There’s a way to better use your time and be more productive about it. If you ever used any of the advanced project management software, you’ve probably noticed estimated time features. Those are there for a reason. It’s all about keeping track of and calculating your project hours.
Sometimes your projects will be paid for hours worked and also it’s great to know where your team spends their time and how much. But it’s not only about that. Every serious project manager knows this. Estimation and calculation of your project hours leave you in control of the time and helps you better estimate future projects and tasks. It’s all about making you better and more prepared for the future. Especially if your resources are performing similar tasks across different projects.
We all know that ideal situations are rarely happening in the real world. Same goes with time estimation and usage. Let’s jump right in and answer how you can calculate projects hours and get on friendly terms with time.
Estimating The Time
And we’re not talking establishing milestone and chunky weekly timelines here. Sure it’s important, but once you have that bigger plan of your project laid out, it’s time to dive into the details. Really try hard and dissect your projects into a series of manageable tasks for which you’re going to do time estimates, yes hourly. All your projects are and will be time sensitive, and approaching time estimation properly right from the start will make all the difference.
Toggl Plan’s project view feature can help you break a major project into segments and assign your team members to various tasks within each segment.
In the end, it will lead to better estimation of the entire project. And your resources (especially human ones) will be under less stress and everything will work as a charm – because you estimated the time right.
Okay, enough of the talks, let’s walk this through. So, how to go about it?
Easy as it sounds, actually. After you have your daily tasks laid out and your resources allocated you start estimating times – for both the task and the time resource is going to spend on it. Sounds easy, but there’s actually more to it than meets the eyes.
Accept Fallacy And Mind Your Resources
Remember that part about not having ideal situations? You’ll have to bear this in mind for your time estimation. We all like to picture that tasks are going to be done in the time we predicted, but it’s important to acknowledge that’s in our human nature to error. So if you estimated a task to take 3 hours to complete double it to 6 hours.
Why? You ask? Well, somewhere in your daily project plan you’ll have two or more tasks being performed simultaneously, and chances are one (or more) of your resources will get stretched working on those tasks. More reason to do so is if the resource engaged is your team member. You have to mind the stress you’re placing on your human resources, so try to give them enough time to perform and account for the stuff you can’t predict (research, meetings, breaks).
Sure, it will extend the overall duration of the project. But hey, things worth doing are better off done right, and the same goes for your projects. Talk your estimations through with someone else (preferably your team or accountability partner) to get believable projection.
Use Advanced Project Hours Estimation Tools
There’s nothing like technology to help you out when estimating and calculating your project hours. Tools that use Gantt charts are the best for visualizing your timelines – not only for the entire project but even weekly and daily.
Laying it all out on a timeline makes it easier to perceive the time it takes from beginning to the end. And you can even view the overlaps on tasks and resources we talked about, enabling you to plan them out in order that even with doubled estimation it won’t hurt the project’s deadline.
Mind The Available Working Days And Productive Hours Per Day
You cannot predict or say what’s going to happen with person’s time on a given task, but you can know how long you can count on them to be productive. Why not take the advantage of it?
We keep coming back to that ‘non-ideal’ picture but bear with us. You know that 8 working hours a day isn’t something anyone can hope for or even do. Instead of stressing about it, plan your resources time as though they only have 6-6.5 working hours which they really have. This way you’ll account for all those socializing and break times we mentioned earlier. Plus, you’ll have a much better projection of project hours in the end.
Any Resources That Aren’t Full-Time?
We covered your resources with full-time schedules. What about those you can’t count on all the time? Some resources will be available only 50% of the time if not less. Sure, it’s easy math, right? But you have to estimate that they will take twice as much time to complete the activity.
To put things into perspective, an activity you estimated will take 40 hours of effort to complete – it will take at least four weeks to be completed by a resource that’s only available to you 25% of the time.
Keep Track Of Everything
Having good software support is one thing, but it’s equally important to document and keep track of all the assumptions and hourly estimates. It’s like keeping your thoughts in order and make it easier on yourself for the next project planning and hours calculation. If keeping a productivity journal is what it’s going to take, then, by all means, do it. Soon you’ll see how many of unforeseeable things can happen along the way, and this will actually help you to better understand how something you thought would take 3 hours is actually stretched to 6.
We’re not saying that all of the above will apply to every activity – some really take a certain amount of hours, no more, no less. But keep in mind, you’re doing this for the betterment of your future projects and overall productivity.