November 23, 2014

The Blink Factor: Time Management Can Build or Break Your Business

blink factor

Once upon a time, we were building a website for a client who wanted to save time and money by supplying their own photographs rather than paying for stock images or a professional photographer to do custom work. Being agreeable – the customer is always right, right?  I said sure.

This was a decision I immediately regretted when I saw the images the client provided. They weren’t horrible, exactly, but they weren’t anywhere close to being good, much less good enough to be used for marketing purposes. So I called the client and said that if we wanted to go forward with the images, I’d need to have a member of our team edit them so they’d look better.

They agreed and my team put their Photoshop skills to work. Transforming those substandard images into pictures we could use took two hours. This infuriated the client. “There’s no way a little thing like that should have taken so long” they protested.

Do you know what happened?  We’d run right into the Blink Factor.

The Blink Factor

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Time flies when you’re having fun?”

It turns out that time can move pretty quickly in a number of situations. You may have experienced this yourself when you’ve sat down to work on an administrative task connected to your business, such as ordering some inventory or looking over employee time sheets. A task that you thought would only take a few minutes winds up consuming over an hour – perhaps even an entire afternoon.

How does this happen?

Cognitive researchers, the folks who study how we take in and process information about the world we live in, have identified two distinct processes people use to estimate how long it will take us to complete a given task.

When we estimate how long it will take us to perform a physical task, such as walking to the corner store for a cup of coffee, we’re using implicit time processing. When we estimate how long it will take us to perform a mental task, whether it’s tedious in nature, think data entry, or creative, think writing copy or programming a website – we’re using explicit time processing.

While people tend to be fairly consistently accurate when using their implicit time processing skills, there’s a pervasive universal tendency to underestimate when we use our explicit time processing skills. We think mental work takes less time than it actually does whether we’re doing the work ourselves or someone else is doing it.

The Blink Factor is the disparity between how long a mental task takes to complete and how long we, or more importantly our customers, think it should take. Obviously, the Blink Factor can introduce an uncomfortable amount of tension into an otherwise good working relationship. There are two elements to beating the Blink Factor.

Beating the Blink Factor: Know Yourself

Data is your friend. As a business owner, you should be tracking how you use your time. Being able to look at objective records that detail how long it takes to perform given tasks will enable you to provide more accurate time frame estimates to your clientele.

Don’t guess. Know. Using a simple online tool like Toggl or the time tracking features in project management software like Basecamp can provide you with objective, reliable data that will make it easier for you to accurately project how long a task will take.

Beating the Blink Factor: Communicate With Customers

Knowing how long a task will take is only half the battle when it comes to beating the Blink Factor. You need to let your customer know how long the job will take as well. Managing expectations is essential to customer satisfaction.

That’s why we now put a detailed cost breakout into every proposal, sharing how long each element of our process will take to complete and what that will cost. The time to discuss whether your team works fast enough should happen before the job begins – not while the project is in process.

Having an accurate time frame discussed and agreed upon gives us a base line to come back and refer to in case the Blink Factor threatens to disrupt your project. Integrating time tracking into your daily routine will deliver significant rewards in terms of customer satisfaction.

That’s how you beat the Blink Factor.

Time Flies Photo via Shutterstock

7 Comments ▼

Jennifer Shaheen


Jennifer Shaheen Jennifer Shaheen, CEO and President of The Technology Therapy Group, captivates business & entrepreneurial audiences by teaching them how the smart, strategic use of great Web design and social media marketing allows them to do less and accomplish more.

7 Reactions

  1. Excellent Points discussed about time management. Thanks for sharing this post!

  2. Great read Jennifer. I am sure we all relate to this at some point or other. Great time management, I have always believed, is a skill not many, me included, possess. This is interesting. And some great advice.

  3. I started tracking my time for every project a couple months ago and it has been quite the eye-opening experience. Now I know why – explicit time processing!

  4. Effective time management can bring you success in business and lack of it, can break you. Jennifer’s blink factors in this article are really handy and should be put into practice.

    I personally manage my own time as I want it – I decide which phone calls to pick up, when I can be interrupted and which customers to meet, when and how. Every business owner must manage their time and make use of it correctly.

  5. I find myself getting lost in assignments that require a lot of time, but it’s always nice to see some of they day has gone by!

  6. Great article. It is also difficult to estimate time when you have to do few tasks in one time. Normal timer doesn’t work, so I use automatic time tracking tool “TimeCamp”

    I add keywords and time is measured automatically. The program itself fills the graphics, so I don’t have to keep this in mind.

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