I want to make a bet with you. Think of an important project you are working on that you expect to complete sometime in the next few weeks or months.
*Now try to make your most accurate estimate of exactly when you think that project will be completed.
*Now estimate when it will be complete in the best case scenario, if everything went as well as possible.
*Do the same for the worst case scenario, if everything went as poorly as possible.
All done? Here the deal, I bet that you won’t finish that project until after your worst case scenario estimate.
Why so pessimistic? It’s called the planning fallacy and it affects everyone, especially me. People tend to make overly optimistic predictions of how long things take to do. And despite the number of times this happens throughout our lives we still fail to adjust future predictions to account for it.
Had I given that set of questions to myself at the beginning of this year and tried to plan when the TestrBot project & subsequent experiments would be done I would have been off by months.
I think the cause is that our predictions only account for the sum time of each step of the project and we forget to include time for distractions, unanticipated contingencies, and annoying things like human needs getting in the way.
Additionally, I get distracted easily. I work a lot but my efforts get divided in too many ways. Every time I turn around my car needs gas, my wife & dog need a belly scratching, and when I finally sit down to pump out some awesome articles my darn body starts aching to outside and exercise.
Shit, it’s a beautiful day outside. Guess I’ll be finishing that project tomorrow then.
The lesson here is to remember that things almost never go exactly according to plan. Everything takes longer than you think it should, so plan accordingly by adding a fat safety factor to your project timelines. A great way to bypass your overly optimistic brain is to pretend that you are having someone else work on the project for you rather than doing it yourself. This helps us be more realistic because we can’t help but see others as being slightly less awesome than ourselves.
None of this is to say that I don’t have some TestrBot test results to share, because I do! Just give me an hour to write up a blog post for it real quick…. actually, better make that 10 days to be safe.