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.
- We underestimate the project.
- We haven’t defined our stopping point.
- We don’t prepare properly. And we go it alone.
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4. We don’t give ourselves wiggle room.
As we discussed, doing something new requires padding our timelines to allow for our learning curve.
But there’s more to allowing wiggle room than that. Because the future itself is unpredictable.
In the course of completing a task or project, we encounter challenges and possibilities we cannot possibly anticipate. From technical difficulties to the common cold. From the distraction of new ideas and rabbit holes to awesome opportunities that need to be seized in the moment.
Let’s say it’s time to send your newsletter. Everything is going swimmingly until it’s time to upload the final draft to your newsletter service and format it. You log in and – hello! – there is an announcement about a new way to integrate your newsletter with Facebook. That seems cool, so you investigate. Which means opening Facebook too. And next thing you know, it’s an hour later, you’ve gotten lost (and maybe even triggered) in the stream of information that is your wall – and your newsletter still isn’t sent (let alone integrated with social media).
After you’ve brought yourself back to the task at hand and sent the darn thing already, you probably find yourself wondering once again why sending your newsletter takes so much longer than you think it will.
Partly, it’s not being clear about the edges. At one point you had a choice between sending your newsletter then investigating integration with social media at a more appropriate time.
But that kind of mental vigilance can be hard to maintain, as can resisting curiosity (though it gets easier with practice). So it makes sense, even for smaller tasks, to allow space for the unexpected – like innocent little announcements from service providers.
Bad or good, we need to allow space for the unpredictable. Again, I’d allow at least an additional 25% – on top of the wiggle room you’ve allowed for the new. So, if you think it’s going to take four days or weeks or months to complete something untried, give yourself at least six rather than five.
You can’t know what disruptions are going to arise, but I can pretty much guarantee something will – so allow for it. Worst case scenario: everything goes according to plan and you end up with some free time on your hands.
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