Monday, September 24, 2007

How Much Longer?

"How much longer, Dad?"

"About 2 hours, Son."

So annoying...but I see myself doing the same thing to my own kids someday. It doesn't matter where you are, you are two hours from where you are trying to get. Two hours is long enough to be in agony (especially if you really gotta go!), but short enough to think that you might be able to make it.

Just as I began to understand under the careful tutelage of my loving father in the above example, I think everybody eventually comes to this simple realization in their life: Time is a funny thing.

Time's rate of progression seems to be directly relative to our own state of mind. We all know that it flies by when you are having fun. Conversely, it seems to drag on forever when you are bored out of your mind or stuck doing something you do not want to do. One cold, hard fact remains. Time is a finite, limited resource; and therefore subject to the laws of scarcity. That is why we can never get enough of it.

I have always been a poor judge of how long it is going to take me to accomplish a given task, and yet I never seem to learn how bad my estimates are. I like to challenge myself sometimes when I have a list of jobs to accomplish. "I will do a, b, c, & d in the next hour and twenty minutes." Usually at the end of the allotted time, I have gotten through the first half of a and thought about d, or less.

When I started painting my house well over a month ago, I estimated I could finish it in a solid week's worth of effort. Oh, how wrong I was! As of tonight, it is still a work in progress. It is "progressing", mind you, but at a snail's pace. I still have over half of the trim in all the hard places to do! I have been thinking in my mind that I will finish by the end of the week, but I have a feeling that is just another one of those self-delusions I am talking about (note: it hasn't helped that I have been sick for a couple weeks now, which I am just getting over. That has sapped my normally vigorous work ethic a bit).

We like to try and plan our lives out for the future, but invariably, our plans are way more ambitious than anything in our pasts would indicate is actually achievable. But we never seem to learn.

In college, my graduate advisor helped me understand this principle of time management. He told me to make my most wild estimates about the time it would take me to complete all the tasks I planned out for my graduate work, trying to envision all that possibly, conceivably go wrong in the process. Then take that number and double or triple it.

When it came down to it, the actual time spent was more like quadruple.

This whole discussion boils down to this simple point: Stuff takes way longer than you think it is going to.

I've learned that in my heart, but yet I can never seem to learn it in my head...