Mindful Moments: Stories and Lessons of Procrastination

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Flux time = permission to take longer than expected.

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“Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today” is the maxim. Ignoring it is my personal favorite form of procrastination. “Tomorrow I’ve got 4 hours open. I’ll get this done work then, no problem. And so today I can goof around, right?” Uh uh.

It turns out that people consistently underestimate how much time it will take to get something done. This throws your schedule way off if you’re counting on doing more tomorrow. Plus not staying on schedule can, in and of itself, be demotivating: a bad feedback loop.

So what’s the tip for dealing with underestimation? It’s not enough to just say “This will take longer than I expect” because we already think we’re making allowances for that when we set our initial time estimate. So instead we can budget a separate flux time which we can either use on project that go over time or for goofing around if we get ahead. That’s right… goofing around is OK! Especially if it’s a reward for being on top of things.

It’s easier to see the logic of this when we look at a group that needs help scheduling time… Let’s say you’re setting the agenda to a meeting with a hard two hour time limit. It will help your group to have written expectations for how long each section of the meeting will take. So you make your best guess… this topic will take 10 minutes to go over, this discussion can be capped at 20 minutes, introductions should take more than 5 minutes… etc. Well we all know that meeting items can take longer than we want them to. So are we setting ourselves up to fail by writing down how long they should take? Not if we use flux time. Adding “Flux time: 20 minutes” to the bottom of a 1 hour and 40 minute meeting agenda lets us have permission to spend a bit longer on any meeting section that needs extra time. If a discussion goes longer, for example, then the group can quickly decide to use some flux time to get to a good stopping place before moving on. And at the end of the meeting, if you didn’t use all your flux time then that extra time can be spent chatting or getting back to doing something else ahead of schedule.

Flux time is equally helpful for our own project estimations. Once we get past the ego issue, setting personal flux time as part of any project estimation can be very helpful. The percentage of flux time to schedule will vary, but I’d suggest starting with the most amount of time you’ve ever gone over on a schedule in the past. If you start out with 100% flux time scheduled then that’s totally ok. You can always decrease that percentage as you get used to it. And remember to take that extra time to do something as a reward!


Written by clayward

March 29, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Posted in goals, tips

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