Estimating the Time Cost of Ideas

Posted Monday, September 12, 2022 by Sri.Tagged PICKLEJAR

Hypothesizing some new productivity "rules of thumb" for myself

TL;DR every year do I imagine 84 years of work I'd like to do?

  1. There are two kinds of ideas: ones that are "quick experiment discovery" (satisfying hunch/curiosity) and a "finished artifact" (applied skill toward something useful for other people).
  2. The number of ideas generated per day can be cataloged as one of these two types
  3. The subjective cost of the Experiment Type is low when the curiosity and also the desire to find results is there, but the opportunity cost is time that could have been spent on the Artifact Type.
  4. The objective cost of the Artifact Type for me is around 40 hours of sustained work for a prototype draft, followed by at least another 10-40 hours depending on level of polish and packaging required.
  5. My total focused continuity budget is about 4 hours a day, or a 10-day isolated mode burn of 8-12 hours a day, followed by 3-5 days of burnout recovery. For a two-week period, that means I have about 40 hours on 'relaxed mode' and around 80-120 hours of budget in 'intense' mode (factoring in the downtime)
  6. After about two weeks, though, I need a project rotation to something else to clear my head and get away form it.
  7. Time to starting another major burn is probably a week or two, meaning that a post-burn would be a time for doing less intense things.
  8. The number of EXCESS projects generated per day is from 7 I would guess, including recurring project ieas from previous days. So every day I am creating an ADDITIONAL project hour loud of max(4hr, n*(40hr+40hr)) . Any pursuit of an Experimental Idea will kill the 4 hours of daily focused work doing things intentionally. And the 7 projects place an imagined workload of 7*80=560 extra hours.

These are just hypothetical notes based on past logging and knowing my patterns of exhaustion and focus...they are approximate estimates, but maybe are good enough to make a hypothetical operational plan around achieving my goals.

Given a two-week budget, in full-on robot mode, of 120 hours... addressing all of those project ideas is not doable . Even one project chunk, at 80 hours, is a stretch, within those two weeks of time. And in robot mode nothing else gets done, so there are likely an additional 143 new ideas representing 4280 3,360 extra hours to bring them to fruition, or 840 4 hours days when operating in NON-robot life-balanced mode. That's...around 3.2 years of 4 hour days assuming 261 working days a year.

So during the year, I might come up with 26 weeks * 3.2 years or 83.2 years worth of projects I want to do.

Which...isn't sustainable.

My math and arithmetic might be wrong, but the general pattern I'm seeing is that my mind wants me to create 83.2 years worth of work in one year for me to feel "satisfaction". Which is clearly not going to happen.

So that implies:

  • I would need to hire 80 people who are like me, at at a burn rate of $8million dollars a year for just salary+benefits, which would imply a company with revenues of maybe $24 million a year not even including startup costs.
  • or I redefine satisfaction using something more within my grasp...somehow.

time spent dumping idea: 30 minutes

Addendum: The average cost of writing a thought dump like this, confirmed by years of freelancing, is 30 minutes.

The confirmed average cost of polishing something like this up so it's presentable to clients in a report is around 2-4 hours, again from long-time freelancing experiencing and me tracking time.

  • If it is a quick edit for email, the cost is about 30 minutes to just remove stuff and check for grammar/typos while trying to identify the key points that I should emphasize.
  • I would bill this kind of time as as a preliminary analysis stage, but often it is just me getting my head around a problem so it is a cost of sales prospecting.

Action planning is a different kind of thinking documenting, but it usually takes around the same amount of time to generate an outline, around 4 hours for the initial draft. This is followed by tweaks to clarify intents and deliverables, verification, more quantitative estimates based on past projects and unknowns, etc.

However, I'm not sure how useful the plan is beyond this. It's mostly for other people to get a sense of what will happen. For me to actually EXECUTE on the plan, I need a lot of interpersonal interaction and people who are good at keeping the big picture and the intermediate objective goals really clear and salient, driving home constantly what progress is made and what is left. Requirements are a good task tracking system that has motivation built in and is persistently in the same place (so I remember where to look) and a good collaborator/project manager that is in the room with me pointing at it.

additional time expanding idea: 15 minutes

My natural inclination next is to go back and reread the above, and try to extract some salient points and rank them, then propose systems of thinking and operational approaches to meet an identified need. If there is one. Otherwise, the analysis would be filed somewhere. It would have a home now in my knowledge management website, so technically it is an "explored idea" that counts as a delivered tangible good. AUTOFILING...copying/pasting the entire segment above into a new entry in the srigarten.

additional time adding entry to srigarten: 5 minutes