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What Is the Planning Fallacy and How To Beat It Down (9 Useful Tips)

https://dansilvestre.com/planning-fallacy/

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What Is the Planning Fallacy and How To Beat It Down (9 Useful Tips)
The planning fallacy occurs when you underestimate the time it will take you to complete a task. Here are 9 ways to fix this cognitive bias.

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The Planning Fallacy

The Planning Fallacy

The Planning Fallacy is a prediction error that one repeatedly makes, misestimating the time it takes to complete a certain task.

This usually happens when trying to complete an unpleasant or stressful task, leading to postponement, procrastination and eventually missed deadlines.

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The Reason We Predict Wrongly

We assume we have more time than we really do, and we will get the job done quickly. Tasks like filing one’s tax return, catching a plane, investing in one’s health and other life demands become difficult with this basic assumption.

The planning fallacy affects our work satisfaction and health, leading to stress and burnout.

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Overcoming The Planning Fallacy: The Outside View

Things usually do not happen as we expect them to be. Our inner view of things (our cognitive bias) is shattered with unexpected obstacles, delays and interruptions.

Instead of relying on your own subjectivity and frame of reference, check out your previous experiences and take an external view of things, which may be more realistic.

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Embracing Pessimism

"What can go wrong, will go wrong".— Murphy’s Law

Applying a pessimistic approach to work makes us curb our enthusiasm and work more realistically. We will ditch the cheery outlook and work on meeting the deadlines, prioritizing what’s important while leaving out the fluff.

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Avoiding Useless Urgency

If we can avoid the urgent tasks and focus on important ones, we can take care of our long-term goals.

Many small, mindless, menial tasks seem important and urgent to us, as they provide us with a rush of accomplishment. Answering a phone call or an email demand quick and immediate action and provide an illusion of urgency, even though they may be trivial.

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Overcoming The Planning Fallacy WIth The Pomodoro Technique

Time isn’t our enemy and we can work with time to maximize our productivity. The Pomodoro technique teaches us to work in short focused time slots of 20 to 40 minutes, and then give yourself a break.

You can chop long and complex tasks into manageable chunks of activity, and keep yourself away from urgent but unimportant tasks.

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Time Bullies

People around us want our time and attention, which is increasingly precious and scarce.

Gossiping or unwanted chatting eats away from our work without us even realizing it. If we say ‘no’ to the time bullies that surround us, people may not like it initially but will learn to respect your time.

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Break Down Big Tasks

  • We often feel overwhelmed to try something as it appears too big and undoable (like writing a book), leading to us not even starting it.
  • Breaking down a task into clean, small doable actions makes us accomplish the same.
  • The step by step approach makes work more manageable. Even the climb to Mt Everest is done one step at a time.
  • Tasks start to appear less intimidating and easy to do, making us create tight deadlines and experience frequent accomplishments.

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Overcoming The Planning Fallacy: Every Day Is New

Our original plans and goals sometimes become the cognitive biases that do not let us work on a daily basis. They anchor themselves in our brain from the time we decided to set the goal. Our initial predictions, expectations or assessments may not be accurate and may need major or minor tweaks.

We need to focus on the current situation in a realistic manner and understand that every day is new.

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The Planning Fallacy And Social Pressure

The workplace is a competitive zone, and enthusiastic workers take an unfair lead even though their plans are unrealistic and overly optimistic.

You don’t need to succumb to the pressure, once you understand how the planning fallacy works. The outcome will provide clarity to all.

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A Third-Party View

Asking for an opinion from someone who is not neck-deep in cognitive biases due to being too close to the subject matter may be an eye opener.

Asking for open and honest feedback will provide you with valuable insights and direction.

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The Mere Urgency Effect

This bias addresses why we do unimportant tasks we think are time-sensitive over tasks that are not time-sensitive, even if the non-time-sensitive tasks provide greater rewards.

How to overcome this bias:

  • Use the Eisenhower Matrix. It will reveal the urgent/not urgent and important/not important tasks.
  • Block off on your calendar the most productive 2-4 hours each day for your most important work.
  • Only answer emails at specific times. Don't allow email to bleed into other time.
  • Give your important tasks a deadline and find a way to commit to it.

The Zeigarnik Effect

This effect describes our tendency to remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Each unfinished task takes up some of your attention, splitting your focus. It also interferes with your sleep.

What you can do about it:

  • Write your tasks down as soon as they come to you.
  • Have a system in place for organizing and regularly reviewing your tasks.
  • Have an end of work shutdown ritual, so your unfinished tasks don't stay in your mind after-hours.
  • Take a small step to help you get started. The act of starting can help you keep going to the end.
  • Don't forget to review your completed tasks and celebrate what you've already accomplished.

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Albert Einstein

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy ..."

Albert Einstein

The Dip

Across language learning, company building, and any kind of creative project, there is a dip. The Dip is the long stretch between beginner’s luck and real accomplishment.
Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.

The Start before the Dip

In any goal that has to be accomplished, there is a Start. It usually gets overlooked, as it's always there. 
The Start is a much bigger problem since you can’t reach The Dip if you don’t get through The Start, and many more people fantasize about doing something than actually do it and give up.

Being purposeful with your day

Being purposeful with your day

Time management is about taking control of the time you do have available and using it optimally for productivity while creating balance.

How to plan your day

Much advice about time management is about creating a to-do list, reminding you what you want to do. However, it's more important to use a schedule, which tells you when you're going to do it.

  • Create "bookends" for each day. Consider your morning and evening routines, then "block" in time for your most important tasks. For example, a 2-hour writing-block every morning after breakfast.
  • Set aside time for your most important projects. The object is to be purposeful about what and when you're going to do something.
  • Schedule in breaks. A schedule has to be realistic. That means including time for breaks, food, exercise, social time, and other "non-school" tasks that keep you happy.

Be aware of how you’re spending your time

To build a better time management system, you need to know what you currently spend your time on. You need to know where you're losing time to the wrong things.

To track your time, spend a few days writing a "time log" to track how you spend your day.