For myself, the answer turns out to be ridiculously simple; it was never a 15 minute task.
So why am I so wrong when I allocate time frames to the tasks I need to complete? Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky first proposed ‘the planning fallacy’ in 1979, wherein people underestimate the time it would take to complete a future task. This occurs even despite the knowledge that similar previous tasks have generally taken longer to complete. Even major infrastructure projects with huge budgets and meticulous planning can be subject to the planning fallacy. After 10 years of planning and with an original $1.7 billion budget, the Royal Adelaide Hospital opened in 2017, a staggering 17 months late and $640 million over budget.
How do you avoid the pitfalls of unconsciously applying an optimistic prediction bias to time allocation and project planning? The common advice, and how I failed to follow it, can be summed up in the 3 main points below;
1. Use the time it took to complete similar tasks and projects to guide future planning.
If it took months to write my last paper, its unrealistic to think the next paper will be written in a few weeks. It sounds simple enough, right? Clearly not, as I look at the last sentence arguments as to why this statement is incorrect are already forming in my head. It took too long last time, surely I will be more efficient, more organized, more able to write with speed and proficiency.
2. Be pessimistic.
Assume something will go wrong and the project will take longer to complete than planned. I think I can sum up where I went wrong here with two words, global pandemic. Even whilst I knew I would be working from home with young children I somehow thought I could still maintain strict timelines.
3. Get your timelines checked by someone else.
I got my timelines checked by others, however this point also requires that you do not dismiss the sage advice given by others.
Given the content of this post, its probably not surprising I am posting it at 6am on the Monday the week after I was scheduled to post. I assumed I would find time to write this blog post between other tasks in an already packed week, surely I could find 15 minutes….