Took longer than you thought? Again?! Some useful reflections on the “planning fallacy”

Every night as I set my alarm, I think about what time I need to be at work in the morning and back into the time I need to get up. It’s not an exact math problem as there are many variables: do we need to get the baby to daycare or is it a morning that his dad stays home with him? Which of my offices am I headed to? Is there something I want to get done before I head out the door?

But even when I think I have built in enough extra time, I nonetheless often find myself leaving later than I intended. I can’t seem to get a handle on the “how much time will it take?” equation.

According to social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, I have fallen victim to my own version of the “planning fallacy,” the rather predictable human tendency to underestimate how long it will take to complete a task–no matter how much experience we have with how long it really does take.

Yesterday’s post on Heidi Grant Halvorson’s blog, The Science of Success, reviews some interesting research on the planning fallacy and offers some useful tips on being more realistic in planning how much time something will take.

Are there certain tasks that you consistently underestimate how long it will take you to complete? What strategies can you recommend to make sure we really allow enough time to get something done?