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We're terrible at predicting time, so do these things instead

https://www.fastcompany.com/90313102/how-to-get-better-at-estimating-your-time

fastcompany.com

We're terrible at predicting time, so do these things instead
Over the last three years, I've painted five rooms in my house. The first room I painted was my bedroom, and I was convinced that I'd have the task finished in a weekend. A month later, I applied the finishing touches.

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The planning fallacy

The planning fallacy

Is our tendency to underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task. Estimation mistakes can usually be attributed to 2 key factors:

  • Failing to consider how long it’s taken us to complete similar tasks in the past.
  • Assuming that we won’t run into any complications that will cause delays.

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Use historical data

Use historical data

Start by asking: How long do such projects usually last?

If you’re coding a new feature for your company’s app, look at how long it took your team to build and release a similar feature in the past. If you’re writing a 4,000-word blog-post, review your data showing how many hours/days it took you to write a similar piece previously. Then, base your estimates off of that data.

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Search outsiders' perspectives

Search outsiders' perspectives

While we tend to be optimistic about our own abilities to complete tasks quickly, we’re much more pragmatic when it comes to figuring out how long it will take someone else to complete a task.

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Leave space for the unknown

Leave space for the unknown

When estimating any task or project, you have to take all of these things into account: There are things you know will happen, things you know could happen, and things you never once considered might happen.

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The three-point estimation

It forces you to confront your possible optimism by asking you to identify 3 different pieces of data:

  1. A best-case scenario estimate
  2. A worst-case scenario estimate
  3. A most likely scenario estimate

Once you have your 3 numbers, calculate the average of the 3 points of data.

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Plan during the low point of your day

Plan during the low point of your day

And when your good mood is at its lowest point in the day. In that case, you may be feeling less optimistic, which could help you create more realistic estimates

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The Planning Fallacy

We all have busy schedules, but we are incorrectly planning our day around the time we have, not around priorities.

Our estimates on how long certain tasks will take are almost always ...

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."

The 4 Kinds of Priorities

The Decision Matrix on how to approach tasks has 4 quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1: The Urgent Problems which are important.
  • Quadrant 2: Not Urgent but important tasks
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent but not really important
  • Quadrant  4: Distractions and time-wasting tasks. 

Prioritize the important (Quadrant 2) to attain maximum benefit from your work.

2 more ideas

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 comple...

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.

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.

We All Tend To Make The Same Mental Mistakes

We All Tend To Make The Same Mental Mistakes

Economists used to believe that people will always choose the option that maximizes their well-being. But people act against their rational self-interest all the time.

We p...

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.