Scheduling for Results

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It's typical to overestimate what you can accomplish in a day, and then underestimate what you can accomplish in a year.

Effective scheduling demands knowing how long a task takes.

But, it's impossible to be precise if you've never done it before. So start with a guesstimate. And then, keep track of how long the work takes so you can plan more effectively in the future.

Revise your schedule as you become more accurate in estimating time.

Highlight the dependent projects on your to-do list: the ones that can't be started until a previous task is finished. Line them up so they flow into a sequence, noting how long each step will take.

Schedule backwards from your deadline, being sure to give yourself wiggle room for unforeseen circumstances. If you know the last step will only take three days, give it another day or so. Build in reporting dates and benchmarks.

Ask yourself: where do you need to be 30 days out from deadline? 60 days out?

Fill in the slow times with anytime projects, those that are independent of the rest of the tasks but still need to be done.

Continue working backwards, including dependent tasks and the anytime projects, until the schedule is filled in.

At this point it may be time to panic. You'll realize you should have started three months ago last Tuesday to finish by your deadline.

Welcome to the world of too much to do, too little time. The hard question to ask is what can go?

At this point, most consultants advise: you can have it cheap, you can have it great, you can have it fast. Choose two.

Do a quick assessment to decide what you can let slip, cost, quality, or time. Make the adjustments and get to work!

Copyright © 2005 Pat Wiklund. All rights in all media reserved. This article may be reprinted so long as it is kept intact with the copyright and by-line.

Pat Wiklund is known as the One-Person Business Turnaround Specialist. She works with professional services business owners so they can make more money and get more personal satisfaction from their work. Start taking charge of your business and your life with her TakingCharge mini ecourse from her latest book, Taking Charge When You’re Not in Control by sending a blank email to

Contact Pat at


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