Before you can complete your project on time, you have to first set a deadline. It is easy to underestimate the time needed to reach your goal. Obviously, we all want to complete projects as quickly as possible, but you will damage your reputation if you have to ask for more time than you originally allotted.
Here are some tips to consider when estimating the time needed for your next project:
1. Be realistic: Disasters will happen. It is not an if, they will occur. So be sure you schedule for them in your estimation of time needed. Much like budgeting, you need to allow for those “miscellaneous” moments and give yourself some cushion.
2. Research. If you are the PM on a project you are not familiar with, be sure you look into the tasks required. Ask some experts—or even other PMs—that have already accomplished projects similar to yours. Ask them to share with you the timetable they would recommend. Then consider their recommendations in your estimate and consider adding extra time if you need.
3. Compartmentalize If you are working on a large project, you can break that project up into smaller, individual goals and set deadlines for each smaller task as a basis for how long the overall project will take. Consider using an Excel sheet, word document, or even a Gantt chart or PERT chart for more complex projects.
Whatever your methods for estimating your time, it is better to schedule in extra time on the front in—even if you end up not using it—-than to run out of time due to poor planning. Meeting your deadline is a testament to your reliability as a PM. So be sure you set a time-line you can actually fulfill.