Aug 21, 2020
Today, we are going to be
digging in on a particular aspect of optimism bias called the
planning fallacy. Essentially, we humans are pretty much doomed
with underestimating how much something will cost or how long it
will take, even if we have evidence showing otherwise. This is why
projects like the Big Dig come in years late and billions of
dollars over budget, or why you constantly have a to-do list more
ambitious than can actually be completed.
In today’s episode, Melina will
spend a little bit of time telling you about how it works and what
studies have found, as well as tips for overcoming this bias (and
let me tell you, this is one of my personal biggest challenges so
these are tips I can provide from experience!)
- [00:53] Essentially, we humans are pretty much
doomed with underestimating how much something will cost or how
long it will take, even if we have evidence showing
- [03:02] I’m a big victim to planning fallacy.
As an ambitious and optimistic person, I am confident I can do
things quickly and perfectly each time, and I am prone to
underestimate how long something will take me to
- [03:42] I’ve been able to identify this
tendency in myself. Understanding planning fallacy helps me adapt
and do better in practice than I would naturally.
- [05:10] We fall victim again and again because
success is so much easier to imagine the successful scenario than
- [07:26] Melina shares about the Big Dig in
Boston, Seattle viaduct project and Sydney Opera
- [08:57] It is important to know that planning
fallacy is more than mere procrastination. Having deadlines doesn’t
necessarily help either because people are expecting things will go
smoother than they will and aren’t planning to fail.
- [10:34] The focusing illusion shows us that as
you look at or consider something, it feels like it is more
important than it really is. Fundamental attribution error is about
when you attribute external or internal motivation onto a situation
- [12:22] You have that optimism bias saying you
have learned from your past projects and this is really similar to
the project you did for XYZ company so you can capitalize on some
of that work so that internal dialogue and story of your own skill
is played up.
- [13:03] Your brain likes to think it is
constantly getting better, so it feels good to predict you will be
faster than before.
- [13:49] When you don’t plan for those external
pieces and factor them into your time budget, you are falling
victim to planning fallacy.
- [13:59] One helpful option is to have people
determine their timing as if a coworker was taking on the project.
If you were to consider the coworker you will have less of the
intrinsic stuff and can see the external pieces a little more
clearly. Especially if you choose a coworker who you think is
slower than you.
- [14:55] Ather brain trick to watch out for is
bikeshedding, where your brain will look for smaller things to work
on and make you think you need to do those in this exact moment and
you can’t work on the thing you really should be working on until this other thing is
- [15:34] This may mean planning for breaks to
give your brain a little bikeshedding treat to keep
- [18:17] My advice: to plan your day’s
commitments using the worst-case scenario.
- [19:35] One of my suggestions to stay on task
and keep my brain organized is using a Time Timer.
- [20:09] I want to stress that
your brain is going to tell you that you don’t need to do
this. That you don’t need
as much time as other people or that you won’t get distracted. That is the optimism bias
and planning fallacy talking.
- [20:54] Every task can be sorted by whether it
is urgent or important and falls into one of four quadrants (check
your freebie worksheet to try it out).
- [22:08] Planning for distractions will help you
keep to your projected timelines and overcome planning
- [24:23] Narrowing your goals and priorities to
what matters and being present when you are doing those things has
helped me to tackle the planning fallacy and I think it can for you
- [25:32] Sorry to tell you this, but groups are
worse at predicting how long things will take or how much something
- [26:02] One way to get around this for groups
is to have each person or department do their forecast on their own
and then have someone add them all up behind the scenes instead of
having a group discussion.
- [27:06] The plan is only as good as the
- [28:20] If you don’t include the external stuff
in the calculation there is no tracking system or project
management tool that can overcome planning fallacy.
- [30:21] Another tip that studies have shown can
help people overcome planning fallacy is to intentionally think
- [31:45] When planning for how long something
will take, we often look at the full elephant instead of all its
components. When you don’t break a project into small enough
subtasks, you are going to underestimate how long things will
- [33:49] Unpacking the project into those
minutia tasks will allow you to more properly see the full scope
and allocate enough time to get it all done.
- [34:36] Remember not to get down on yourself
about planning fallacy. It is a natural human tendency that spans
across gender, culture and personality type. Knowing how your brain
may try to trick you and using the tips in this episode can help
you be less likely to succumb to it in the future, which can make
you happier, less stressed, and living up to your commitments more
Don’t Forget Your FREE Planning Fallacy
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