that requires the least amount of maintenance / user input to function well. Pick the one that works for you with least amount of effort.
As an experienced Project Manager/Scheduler, I can tell you this is a daunting task for most of us. There are so many unpredictable factors in planning human activities. It's much easier when it's physical work, like welding or painting, than it is for brain work, like programming or managing. I have come up with some general heuristic rules that I have found helpful, if not entirely accurate. It helps that in this case, you are scheduling only yourself. My experience is that the majority of people way overestimate what they can get done in any given amount of time, and the longer the amount of time, the more they overestimate. For example, most of us will overestimate what we can do in an hour by double what is realistic, but by triple what we can do in a week. More than that in a month.
One of the major factors in estimating you work output is to what extent your time is your own. When I had my own Project Management consulting business, it was much easier because I alone determined what my priorities were, and what activities I allowed to interrupt my work. I could stay focused on a single tasks for hours on end, even days. Other than that 10 years, I've worked for others, and that is far more challenging. Someone else "owns" my time, so I have little or no control over my priorities. My boss or her boss or a number of others can, and do, interrupt me at will, and my job requires me to respond. Ergo, meaningful time estimates are difficult, if not downright impossible, to get. I've used two different approaches to deal with this kind of uncertainty.
The first approach is the quantifiable method, which requires that I estimate the time it will take to do each task, as others have suggested, using the Length field in TD. For more serious projects with multiple resources, scheduling software, like MS Project, is a necessity. Even then, it only works well when you have dedicated resources (resources assigned full time to the project, not being constantly "borrowed" for other non-project tasks).
A good rule-of-thumb for estimating durations is if you have done it many times before, estimate how long you think it will take a double that time for your estimate. Even things you know how to do are subject to unforseen issues and problems. If it's something you don't know how to do, make your best estimate and multiply it by five. That's right, five! DO NOT go by the very common "Dilbert's Boss" method of estimating, which is that "anything I don't know how to do must be easy". Silly, yes, but exactly how many managers, with no experience whatever in doing what their subordinates do, estimate durations and set target dates. (By the way, I ran across another experienced scheduler's article on this subject some years ago, and he had come to the same heuristics as I had completely independently, verifying my own factors.)
Any quantifiable method will take a fair amount of your time, and the scheduling itself should be factored into you plan.
In the kind of work that I do now, there is no point in estimating. I have no control over my time, and I'm at the mercy (very limited :) of my boss and numerous others. The only deadlines I set now are the ones set by my boss, or occasionally others, or the few I set when I promise something I know is urgent, and am willing to put other work aside for a short while. Of course, I'm older now, and I accept the fact that there is a continuous flow of work here, and that I can only do so much in the time allotted. I've become like the proverbial duck, and wake up in a new world each morning when I arrive at work. I try not to worry about how much I can get done each day, I just do what I can, which I call the qualitative approach. Or just an old man's way.
Best of luck in your pursuit of control over your time! :)
This message was edited Jun 06, 2016.
These are very valuable insights and tips, thanks for sharing!
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