If you work in a job where you have to estimate work—whether you're a freelance worker, consultant, or regular Joe or Jane Q. Worker who needs to let your boss know how long it'll take to finish a project—you know that a poor estimate can lead to lots of undue stress. The Web Worker Daily weblog offers an introduction to making appropriate and realistic work estimates so you don't end up with this kind of last-minute stress.
Estimate in inch-pebbles, not milestones. When you're faced with a large piece of work to estimate, don't try to come up with a single number to cover the entire job all at once. Break it down into pieces, and then break those pieces down into pieces until the pieces are small enough that you can see how you would do each one and put a number on them. As a general rule of thumb, if the pieces take more than 4 to 8 hours, they're not small enough yet. Most people have trouble guessing their time to perform any job that will take longer than that.
Share the estimation tips and tricks that keep you stress-free and productive in the comments.