Knowing How Long It Will Take is the Mark of a Professional

When the mechanic or plumber can tell you how long it will take to fix your problem, you are instantly more confident that they will do a good job.  If they know how long it will take, then they must already be familiar with what needs to be done…

As a software engineering professional for 30+ years, I have listened to countless programmers trying to convince others that there’s no way to estimate how long it will take to write a program.  The only thing they convince me of is their lack of competence.  When somebody tries to tell me that there’s no way to know long it will take to do something, that’s the surest sign that they don’t know what they’re doing and I need to get as far away from them as quickly as possible.

I guess it takes a certain amount of hubris to say this after screwing up the schedule of my blog posting so emphatically recently.  All I can say is that it’s obvious that I’m not a professional blogger (yet.)  And it becomes a case study in why it’s a necessary skill for a professional to be able to estimate how long it will take to do something.  For bloggers, it’s important to set a posting schedule for their blog and then meet that schedule.  Even if you don’t blow it as spectacularly as I have recently, being rushed will lead to crappier writing and just generally worse articles.

Returning to our blog writing process…

  1. We’ll start by making a single page list of the steps with plenty of room to add blogger hours and elapsed time next to each step.
  2. Before starting our estimating, we need to first verify we haven’t left out any steps.
  3. Now let’s make a best guess estimate at how long it will take to complete each step.  It doesn’t have to be very accurate as we will test and refine our estimates as we go along.  We just need a starting point.  (Of course, the more accurate our best guess estimates are, the quicker we’ll finish our testing and refinement. 😉 )
  4. For each step, try to think of any information that will help you refine or qualify your estimate.  For example, non-technical articles don’t need much, if any, research, so we can eliminate the time needed for research for non-technical articles.  I also know that “Person of Interest” articles take longer to outline than “Site of Interest” articles.  More generically, I believe that writing a draft of an article takes about 3 hours.  Reviewing a draft takes an hour, so if I need one draft to write an article, it’s 4 hours.  Two drafts will take 8 hours and so on, if even more are needed.
  5. Try to write a post within the best guess estimates and adjust the estimates as needed.  Repeat until the estimates match the actual time it takes you to write a post.

Once you have an accurate estimate of how long it takes to write posts, file it with your style and topic guides so you can refer to it when planning posts.  The time you invest now in understanding how long it takes to write a post will come back to you many times over during your blogging career.





Tweaks For Gmail

Testing… testing…  Is this thing on? <thunk> <thunk> Ahh, folks, I’m still testing my gmail stuff so the article isn’t quite ready.  I’ll update it as soon as it’s done.   It should be soon…

Uhh, this article must be cursed.  Today I was trying to test creating filters and the “create a filter” link had disappeared!  Others have reported seeing (or not seeing) the same thing.  And the Google help is not very helpful about it.  More info when I learn more…

Thanks for your patience.


I apologise for not posting for 11 days

It’s ironic that while I’m working on an article on setting a schedule for posting to your blog that I should utterly fail at doing so.

At this point, I don’t know for sure why I stopped for so long but I do recognize some patterns in my behavior that leads me to think that there may be something in how my brain was rewired by the stroke that makes it difficult to (re-)start something that I stopped working on.  I’ve seen this happen in the middle of tasks that I’m working on, like washing the laundry, and during my day as well as things that I’m working on over days or weeks.

It makes it really difficult for me to be successful because one of the necessary skills is being able to handle the unexpected and compensate or adapt.  It’s also difficult for me to maintain relationships where I don’t have a regular schedule or external trigger that reminds me to reconnect with the other person.  Before I know it, it’s days, weeks or months later and nothing’s happened in all that time.

There are strategies that I can employ to help me deal with my wiring… For the blog, I will make the schedule a requirement for me.  I will work on articles with their publication date in mind and if I can’t get an article done in time to make a publication date, I’ll juggle articles and find one that can be published then.  And if I miss a schedule date completely, I will sit down the next day and post an acknowledgement that I missed a schedule date and when the next article will be posted.  (Today, I expect my next article to be posted on Friday, in two days.  And I expect to continue posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from then on.)

Once again, my apologies.


Richard Bach (Person of Interest)

I only know Richard Bach through his books but several themes come up so consistently that I’m sure they represent Richard Bach’s point of view.  And since many of his books are set as autobiographical, it’s difficult not to think that we know him.

