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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@ang_wang

Time Management

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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.

  • 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.
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.

"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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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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Cognitive biases

...are common thinking errors that harm our rational decision-making.

We don't always see things as they are. We don't simply glean information through the senses and act on it; instead, our minds give that info their own spin, which can sometimes be deceptive.

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IDEAS

We are inclined to believe that complex solutions and explanations are better than simple ones. The perception of complexity often leads to avoidance.

What you can do about it:

  • Instead of seeking to understand a concept fully, opt for action. Try things, see how they work, then slowly improve over time.
  • Choose the system you'll stick with long-term. Look for strategies that will work with your natural ability, even if they are not the most effective.
  • Apply Occam's Razor to counterbalance the complexity bias. When faced with two possible explanations for the same evidence, the one with the fewest assumptions is likely true.
Accept your limits

To better manage task organization, be aware of your limits. Your day has 24 hours. Your resources are what they are. Above all, you have your own personality to respect. In other words, before deciding how to multitask, you need to draw a realistic picture of the scenario.

Of course, you can always expand the above with the use of technology. Just keep in mind the number of projects or assignments you are truly capable of managing and completing within your working hours. 

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