Time spent on a project


2005-8-26

There is a discrepancy between "time spent on a project" and "time to completion". Stating the obvious? Well, maybe. But through my new work-time arragement this has become even more visible to me.

I have has times in the past where I had eight hour workdays. Somehow I always had the feeling I wasted almost half of that time on task-switching, organisational things and communication. Very often I'd come in by nine and not effectively start doing actual work before about noon. Later when I went freelance and did no longer have fixed working hours I made the experience that I usually got my daily workload done in about 3-4 hours. I could have stayed longer than that, but I learned very soon that I didn't get any more done if I worked longer hours. Reflecting on myself about this I soon noticed that I was actually "working away from my desk" in between. When I left the office my mind would frequently keep on pondering the tasks at hand. Coming in on the next day I was able to solve quite some problems that had me blocked and grumbeling just the day before.

So where is all this leading? To two realisations: 1) The actual time spent on the computer has nothing to do with the productivity or number of solved problems. 2) The problem-solving mind (programmer etc) actually needs these breaks away from actual work to "work things out". So if I can solve n problems in n hours I will NOT solve 2*n problems in 2*n consequtive hours! I cannot solve more by working longer at one time.

So the breaks need to be taken into account and calculated.

So if we calculate "time to completion" on a project, we need to take into account how many productive hours we can do per day. Only thus can we calculate the amount of days it will take to complete the project. Common sense would simply try and stuff as many hours into each day as possible and think that the raw amount of hours needed would stay the same.

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alles Bild, Text und Tonmaterial ist © Martin Spernau, Verwendung und Reproduktion erfordert die Zustimmung des Authors

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