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top priority of the week -- how much time can you devote to it?

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  • top priority of the week -- how much time can you devote to it?

    For a project I estimated at requiring 35 hours, I allowed a week to get it done. Why? I know it is a priority, and surely I can narrow my focus for a week.

    But, carving out 7 hours a day for a particular task turns out to be optimisitic; there are just too many other things that cannot be ignored or put off, even for a week.

    So, my question -- on average, how much time can you devote to the priority of the day? Is it 8 hours? Is it 5? Is it 3?

    Another way to put it -- for something that is really important, how much time is available to it (max) on a daily basis over an extended period of time (say a year) and still live relatively sanely?

    Looking for a little perspective

    Thanks,
    Rob

  • #2
    Less then 50% of my time for pre-defined work.

    I assign less than 50% of my time for pre-defined work. Even if it is one top priority project.

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    • #3
      I personally wouldn't want to commit to spend any amount of time each day for a year on a certain project. I will be making this choice each day from moment to moment (and also considering deadlines).

      I mean if that's the most important project and everything else is not urgent I might work 10 hours a day on it. But the next day I migh work 30 min on it because I will chose to do other things or I'm not in a proper context or energy and etc.

      With all that being said I'd say 3 hours a day would be a relatively safe amount.

      Comment


      • #4
        It depends...

        For me, it depends on whether it's a 'me' or a 'we' priority. If i need to work on something important, 1-2 hours each weekday morning is sustainable over a month or more. On the other hand, if there is an unexpected problem involving other people, it can take four or more hours in a day. But surely 35 hours in a week is completely unrealistic, unless the project has different components which can be worked on over the course of the day and constitutes your sole responsibility at the time. Or if you are on a death march (in the project management sense).

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        • #5
          Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
          So, my question -- on average, how much time can you devote to the priority of the day? Is it 8 hours? Is it 5? Is it 3?

          Another way to put it -- for something that is really important, how much time is available to it (max) on a daily basis over an extended period of time (say a year) and still live relatively sanely?
          Several questions in that request.

          As to how much time can I devote to a priority, it depends. There have been occasions when I put in a full (barring a few breaks to go to the bathroom and scarf down some food) 16 hours on my top priority for the day. It's very hard but sometimes you just have to stay with something until it's done no matter how long it takes. I try to avoid doing that too many days in a row. In a typical workday I try to put in about 4-6 hours working on my top priority projects, about an hour of processing time, about 4-6 hours for interruptions and work as it appears and about 5 hours for fun and family stuff including cooking and eating. I rarely get to work just a 40 hour week and I don't get days off. We take days on occasion or stop at noon and do other stuff but I live where I work and farming is a 365 day a year job.

          For things that are really important I can usually only manage to work 20-25 hours a week on the same project without needing a break or more likely needing to deal with other urgent things in addition to the focus project.

          As to work levels and saneness. I think it depends on whether you enjoy your work and feel it is important or whether it is drudgery. I can get so focused on stuff that I like that I can go 10 hours at a crack and even forget to stop and eat. OTOH For some tasks I don't like to do I can procrastinate with the best of them. Personally even though I get tired on occasion I don't think I'd really tolerate an ordinary job that had fixed hours.

          Comment


          • #6
            This reminds me of the concept of "load factor", which is something that I've been reading about with regard to extreme programming. Anybody who really understands it may prepare to laugh at me for my description below, because odds are that I don't understand it.

            As I understand it, you estimate how many days a task would take you if you were at your best and all you had to do was work on it without distractions all day. Then you multiply that by the "load factor" and that tells you how many calendar days to really expect the task to take. I've seen load factors of 1.5, or 2.5, or 3. Or, for management estimating how long it would take them to do programming tasks, more like 10, because they get so little programming time.

            All of the discussions seem to be very clear that the "load factor" doesn't necessarily mean that you get X productive hours out of Y work hours, or anything that specific. It is, I think, just a number that, from experience, tells you what's likely to happen in the future because it's what happened in the past. The difference between estimation and reality might be a combination of your own mis-estimating, and interruptions, and conflicting tasks, and the time lost by transitioning between tasks, and the time lost at 11am while you think about what you want for lunch, and the percentage of time that you're not at your best, and who knows what else.

            Your estimate that you can get 35 hours of work on this task in 40 hours indicates a load factor of 1.15. I'm inclined to think that a load factor of less than 2 for any non-emergency task is likely to be unrealistic. Even in moderate emergencies, less than 1.5 for any sustained period of time is probably very, very hard to sustain. That "emergency" load factor. would make your 35-hour task take 52 calendar hours, or six and a half days. A moderately realistic, IMO, factor of 2.5 would instead take eleven days.

            Gardener

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            • #7
              Gardener's post on load factors reminds me of a simple estimate of how long a project will take. It's based on having some idea of the most likely amount of time to do the project, the shortest possible time to do it, and the longest imaginable time. The rule of thumb is

              Estimate =(shortest+2*most likely+longest)/4

              For example Estimate = (2 months + 2*3 months + 8 months)/4 = 4 months. I have found this formula a useful way to think about large projects.

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              • #8
                This discussion is helpful. I'm in procurement and negotiate contracts. Side from the problem that we are often slotted into a project plan based on the difference in time between when someone wants to give us a project and when they want to launch is the problem of estimating realistically how long it actually takes.

                I frequently run into the problem of being asked "what is the average time? Well we're sure ours won't take as long as average. We get alonfpg well with the vendor."

                A formula like this will help I think.

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                • #9
                  This is very helpful -- sane scheduling can really improve the quality of my life

                  I like the idea of load factor.

                  If I were a lead, charged with creating new things, maintaining old things, supporting others, creating and supporting processes, and maintaining communication with myi customers as we plan for the future, perhaps I would have load of 3?

                  Thanks,
                  Rob
                  Last edited by ArcCaster; 06-30-2011, 07:50 AM.

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                  • #10
                    You can work out your own load factor specific to your particular job just by tracking your hours for a couple of weeks. Pick weeks that are fairly typical, and you could also track for periods of the year that you are typically busier than normal, eg the month before end of financial year.

                    I've just started this myself, so I can start working out if the timelines I am setting on my projects are realistic or not

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
                      If I were a lead, charged with creating new things, maintaining old things, supporting others, creating and supporting processes, and maintaining communication with myi customers as we plan for the future, perhaps I would have load of 3?
                      I'd lean more toward my example of a manager with a load factor of 10. That may be over-pessimistic, but if you're a lead, 3 seems optimistic. 3 or even 2.5 might be possible for a short period of time, but I think that on a sustained basis, a higher number would be more realistic.

                      Gardener

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