I woke up yesterday to the sound of singing birds leaking through my open window. Before picking up the phone to check the time, however, I made a quick guess: 6am. You don’t hear birds chirping when people are up and about; that and my eagerness to resume sleep necessarily restricted the hour to a low level. Add a good amount of light creeping in and 5am was unlikely. My iPhone nodded, it was a quarter to six.
Now, in our era, estimating time is a strong contender for one of the most useless skills. More accurate indicators are aplenty, in fact, I expect you to have at least two displays of time within sight. But the point of the exercise wasn’t to tell time (although it could come in handy next time I fail to put my phone in reach). It really was just an exercise.
Casual induction (you might know this as deduction) became a habit as I was practicing guesstimation questions for job interviews. Certain companies adore ad hoc puzzles and expect you to pull out data from your brain to answer questions that are beyond our immediate intuition. Being a mathematician, this was daunting at first, but soon became tolerable, interesting and even fun.
Like any skill, it demands training. And the best way to measure progress is to guess quantities that can be confirmed, like time.
Here are a few things you can try:
- Estimate the number steps you took throughout the day and compare this with your Fitbit
- Guess your mark for a homework assignment before handing it in
- Postulate reasons when someone schedules a call or a meeting with you
Remember, look out for when you expect to uncover new information in the future and make a guess before discovery.