Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

How do you know what the right amount of time to spend on something is?

My ability to predict how long something will take is bad really. So is my ability to work out how long I should spend on a task once I have started, resulting in my spending ages on something small and rushing though / not spending the right about of time on something else. Is it just trial and error to try and work out how long is right and learn / get used to trusting myself and my judgement?

Tasks taking too long

I've had this problem all my life. All the normal, everyday tasks take way too long. When I try to estimate how long something will take, it usually goes like this: My first estimate is halfway correct and tells me the task will take very, very long. Then I think: "That can't be! All the normal people do that, too, and it only takes them a tenth of the time. If I told anyone how long this takes me, they'd never understand or even believe it. There must be a way to do this faster!" Then I make a second estimate, which, of course, is way off the mark. Then I try to work on the task - as hard as possible, as fast as possible, trying to avoid perfectionism at the same time. And, of course, the task will take very, very long. All my schedules based on the second time estimate will go wrong, I will be late for everything coming after that task.

I don't know how to beat this problem. I've tried to do things faster all my life. It starts with the small things - when I wash dishes together with someone else, it's a drama. No matter whether I wash or dry, I always end up with a huge backlog while the other person is waiting impatiently. And that in spite of me trying to do it as fast as I can. And in spite of me having tried to speed it up all my life. And of course, it's causing psychological problems - making me feel abnormal, and incapable of just living a halfway normal life, and guilty. Now, taking twice or thrice the average time to do your dishes doesn't disrupt your life, but taking twice or thrice as long for _every_ task does. And that's exactly what's going on in my life - the dishes were just one example. It's not just something I imagine - comparing times with other people shows it's a fact. That's why I get up early in the morning, work, get to bed much too late, and repeat - and yet, I'm always too late and have a huge backlog and I'm barely making progress. And I don't really know how to beat it because I've already tried uncounted times (and am continually trying) to do things faster and find ways to optimize, and usually it just doesn't work. I'm really despairing over this.

(By the way, dishwashing has stopped being a problem in my everyday life because I'm minimizing the amount of dishes I use, and the amount of cooking I do, and the number of times I'm eating or drinking anything except water. When I eat something at home at all, it's often a ready-to-serve green salad from the supermarket - I'm so glad they have them. The average number of dishes to wash per day is maybe one and a half. I'm trying to use this approach in other areas but with less success.)

I have areas where I'm faster than average - but it feels like I don't even get there to take advantage of it because I'm bogged down with all those everyday tasks that must be done first. To do something I'm good at, so I can really make myself useful, I'd first have to have a little time to do it. And I never get there because I have to do all the "survival tasks" first, and they take too long. And I don't see a way to delegate them, either.

Sorry for the long rant. And, of course, any suggestions how to solve this problem are welcome.

@riddled, me too, everything takes longer time

Riddled, I feel like your post is describing my life!  For me, too, everything takes longer than it should.

And me, too, on the dishes -- ready-made frozen meals or take-out ... the only way I've gotten over the dishes hurdle -- in other words taking a path that doesn't have a dishes hurdle.

And also ... me too on my time estimates being not long enough.

I'm always amazed when people post "I'd been dreading that task for months, and then when I did it, it took only five minutes!"... When people post that, I feel like I'm from a different planet.

Because for me, it's like ... "I'd been dreading that task for months, and I was right to dread it, because it took me 5 solid days of working without sleep to finally get it done."

I don't know the answer, but wow it's nice to learn I'm not alone on this planet!

@movingalong, you are not alone

... and neither am I, it appears! That sentence:

"I'd been dreading that task for months, and I was right to dread it,
because it took me 5 solid days of working without sleep to finally get
it done

could have come from me as well. Seems like we're from the same "Planet of the Slow People". I really wish things will get better for you (and for me, and for everyone concerned), but if they don't, you can at least enjoy the knowledge that by being how you are, and by writing that post about it, you made me (and probably some others who read this) feel a lot less alone.

If I ever find shortcuts that work for me, I'll put them on PA somewhere. (For example, lately I found a video how to fold t-shirts very quickly, and that actually worked.) I've looked for some tips & tricks on the internet, but most don't help and concern things I've already learned to live without anyway (like ironing). Of course, I don't find such shortcuts very often, or I wouldn't have that problem. If anyone else knows any coping strategies that might help, I'd be happy to hear them! movingalong, I bet you've already developed one or three I don't know yet, that you probably thought nobody but you'd ever be interested in. I definitely am!


Hello riddled.   Have you ever used the pomodoro technique - check it out on Basically it's a timer system. You try to break down larger tasks into half hour blocks, and then you keep a time log, so you record whether you have done that sub-task in more or less time than you allocated. I found that after several weeks of doing this every day I began to develop a much more realistic sense of how long this would take and was also more disciplined about keeping to those blocks.  It has helped me enormously but I have to keep doing it.   


Yes, I've tried that. I found out that things usually take as long as I fear they'll take in the worst case, and sometimes longer. It didn't make anything faster.

@macphd estimating time

Great question.

findingaway is right. in PA Meeting Materials found in the upper left there is PA Signs of Compulsive Procrastination which says

3. We have a very poor sense of time, chronically underestimating or overestimating how long a task will take us to complete.

Was a big problem for me.

I agree with both findingaway and Mollie2007. I time-log (one of the tools, as findingaway says) and it has improved my ability to estimate. For example, i now know how long all my daily routine tasks take.

I also set time limits. strict, unconditional time limits. Because i am an addict and can't be trusted to stop a task when i'm supposed to. So if i'm 90% done with a task, and my timer goes off, i will stop right then. I will not write a few more sentences, or complete the last step. I can ALWAYS COME BACK TO IT. That's another tool, number 6

6. Use Small Blocks of Time: Procrastinators often have trouble doing tasks in incremental steps, and wait for big blocks of time that never come. When you have small blocks of time, use them to work on the task at hand.

I also alternate between MITs (Most Important Tasks) doing 1 hr on each. Again, i can come back to it. Coming back to it, trusting myself to come back to it, and stopping on time are all recovery behaviors for me.

the touch of the master's hand:

fall down seven times, get up eight - japanese proverb


How much time tasks take

This has certainly been difficult for me too. In fact I think it is one of the 'signs' of being a procrastinator.

The thing I have found most useful is keeping a time log, which is one of our Tools (Tool 8 - Then at least I can see where the time does go (not always easy to track everything). For my paid work I often have to submit quotes, and it has helped a lot for me to see how long similar tasks have taken me in the past. I still tend to underquote, but more accurate than I used to be.

PS I have a very basic time log that I made in Excel, just send me a personal message if you would like a copy.

Time on task

I've also had lots of difficulty estimating how long something will take (I over- and underestimate) and spending too long on small things. I've gotten better at the estimating by paying attention to how long things actually take me (I do best if I time it from start to finish). And on the small stuff, when I take what seems like way too long, that's usually a sign of perfectionism. I try to get myself to stop at "good enough," which is still very challenging for me.