In my last post I discussed my process for task allocation using a calendaring system (ie Outlook). However, in order to do this successfully you need to be equipped to successfully estimate the amount of time a task require. In the engineering field there are countless methodologies to aid in this effort for developers, but my favorite is Scrum.
One of the core elements of Scrum is the calculation of a ‘load factor’. Before doing a task you estimate how much time you think it will take. After the task is completed you record how long it took you.
Load Factor = (Reality-Estimation)/Estimation
Initially this number will have incredibly high variance, but over time, your load factor will start to stabilize. This will enable you to revise any of your initial estimates. For example, My load factor is currently around 1.5. This means I’m consistently overambitious and underestimate the time required for a given task by 150%. So, next time I try to estimate a project – I’ll do my standard estimate and then just multiply it by 1.5.
Ideally, your load factor will fall over time as you become more aware of your personal bias and begin to adjust. However, many people (myself included) – especially those with large variation in task types (in a day I’ll do anything from coding to design to door to door sales) may never get to a low load number.
Luckily, the load factor has you covered. It’s a great tool to reduce the uncertainty of planning from the inaccuracy of your guess (one project) to the volatility of your load factor (over several projects). While I initially started using this system to estimate consulting work (where cost overruns are a serious client issue), it has proven so useful I apply it to every aspect of my life.