I recently hung new curtains in my bedroom. (Note: the picture of the curtains to the left is not my bedroom) I took down the old hanging blinds, installed the hardware for the new curtain rod and had the curtains up and finished in under an hour, including clean up AND listing the blinds and their hardware on Freecycle. I am thrilled to have finished this project because I hated the old blinds from the day I moved into this house six years ago. They were old, cracked and many didn’t even clip onto the track properly anymore. Also, they were a hideous maroon color that did not match my room. The new ones are beautiful and make me smile every time I walk into the room. Just the simple project of hanging curtains has improved the quality of my life substantially.
I am slightly embarrassed to admit the curtains had been sitting in my room for over a year before I hung them. Every time I thought about the whole process, I thought to myself, “I don’t have time to do that.” I really believed it would be a long, drawn out process requiring a huge block of time which didn’t motivate me to get it done. If I had known a year ago that the process was going to be so quick and easy, I would have been enjoying my curtains much sooner than this.
I am shocked at how often we overestimate how long it’s going to take to do something. We are really good at making mountains out of molehills when it comes to time. People often tell me, “I’d love to start my own business but I just don’t have the time.” And if your definition of time is quitting your job and spending 40 hours a week instantly on it, you’re right, you don’t have the time. But maybe you do have the time to work on it for an hour each night. And you might be shocked at how much you can get done in one concentrated hour.
Maybe you don’t think you can get in shape because you don’t have the time. Twenty minutes three times a week is all it takes. Twenty little minutes. Since I know you’re online because you’re reading this, I’m going to guess that you’ll spend a minimum of 20 minutes online right now- it’s amazing how quickly it goes by, right?
You might be thinking, well how about all those things that end up taking so much more time than you planned – like calling Verizon when your internet is down or having to make three trips to the DMV. Yup those things happen. But more often than not, my experience is that I’m NOT expecting how long it’s going to take when something like that sucks my afternoon away. In fact, it’s usually something so mundane, I can’t even foresee how it could go so wrong as to eat up three or four hours of my life.
Overestimating can cause us to put off an activity- maybe just for a little while, maybe for a really long time. It’s as if we become overwhelmed with the work, before we’ve even started it. And for me, I feel a little foolish when the dreaded task, the one I avoided with so much resistance, the task that by not doing it held me back in some way, only takes a fraction of the time I spent even fussing about it.
So today, I encourage you to think about something that will make a difference in your life but you’ve been putting it off because you believe it will take too long. Write down how much time you think it’s going to take you and then time yourself attending to it. See if you complete it much more quickly than you expected. There’s a little rush attached to finishing it so fast not to mention the satisfaction you’ll feel having completed something that adds to the quality of your life. And then remember this the next time you resist doing something solely on the basis of how much time you think it will take. Want to be more productive? Want to move faster towards your goals and dreams? Work on developing a better sense of the time it takes to do things and you’ll tackle tasks more often. That’s true productivity.