Estimating how much time it takes to get a task done is never easy; in fact, most of us are optimists and underestimate how long that to-do will take us. Personal development writer Steve Pavlina says the key is to know just how optimistic you are—he calls this your "fudge ratio"— and build it into your estimates. Pavlina writes:
I tend to be consistently optimistic when estimating the time required for certain tasks. Knowing my fudge ratio has NOT made my initial estimates more accurate. My off-the-cuff estimates are just as inaccurate as they've always been. However, when I multiple my estimates by the fudge ratio, the estimates come pretty close to the time required. This helps me budget my time better.
Figuring out your fudge ratio means you've got to jot down estimates for a few tasks, do them, and then compare actual time to estimated time. Pavlina's fudge ratio is about 1.5, which sounds just about right for overachieving optimists.