Graeme Newell

Planning Fallacy

Why do we so badly underestimate the time it takes to complete a project? The problem is we’re just too darn positive for our own good. When it comes to our own abilities, most of us tend to be overly optimistic.

Because we have rosy expectations for ourselves and the other people around us, we are more likely to recall positive events rather than negative ones. The bad stuff just tends to fall out of our memory. 

When we start a project, most of us tend to imagine a best-case scenario, devoid of potential delays and problems. We also tend to badly inflate our own capabilities, and the other members of our team.

Sure, positivity is an important part of any undertaking, but it can become toxic for our ability to make an accurate time and resource estimate.

Want to avoid the planning fallacy? Follow these steps:

-Be a Pessimist

Make your estimate, then double the time and cost. Odds are, your project will come in slightly ahead of schedule and just under budget.

-Look Back, Not Forward

Has your team or a competitor attempted this task before? Use their experience as a solid guide for your own estimates.

-Ask an Outsider

Pass your timeline on to a co-worker or friend, then ask for brutally honest feedback. Bonus points if you can get the office skeptic to give you the all-clear.