• Bryce Barrows

How long will it take to get the job done? Why our timing is off! productivity




Has your boss ever given you work to do and asked you how long it will take you to complete it. And you blurt out “I will have it done in an hour”.

An hour later you still seem to be stuck working on the task and you are nowhere close to finishing it.


I know the feeling I have been there a number of times. I have to admit this was one of my major weaknesses as a young professional.


Under pressure I would give a close completion time /date just to make the boss / management happy and was never ever be able to deliver on time.

What this did was make me look indecisive and showed that I over committed and underperformed. Really not good at all!


These are 2 things you really don’t want your boss or upper management taking note off. Always remember the way to success in the corporate world is to under commit and over perform. That is a sign of Excellence.


What I mean by this is if a task would take a day to complete. Commit on delivering it within 2 days. This gives you plenty of time to complete the work and also deliver a day in advance. It also gives you plenty of time to make changes or corrections to your work if needed.


In your bosses eyes you will appear as the person who always delivers on time. The efficient and trustworthy subordinate. The person he / she can trust on. This is a sure shot way to get you into the spotlight and will lead to multiple promotions and much more.


On another note, talking about time as mentioned above, we always tend to get it wrong. We can never give the proper delivery time. Why is this? Scientific research has shown that as human beings we really cannot gauge time. So when committing we tend to be off quite substantially. In some cases you will deliver way before our commitment and at times way after. The latter seems to be more common.


I really cannot remember but I came across a formula that seems to work for me when committing on time. I really can't remember where I read it, it could have been in Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You have more time than you think. Really not sure. But what’s important is the formula:


Best case time + (4 X Most likely time) + worst case time/ 6


You will need to convert time into minutes for this to work


So lets try an example:

Lets suppose your boss asks you for a report and you tell him you will deliver it within an hour (60 mins). That will be your Most likely time. Now you may have told him this because in your head you had a picture in your mind that you could have it done in 45 mins. This would be your most likely time. Now let us suppose you had a series of calls, interruptions and delays. What would be your time in such a case. Lets say that would be 1 and a half hour (90 mins).

Now lets input this data into the formula above.

(45 + (4 x 60) + 90) /6

(45 + 240 +90) / 6

375 /6

= 62.5


What this means is that you would deliver the work with a 2 and a half minute delay ie. of 1 hour and 2 ½ minutes instead of in one hour.


This formula has helped me a number of times and saved me from throwing myself into the deep end of the pool. I hope it works for you too.

I am attaching an excel sheet which makes the above easier to use. Please feel free to download and use it. The formula is already embedded so all you need to do is put in your data and it will calculate the time of delivery for you. Here’s the Excel

I would love to hear your comments on the above formula. Please do share your experiences with us.

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