Time is a precious commodity. It is a finite resource that we squander easily. And the ongoing pressure of having too many things to do and not enough time to complete them is a constant source of stress for most of us. For me, this video is the perfect representation of how I feel when I'm overwhelmed by the demands of too many tasks and not enough time to complete them.
As a business owner myself, I'm all about finding a path that allows joy and happiness to abound. We put too much of ourselves into our careers and businesses to allow it to be a constant source of negativity, exhaustion, and resentment. One of the biggest levers of change at our fingertips is to change our relationship with tasks and time.
That's why today, I'm pulling back the curtain and exposing the most common time thieves that steal our happiness and keep us stuck on that gerbil wheel of frustration.
Are any of these thieves at work in your business?
thief #1. The Planning fallacy
The planning fallacy describes our tendency to underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task, as well as the costs and risks associated with that task—even if it contradicts our experiences. (The Decision Lab)
This thief takes advantage of our innate bias towards optimism, especially regarding our abilities. It causes us to overcommit, and the impact becomes an avalanche of missed deadlines, delays, and costs.
Consider this example of a contractor hired to complete a remodeling project in your home. (I am confident that the vast majority of you share this experience.)
During the contract phase, you discuss the timing of the project, including projected start and finish dates. At the beginning of the project, the contractor's team is onsite working daily, and you see lots of progress. At some point, the project hits a delay for an inspection or materials. The workers disappear, and everything comes to a halt. Living in a construction zone is painful, so you're anxious for the work to resume the minute the cause of the delay resolves. The earnestness of the contractor, however, doesn't match yours. The contractor is busy on another job, extending your wait and the projected finish.
Now, the contractor juggles time between two projects instead of focusing on one, and the two clients see progress slow as the team spends fewer hours onsite each week. Meanwhile, a third client who has a punch list of finish items from their recently "completed" project is angry that the contractor hasn't returned to make things right. The only resolution is for the contractor to return after hours to do the work personally or pay an employee overtime.
Now you know. Remodeling professionals aren't deceitful or trying to get away with doing less than their commitment. They are victims of the planning fallacy that has them trapped in this endless cycle.
The planning fallacy can infiltrate all areas of our lives. We plan too many errands into our lunch hour and don't leave ourselves time to eat. We arrive late to the meet-up with our friends because we thought we could get one more task done before heading out the door. We work late into the night to finish a deliverable for our client because we underestimated the time it would take and didn't get started early enough.
I know. You get it, and now you want to know what to do about it. Here's the advice I give to my coaching clients.
ONE. Steal a page from Tim Ferriss and start each day with a clear focus on the three most important things to accomplish and do those first.
I am often amazed at how quickly time passes. I can easily lose an hour scrolling through social media, chatting on LinkedIn, or reading articles online. By putting my most important tasks at the start of my workday, I tackle them with a clear mind that isn't distracted by my anxiety that I need to leave for school pick-up in less than thirty minutes or I'll be late.
TWO. Let the data be your guide by using time and task logs.
I know I've shared this before, but the good stuff is always worth repeating. Here's how to set up your own time and task study.
THREE. Plan to fail.
Being highly aware of the planning fallacy, when I'm feeling rushed and overwhelmed, I make my list of everything I'm planning to get done, then I reduce the list by 20-25%. This is simply a form of prioritization. I decide the most vital 75% on the list and get going. Then, if I have more time remaining, I add on something from the 25% I tabled.
Similarly, when building a plan for a client, I extend my time estimate, knowing that I may complete the work sooner. I prefer to delight them by finishing earlier rather than disappoint and stress them by missing a deadline.
Speaking of the planning fallacy, I'm off to record my episode of "A Nickel and A Plan" podcast and am out of time for writing this week. We'll continue this conversation next week with theif #2, routine tasks.
Until then, drop me a line and let me know how the planning fallacy has impacted you. I'd love to hear your tips for keeping it at bay.