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Top 5 best practices to improve your team time estimates

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Here are some of the best practices that experienced project managers use to improve the accuracy of the estimates in their projects.

Tip #1: Log your time immediately,

not after the fact. At the end of the day, you might not be able to remember how much time you allocated to each task. The best option – use a “Timer” feature in your time tracking software.

Tip #2: Each time slot should not exceed 2-3 hours.

Otherwise, it’s not precise enough.

"Creating Marketing materials: 8 hours" is only useful for payroll, however

"Brochure design: 3.5 hours"
"Web-site update: 2 hours"
"Drafting newsletter: 2.5 hours"

is much more meaningful, since you can use it later as a reference while estimating the time required for similar tasks.

Tip #3: Find a project management or time tracking software,

which saves all estimated and actual hours for everyone and keeps a history of each person’s “Stick-to-Schedule” ratio.

If based on the historical information Joe usually exceeds the estimated time by 20%, then it might be a good idea to add a 20%-25% safety cushion to his new estimation.

Tip #4: Use “Planning Poker”.

When you deal with uncertainty, while estimating projects and activities sometimes it might be useful to use a technique called “Planning Poker”, taken right from the Agile methodology of the software development industry.

As per this method, all team members give their estimation at the same time, therefore eliminating the “Anchoring” phenomenon.

More details are available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_poker

Tip #5: Empower your team with self-control.

If any project management software is used, make sure that employees’ feedback is hardwired into the workflow process. Make sure that whoever is responsible for a certain task confirms any estimation or deadline associated with that task, accepting the responsibility and control over it.

What are your time tracking and project management tips?

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