When I drive to my parents’ house, I can estimate our arrival time within 2 minutes. It’s over 100 miles away.
Marie thinks I have a superpower. Maybe I do, but it just doesn’t seem that hard.
First of all, I’ve made the drive hundreds of times. I have a lot of history to draw on.
Second, driving time is a simple math problem: Total miles divided by average speed. Miles are fixed. Speed is where I need to do some estimates based on variables. There are three things I take into account: Traffic congestion, weather, and if I need to stop for gas. All three are usually known to me prior to making my estimate.
To determine my number, I start with my driving time in ideal conditions, 1:38, and then add time based on my experience with other factors.
It’s true there are three stop lights and a rail crossing that can create an unexpected delay, but more times than not, there isn’t a train, and the average light delays are built into my ideal conditions time.
Once I’ve calculated my ETA, I like to tell Marie and even encourage her to text my parents and give them the exact minute of our arrival. It creates a little excitement because I know they will notice and comment about how close I came.
Estimate Your Meeting’s Length
When teaching people how to create a meeting agenda, I always get this question: “How do you know how long the meeting should be?” I’m glad when someone asks because that means at least one person has realized a meeting doesn’t have to last exactly one hour.
I tell them to make a list of meeting activities, estimate the length each will take, and add them all up. That number is how long the meeting should last.
Still, when we work through an example of doing this, people don’t quite grasp the concept. We could make our list and after estimating each activity have a total meeting length of one hour and 18 minutes. When I ask the group how much time they’ll schedule for the meeting, the first person almost always says, “90 minutes.” When I ask how many agree, most of the hands in the room go up.
“But your estimate was 12 minutes less than that,” I note. The class argues in that case they’ll finish early and everyone will be happy.
The problem is that you won’t finish early. If you’ve got an hour and a half, you’ll fill it. Happens every time.
My challenge to you is to be bold. Make your best guess and schedule the meeting for that amount of time. Combine that will a commitment to get your work done in the time you stated and then make it happen.
You set the time, and you are also running the meeting. That means you control the speed. When I’m getting closer to my parents’ home and realize my estimate is a little off, I notice I either speed up or slow down in order to arrive when I said.
You can do the same thing in a meeting by letting conversations linger a bit or push them to a quicker resolution.
There’s a lot of hard stuff to deal with when it comes to planning and leading meetings. Getting the time right isn’t near the top of the list.
If you normally go with the default of one hour, it’s time for a new approach. Figuring it out. Be precise. Make your prediction, and then make it come true.
And if you are little off, note how much and where your estimates were high or low. That’s called experience, and the more you have the better you’ll be at creating estimates that are spot on.