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 Why We're Late!


Reading Time 2 minutes & 55 seconds    For a Podcast of this thought please click here Or iPod & iTunes - Users Click Here


running lateAlways running out of time? I know I am

Whether it’s finishing that assignment or project, catching a bus, getting to an appointment ,or just getting something I want done it always seems to take me longer than I expect. Which is odd, because most of these things I done ten’s, hundreds or even thousands of times before.


But I’m not alone. In one study, 37 students were asked to estimate the completion times for their thesis. The average estimate was 34 days but the actual completion time was 56 days. But its not just amateurs who under estimate how long their projects will take, most high profile projects I hear about seem to overrun, whether it’s the Big Dig in Boston, or London’s, “Wembley Stadium”. So why is the overrun so common?


The reason is the “Hofstadter's law”, this law determines that it will generally take you longer than you expect to do things” (Wikipedia). The cause of the law is called the "planning fallacy", which has been well-documented by psychologists. This explains that we always run late because


1) When we plan, we ignore activity which is outside of the project or considered activity


2) We ignore the billions of improbable (unforeseen) delays. Then invariable because of the number of these possible delays one or more of them normally happens.


Maybe it’s the phone ringing when were running for an appointment, a impromptu party when you’re trying to complete an assignment, or someone on your team simply miss calculating something. The list of these planning fallacies is endless and it is this which creates the strange delusion that everything always takes longer than expected; when in reality we know how long thing really take we just seem to forget.


So what’s the solution? Well Eliezer Yudkowsky from the Oxford University says the unlikely trick is to plan in less detail: avoid considering the specifics and simply ask yourself how long it's taken to do roughly similar things before. "You'll get back an answer that sounds hideously long, and clearly reflects no understanding of the special reasons why this task will take less time," However in reality this hideous long time line will normally be how long it will take. “So deal with it” he writes


Some people suggest that you should avoid planning altogether. Just get on and do it using the "ready, fire, aim" approach.

Which can be translated into workout what you want to do (deliverables required), start doing it, keep an eye on what's going well and what isn't (though feedback) and then make the necessary course corrections.


So till next week, treat your past timelines with more value and enjoy taking action.


Thanks for listening

David Gardner


 Recommended Books


getting things done

  Good to Great - Jim Collins 
  7 Habits - Stephen Covey
  The Automatic Millionaire -David Bach
  Discover you Strengths - M Buckingham 
  Richard Branson's Auto biography
  Brilliant Memory - Dominic O'Brien
  Think & Grow Rich -  Napoleon Hill 
  Freakonomics - Stephen Levitt
 Getting Things Done - David Allen
 The Machine That Changed the World
 Watching the English - Kate Fox
A Short History of Nearly Everything- B Bryson


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