Time Estimates and Self Delusion

A few weeks ago, I re-opened the Pandora’s box of hyper-scheduling, and the email started pouring in. One common problem I heard from folks implementing their own hyper-schedules went something like this. “Dear Dave, I tried your nerdy block schedule thing, but it was a bust by lunchtime. Even though I spent a bunch of time planning my day, nothing was getting done on time and I had to abandon it.” The reason for this particular problem is our shared inability to estimate how long it takes to get work done. If you try block scheduling but make the blocks too short, you’ll make yourself crazy. 

Hyper-scheduling requires time and space.


If you are going to try this out, give some thought to your time estimates and how long it will actually take to finish a project. Consider all the nuances and expected complications and figure out how long that would take. Then double that number. I’m not kidding. If you reserve time that doubles your initial estimate, you’ll be able to get the work done. Maybe, after a while, you’ll get better at realistic time estimates but start by doubling.

By increasing the time blocks, that means have fewer of them. That’s a feature, not a bug. Hyper-scheduling is about making a realistic evaluation of the work to be done during the day and actually getting it done. It’s easy to load your self up in the morning with more tasks than you can realistically complete. You then spin your wheels all day and end up accomplishing little. Instead, make a plan and stick to the plan. You’ll get more done.


You also need to build space into a block schedule. I’ll often leave some empty one-hour blocks in the day to deal with unexpected issues. I also give myself space after any particularly intensive project to take the dog for a walk and clear my head before diving in again.

Making the blocks forces you to make the hard decisions about what you’re going to accomplish in a given day before you start working. It’s the difference between “ready, aim, fire” and “fire, aim, ready”. Being realistic about time and space is what lets you get those important tasks done.