Most people fail miserably when estimating the amount of time needed to complete a task. Sometimes that’s because they have poor self-confidence. Then, they’re likely to give themselves more time than they really need.
People overestimate their abilities, too. But underestimation typically appears as the more common phenomenon concerning task completion.
Get Familiar With the Fudge Ratio
Calculating your fudge ratio helps you make accurate determinations about the length of time needed for tasks. It indicates your current estimation accuracy for time spent on tasks.
Get started by making a list of tasks. Write down an estimated completion time next to each entry. Time yourself while you work on the responsibilities and write down how long each one actually took.
Next, add up the total time spent working and divide it by the total estimated time. The result is your fudge ratio. For example, ending up with 1.25 means you spent 25 percent longer than expected to finish everything.
Expect your fudge ratio to vary depending on the kinds of tasks. However, as you compute the fudge ratio more frequently, you’ll find an average. Then you can add up your time estimates and multiply the total by your typical fudge ratio.
A timer is one of the most effective tools you can use to curb underestimation. Spend at least a few days—or even a full workweek—timing every task you do. Try not to form presumptions about your performance beforehand.
After tracking your time for the decided-upon amount of time, look at the totals. Whether you write them down or review the amounts in an app, you’ll probably find some surprises.
Besides the instances where you performed faster than anticipated, you’ll see room for improvement. Don’t get too bogged down by those shortcomings, though. Think of your journey toward better productivity as always in progress.
A timer app helps you get specifics about time spent instead of forcing you to make estimates.
Download: Timer+ for iOS (Free with paid version) Download: Multi Timer StopWatch for Android (Free with in-app purchases)
Write Down Goals and Accomplishments
Your day may seem so fast-paced that you don’t have time to appreciate accomplishments. That’s why it’s important to jot down goals or other things achieved as they happen. Then review the content later.
It’s easy to become discouraged by momentary setbacks that make accomplishments less evident. Documenting your successes jogs your memory and proves your worthiness.
Consider making a notebook in Evernote to track all the highlights of your day. The cloud-based service simplifies adding material that shows up across devices.
Download: Evernote for iOS | Android (Free with premium plans)
Look for Slowdowns in Your Workflow
Sometimes the reason you don’t get as much done as expected isn’t your fault. A time-tracking application including screenshots and activity rates could tell the true tale.
Hubstaff monitors keystrokes and mouse movement. It also takes up to three random screenshots every ten minutes. Those images give context to your productivity.
You might discover that an individual application slows you down because it isn’t user-friendly. Or perhaps slow Wi-Fi speed is the culprit. Whatever the case, you can take those findings and use them to aim for future improvements.
Download: Hubstaff for iOS | Android (Free with premium plans)
Record Your Negative Thoughts
Many people find that negative thinking impacts their lives and reduces their potential productivity. They may reveal those doomed thoughts to friends. The feedback given could teach you that the mental dialogue is not realistic.
However, what about the times when friends are not nearby to give perspective? In those cases, use a voice-recording app while speaking your thoughts out loud.
Later, listen to the recording. You’ll probably hear alarmist characteristics that make you realize your lack of confidence. When that happens, force yourself to recognize those elements and attempt to gain a more balanced perspective.
Download: Voice Recorder & Audio Editor for iOS (Free with in-app upgrade) Download: Smart Recorder for Android (Free with in-app purchases)
Identify Reasons Behind Mood Changes
Being in a down mood may prevent you from noticing that you’re on target with productivity goals. Conversely, you might think a perceived lack of productivity caused a discouraged emotional state. Moods are very complicated, and countless things can trigger them.
Tracking your moods as they happen increases your emotional awareness. In turn, you can use that knowledge to work on simple tasks until you feel more upbeat.
Plus, using a mood tracker helps you realize the things that put you in a temporary slump. Then, you’ll see that a disagreement or the fact that your pet’s sick affect moods too.
It’s too easy to fall into the trap of self-defeating thoughts when you think about productivity. Then, you might start underestimating yourself merely because you believe you are failing. However, together with a timer, a mood tracker might indicate you are performing well despite the emotional turmoil.
Maybe you underestimate your productivity because of what the past tells you. In other words, a consistent failure to meet goals could make you conclude you’re incapable. But what if you set more goals during a given day than any human could meet?
Becoming more acquainted with your fudge ratio should help avoid that. It’s useful to ensure you come up with realistic goals, too. Often, that means accomplishing fewer things daily but doing your best and not feeling drained afterward.
Using an app called CommitTo3 teaches you to pick the three most important tasks each day. Provided you finish those, move on to some less-significant responsibilities.
Getting in the habit of tackling three major things each day boosts self-esteem. Then, underestimation as a result of low self-worth becomes less prevalent.
Download: CommitTo3 for iOS or Android (Free with premium plans)
Utter and Listen to Positive Affirmations
We covered how negativity compromises productivity. Fortunately, you can also unlock your potential with consciously positive thinking.
Make a list of positive affirmations related to productivity. They might include, “I always give my best effort” or “I have the skills to excel.”
Then, say them either out loud or in your head throughout the day. It’s especially important to call upon the affirmations if you feel upset.
The ThinkUp app allows selecting affirmations from a library of expert-approved options or inputting your own. Then, record the messages in your voice and listen to them as needed.
Download: ThinkUp for iOS or Android (Free with in-app purchases)
Reduce Your Cognitive Biases
Cognitive biases negatively affect decision making, reasoning, and evaluation practices. They are errors in thinking that often happen when people cling to beliefs despite contrary information.
Cognitive biases apply to productivity, too. What if the tips above show you’re more productive than you thought—but you ignore the evidence? That outcome could perpetuate your underestimation tactics.
There’s also something called attentional bias. It happens when reoccurring thoughts affect perceptions.
Consider that the things capturing your attention influence your thoughts. You might see a long to-do list and assume you’ll never get the tasks finished. If you simultaneously think, “I never get tasks done on time,” you’ll believe that and keep underestimating.
The Mood Mint app, called Happy Faces on Android, helps you monitor your thoughts and resultant perceptions. Then, you could see how the two fit into productivity and impact your actions. It has a cognitive bias modification component that trains your brain to focus on positive information.
Additionally, a “Happy Notes” feature activates during each cognitive bias modification session. It shows content to help boost your mood and promote better habits.
Download: Mood Mint for iOS ($2.99) Download: Happy Faces for Android (Free)
How Do You Avoid Productivity Pitfalls?
All of us underestimate ourselves from time to time, particularly concerning productivity. Fortunately, you can now start overcoming that obstacle.
Start with the tools and suggestions above. Also, remember that progress takes time and staying dedicated pays off. Your efforts to avoid underestimation of time could put you on a path to better-than-ever productivity.