Common Task Time Estimation Repository

by Arkanj3l1 min read1st Aug 201316 comments


Personal Blog

Related: Repository Repository

It would be cool if we had a repository for the Outside/calibrated view for how long commonplace tasks take. This way we can help one another get around the planning fallacy to a certain degree. Nothing beats direct measurement, but we can possibly save energy if enough evidence comes in to make us suspect that the time a certain task takes doesn't vary.

I could update this thread as more contribute. Depending on the variety of tasks, categories could be created and an index can be compiled. Observe.


Washing Dishes: 30 mins

Doing Laundry: 1 hour including drying


Average LessWrong Post: 3 minutes

"Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions": 4 hours


...: ...

... and so on.

16 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 12:58 AM
New Comment

I'd suggest adding separate columns for actual WORK TIME versus total ELAPSED TIME after email turnaround, task switching, sleep, etc.

Prepare kettle of chili from scratch: 40 min work time, 3 hr elapsed time

Read a 350-page novel: 6 hr (work & elapsed)

Read 690 pages of economic history excluding references: 52 hrs (work time), 3 months (elapsed)

Read a 350-page novel in your 2nd language: 9 hrs (work & elapsed)

I track all my time on my PC with 15m granularity. I have done this for 3 years since I started freelance work. I have my own highly hierachical structure of cost centers from which I generate TeX invoices. I could give you a lot of common task times. But these obviously are mostly about surfing, reading, office work, invoice...


  • write invoices: 1h/month

  • time tracking: 15m/day (including all time tracking for principals)

  • web surfing: 9h/month (not including research-like browsing which is 5h/month and not including lesswrong which has had a significant impact recently that I added a new cost center for it)

  • family budget: 2h/month

  • paperwork: 1h/week

I also track private projects. One example is a trading card game with scientific facts which I created for my children - this took 110h in all including research, images.test games, talks to teachers.

My wife is a living timetable and drives a very elaborate time management regime (which is helpful if you have four children). She seems to exactly know how long 'common tasks' take. We plan the following times:

  • laundry: (6m plus 10m/person)/day

  • cooking: 1h/day

  • fruit basket: 2m/person/day

  • daily house cleanup: 20m/day

  • prepare breakfast: 15m

  • meal preparation and cleanup (2x/day): 30m/day

  • bath a child: 15m

  • bed ritual: 15m/child

and then there are lots of planned times for educational topics, events, courses, ...

Note that that these times are the result of discipline and routine and you shouldn't assume that you can reach or beat them easily.

And maybe I should add that I needed 41,5h to read hpmor up to chapter 96 (including detours to

Thank you! I like this one.

Meta (adding a category note so meta comments don't clog the repository.)

Can someone tag the parent with the "repository" tag?

Can someone give an example of a situation where they would use this repository?

The main example I can think of is realizing "hm, the amount of time I spend on X is very different from normal." For example, in Nick Winter's recent book he mentions that after he started timing his showers, he was able to take them in less than 2 minutes. I had no reference point for that- I wasn't even sure how long my showers took- and it happened that I normally spent about 20 minutes in the shower, and fairly quickly was able to get it down to 5 minutes.

I don't think that's a particularly compelling example, though, and don't expect that I would personally use this repository. (I stopped timing my showers and trying to make them shorter when I realized they were a major source of physical pleasure in my life, and making them shorter and more stressful was a terrible idea for me. Someone who doesn't enjoy taking a shower as much would probably gain from applying that time to something else.)

Yes. And people have been having fruitful insights while bathing since the time of Archimedes. Surely it's worth spending a little heat and water to have time to think?

I wanted to save time on doing time estimates of tasks when blocking them into a calendar.

Should we respond with what is our experience (classic Outside View framing - how long did this take me last time?) or what we think is 'average'? (How long does the average project in this reference class take?

Of course, your mileage may vary. I'd propose that instead of giving only one (expected) time, there should be a low and a high estimate (e.g. such that you're quite certain the task will take longer than X but less than Y for most people).

[-][anonymous]7y 0

Should we respond with what is our experience (classic Outside View framing - how long did this take me last time?) or what we think is 'average'? (How long does the average project in this reference class take?)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Cooking Simple Dinner for Five: 2 hours, not including dishwashing. (For novice but pre-experienced cooks) Being Briefly Distracted By Internet: 30 minutes if no new content, 1.5 hr for full day's new content.

Bagging Soylent: 40min work time, 60min elapsed (first time doing task, setting up. Optimization of manufacturing occurred while I was bagging.)

Doing Laundry: 70 mins total - 40mins washing with two rinse cycles and 30mins drying

Folding Large Laundry Load After Drying: 10 mins, 15 elapsed.