I’ve recently reread Richard Bach’s “Illusions” and “Bridge Across Forever” and they present very intriguing ideas about our existence beyond our mortal lives.  For someone considering the meaning of life, they provide a lot of fodder for consideration.  I first ran across Richard Bach when I read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” for the first time many, many years ago.  I then read “illusions” and “Bridge Across Forever” when they first came out.

While I believe that it’s possible that we create the realities we live, I don’t go so far as saying that they are all illusions.  We can’t just think about something and it will magically appear in our lives.  But at some level, we do influence what happens in our lives.  For us less advanced souls, we can’t float a wrench in mid-air or make clouds disappear, but we can steer our lives in directions that we want.

Personal IT, everyone needs it but who has it?

Before the stroke, I was the IT expert for family and friends.  Some time after getting home from the hospital, I realized that I don’t remember how to care for PCs and other computing equipment like I used to.  Now I’m like everyone else.  How do they handle keeping their computing environment going?

So, now I have to learn how to keep PCs and networks running (again.)  At least I used to know how to.  That means I know I can do it.  I just have to figure out the how.  🙂

First order of business is to find some mentors who can teach me and be a sounding board while I explore alternatives.  I used to have a bunch of friends in the business who had different expertise and we helped each other with  stuff that we knew that others didn’t know as much.  here was always at least one who could help me with a problem. But being out of circulation for 3 years means that I’ve lost contact with everyone – even if they know I’m not dead.  I guess I need to start emailing and calling old friends and associates.

IT is not that difficult.  You just need to be patient and solve problems. But it helps to have mentors that can help you with stuff you haven’t seen before; folks who can tell you when you’re on the right track or when you should try something different.  Maybe we can mentor each other.  As I re-learn this IT stuff,  I’ll post about it.  And if you know something, you can share it with all of us in a comment or guest post. TIA!  Not in the medical sense, in the Internet lingo sense for “thanks in advance!”  🙂


Make ToDo Lists Work for You

My father was my first superhero, even before Superman.  Besides being big and strong, he was always calm and things seemed to go well around him. He got more done than anybody else I ever met.  And we never had to go back and unplug the iron or retrieve someone’s toothbrush.

I think my Dad’s super-power was his using To Do lists.  Pretty much whenever he had a bunch of time and stuff he needed to get done, he’d have a To Do list made up.  And when there was a bunch of things that had to be done to accomplish some goal, he’d make up a To Do list for it.

There are numerous benefits to using To Do lists:

  • You are less likely to forget something.
  • You are less likely to run out of time (or at least, not be surprised when you start to run out of time.)
  • Making a To Do list gives you the opportunity to think about what you are going to do ahead of time.  So you think about what you will be doing, how to do it, what tools, materials or other prerequisites are needed.  You can estimate how long each item should take and how much time you have so you shouldn’t be surprised if you start to run out of time and it’s less likely that you won’t be able to finish your list, assuming that your estimates are close.
  • If you have a list to work from, you are not spending as much time and energy figuring out stuff.  As a result, you can focus more on doing and less on thinking about it.
  • When you move the list out of your memory, you free up more of your brain and memory to use on other stuff.  So you’ll able to use your brain for other things, which makes you practically smarter.
  • Having better control of what you are doing reduces your stress, making you more effective because you are calmer.  Besides, no one has fun when they are stressed out.
  • Having more confidence in what you are doing makes you more effective and encourages others to trust you, making it easier to convince them to do what you want.
  • Having a physical list makes it easier to share what you are doing.  Others can better understand a written list and it’s easier for them to “see” what you are doing.

To Do lists are easy to make and easy to use.  Even if you aren’t so good at them in the beginning, they are still helpful and you’ll get better with practice.  They don’t have to be complicated or pretty.  They just need to provide reminders of what you intend to do so that whatever you need to remember, the list can provide it for you (or trigger your memory to remember it.)

You want to make your first lists more descriptive than you think you need so that you don’t have to stretch your memory when it’s not used to working in this way.  As time goes on, abbreviating the list and item descriptions will work fine because your brain and memory have learned how to use To Do lists to remember stuff so the reminders to trigger memories can be briefer.  But in the beginning, strive to make lists that you can depend on.  That will create a history of success which will encourage you to use To Do lists more and trust that they will guide you truly.