It’s an all-too-common experience. We set out to do something only to realize somewhere along the way that it’s going to take twice as long to complete it than we planned. (Okay, make that three or four times longer.) It doesn’t matter if the project is big or small, professional or domestic, anticipated or dreaded – our expectations often go unmet in the same ways.
It’s easy to chalk that miscalculation up to optimism, but I want to talk about eight reasons for that miscalculation that I actually observe in myself and my clients – and what to do about them.
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2. We haven’t defined our stopping point.
Of course, things are going to take longer to finish than we expect if we don’t know where the stopping point actually is.
We can’t be done if we haven’t defined done. We can’t finish (let alone measure) activities that have no edges.
Preparation is always part of the work, and part of preparation is defining completion. What’s in? What’s out? How much is enough?
As creatives, we have some qualities and tendencies that make defining how much is enough a little tricky.
we know more than we think we do
This one gets me every time. (It’s happening right now as I right this series!) I assume simplicity where there is complexity. And once I see all those connections, it’s hard for me to resist addressing them – even though they weren’t in my original definition of what was in and out of the scope of the project.
(This is a very good reason to conduct an experiment first.)
we like refinement
Add the desire for thoroughness and polish to that broader understanding and you have conditions ripe for perfectionism. Fuss, fuss, fuss – over details that don’t matter. Because we haven’t noticed that we crossed the line of good enough or that’s another project several drafts back. Because we didn’t mark where that line was in the first place.
completion is something we like to feel
Trusting one’s intuition is a good thing. But knowing something is done because it just feels finished can be a bit problematic. If what you’re really feeling in the bottom of your gut is a little insecurity or anxiety, that’s going to alter your sense of done. Sometimes you need something more objective to measure your work against, to be able to recognize done.
Which is why it’s useful to define completion at the outset.
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