Paths to success through 21st century skills - Estimation

Paths to success through 21st century skills - Estimation

Have you seen people who are always rushing late for a class or a meeting or to catch a train or flight? There are also other types of people, most likely from your parents’ generation, who arrive at the station or airport several hours early. Both these sets of people suffer from the lack of an estimation skill. Are you one of those who maintain a list of 10 things to do over a weekend but find that you finish only half of them by Monay? This is due to the lack of an estimate of how much can be done in a given time period. Given that Chennai and Bangalore are roughly about 350 kms apart, would you be able to estimate how long it will take to reach Bangalore? Of course, it depends upon your mode of transport. What if you travel by train? by air? by car? You must be aware of the average speed of each of these modes to make an accurate estimate. And the last one also depends on the road and traffic conditions.

Estimation is one of the important 21st century skills. When you make a commitment to your boss, or to anyone else, regarding when you will finish a task, you should be able to calculate a reasonable estimate of how long it will take, taking into account potential bottlenecks that may occur. Your commitment and words are at stake here.

Other instances when you undoubtedly need estimation skill is planning for an event or creating a study plan for an upcoming exam.

In olden days when we were all stitching new clothes for Deepavali, you would have seen a queue outside the tailor shop asking when their pants and shirts will be done. The tailor without blinking an eye will say ‘Tomorrow'. He is content with handling you at that moment and is not concerned about having to handle you again the following day. Corporate world doesn't work this way. Numerous factors depend on your commitment. It is better to estimate correctly rather than defaulting on an ambitious commitment.

Specifically, if you expect to be roughly twenty minutes late for a meeting, it is preferable to let people know well in advance (rather than right at the beginning of the meeting). Remember that people who are busy typically have a full calendar, thus your meeting's delay could cause them to have multiple scheduling conflicts.

Let's understand by an example of when to leave home to take a train leaving at 8pm from a central station. How do you decide when to leave? Suppose you are taking an auto rickshaw to the train station from home and normally it takes 40 minutes. Most people will jump and say that then you need to leave at 7:20pm. Is that accurate? Well, maybe not. Let's accomodate a buffer of 15 minutes for traffic delays. So, leave at 7:05pm? Again, may not. Are you comfortable reaching the station at 8pm to catch a train starting at 8 pm? You need to navigate into the station, find the platform, and walk to your coach on the platform. Give yourself 20 minutes for that. So leave at 6:45pm? Not enough again, as you may want to sit in your coach and relax for 15 minutes. So leaving at 6:30pm will give you enough time to cover for traffic delays,reach your coach, and be there 15 minutes early. Some of you may feel comfortable reaching the coach half an hour before, in that case leave at 6:15pm or 6 pm. If you encounter any delay in leaving, and you notice traffic snarl, you can anticipate that you are going to miss the train (or the meeting) and might as well make alternative plans.

You will lose time at the station if you leave too early, and you won't have enough time to account for traffic delays if you leave later. Of course, there may be a procession that causes an hour-long traffic wait; either you learn about it and plan for it, or just take the risk. Although it can be preferable to arrive early and wait, doing so could have additional drawbacks, such as difficulty finding a decent restaurant or restrooms.

If you do intend to take the bus to the station, then account for the duration of the bus ride, the time you will need to wait at the bus stop, and make sure you depart at the appointed time. The majority of us underestimate this, therefore we either arrive extremely early or really late. It is the same process when you plan study time for your exam. Rather than saying that'lI will do this tomorrow', try to schedule a time to complete the task. This will help you to realise if you can complete within timeline or you are being over ambitious. In the latter case, you may need to cut down your other tasks to find room for the new work you plan to do, or be realistic and extend the schedule. Overstretching your work schedule without taking your fitness and health into account is pointless.

It is said that while good planning may not necessarily lead to success, poor planning will always result in failure.