New Tasks Always Take 4X as Long

When was the last time that you had to do something for first time.

Did you roll up your sleeves and get it done?

How long did it take?

Probably much longer than you thought.

There were difficulties and complications that you didn’t expect.

Hopefully, you were not under a tight deadline.

On the positive side, it was probably a learning experience.

I’ll bet you lunch that the new task took much longer than you estimated.

The First Time Always Takes the Longest

We underestimate how long something is going to take the first time we attempt it.

The first time…

- Takes the Longest – A good rule of thumb is that a new task will take 4X as much time as you estimated.

- Is the Hardest – Until you have done something, you don’t know what to expect. You will run into problems that you didn’t know about until you tried the undertaking.

- Takes Practice – Until you have actually done something yourself, you will not develop the skills needed to do it well. What took 2 hours this time, may only take you 30 minutes after you are proficient.

Whether it is something as simple as a quick home improvement project or doing a report at work, we are notoriously bad at guessing how long endeavours will take.

“Oh, it will only take 15 minutes.”

But, then you didn’t have the materials or tools needed. You realized halfway through that you forgot a step and will have to start over. Or you had to run back to the store for a missing item. And so on…

Finally, 2 hours later you are frantically cleaning up and rushing to your next appointment.

Being Ready for the First Time

How can you mitigate the unknown of new tasks?

Here are some tips to aid in attempting that new task:

  • Prepare – Have the instructions, materials, and tools ready and at hand. (I hear you… “I always look at the instructions.” Yeah, right!) A little bit of preparation will ensure that you don’t get halfway though your project and realize you are missing a crucial piece. It could be missing data for a report or a needed tool for a project.
  • Roll Up Your Sleeves – When something needs to be done for the first time, do it yourself. Roll up your sleeves and get in there. If it is something your team is doing for the first time, be there in person to observe and provide support. (Not interference!)
  • Get Advice – Seek guidance from someone who has done the task before. If there is an expert on hand, get their best tips. If you don’t have access to a person, go online. YouTube and other websites provide video walkthroughs of almost any task you can imagine.
  • Do it Before it is Needed – Do that new task now. You don’t want to be doing it for the first time in a crisis. That is why we do drills for the most serious of situations. So when a emergency hits, you can do things without thinking. You have done it before.
  • Leave Extra Time – Inevitably, the new task will take longer than you think. Allow extra time. Provide slack in your schedule and keep well ahead of deadlines.

Allow Time For the First Time

The next time you have to do something for the first time, allow extra time.

You will trip up on even the simplest of details.

That is how experience and skill are built.

What takes an hour the first time, may only take 20 minutes in the future.

You will know what it takes the next time.

And as the saying goes, knowing is half the battle.

What task did you recently have to do for the first time? Did it take you longer than you expected?

No time for time management? Check out my online course designed to jump start your productivity! Take it online on your time and pace. As well, get direct access to me for advice and questions. Get details or enroll now by clicking here!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://nn-g.blogspot.com/ Giannini

    I thought: that is so true

  • nina__g_

    I thought that is so true

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/buyer2 RossDenton

    This makes me think of the two gas grills that I assembled this weekend. The first grill took almost an hour to assemble. The second took about 20 minutes. Once it wasn’t new, strange, and unknown it was a cinch.

    • TMNinja

      @RossDenton Ross, that is a great example!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/buyer2 RossDenton

    This makes me think of the two gas grills that I assembled this weekend. The first grill took almost an hour to assemble. The second took about 20 minutes. Once it wasn’t new, strange, and unknown it was a cinch.

  • TMNinja

    @RossDenton Ross, that is a great example!

  • http://www.timokiander.com/ timokiander

    This is true. The first time is always the hardest.

    However, what I love the most about this is when you are able to realize the progress you have achieved. That improves your self-confidence too, because you realize that you don’t suck in that task after all – even if it took hours to get it done the first time :)

    • TMNinja

      @timokiander True true. It can also be about confidence! Not just know-how.

      Thanks!

  • http://www.timokiander.com/ timokiander

    This is true. The first time is always the hardest.

    However, what I love the most about this is when you are able to realize the progress you have achieved. That improves your self-confidence too, because you realize that you don’t suck in that task after all – even if it took hours to get it done the first time :)

  • Pingback: TaskRabbit RoundUp: GET IT DONE! | Taskrabbit Blog()

  • TMNinja

    @timokiander True true. It can also be about confidence! Not just know-how.

    Thanks!

  • amydostafford

    What an excellent post! Preparation and an open mind is the key to more knowledge and experience.

    I love the mention of rolling up your sleeves. It helps great leaders motivate team members as they work together. Leaders who do not mind getting their hands dirty, gain a level of respect words cannot.

  • amydostafford

    What an excellent post! Preparation and an open mind is the key to more knowledge and experience.

    I love the mention of rolling up your sleeves. It helps great leaders motivate team members as they work together. Leaders who do not mind getting their hands dirty, gain a level of respect words cannot.

  • amydostafford

    What an excellent post! Preparation and an open mind is the key to more knowledge and experience.

    I love the mention of rolling up your sleeves. It helps great leaders motivate team members as they work together. Leaders who do not mind getting their hands dirty, gain a level of respect words cannot.