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Everything takes longer than you think

It’s easy to get frustrated. Any emotional hiccup can send us spiraling for hours. Even if we assume –like an insane person– that we won’t make any mistakes, then our big goals will still take longer than expected. We’ve got to learn to expect it. Expect that things will take 3-5 times longer than you estimated before you started (10 times longer if you skipped estimating and planning).

Positive illusory bias causes us to overestimate our natural abilities and underestimate the amount of time required to finish tasks. We rarely factor in daydreaming, setbacks, planning, breaks, transition time, and other unforeseen distractions. Then we get frustrated when we fall short. The stress causes things to take longer, or the quality of our work is compromised, or both.

This is just one of the innumerable ways that our unmanaged efforts can lead to stagnation. Sometimes we don’t even notice the transition from an impulsive start to wasted effort. How much time is spent spinning our wheels in the mud before we can pull ourselves out again?

The truth is that anything worth doing takes time; usually a long time. It’s important to ensure that our time and effort are well spent. Don’t water another person’s flowers while yours wither. Our time is limited, but quality requires unhurried action. We can’t allow the stress of deadlines or the infinite void of “perfect choice” to derail our dreams. We must balance the two realities to accomplish our goals and feel fulfilled.

Here are some points to keep in mind:
  • Is it something you really want? Is this the best way to get it?
  • Make a plan that includes all tasks, possible setbacks, and time estimates.
  • Multiply your total time estimate by 3 and ask yourself if this is a more realistic estimate to do your best work. Ask others if your estimate seems right.
  • Add “buffer time” between everything you do. All of your tasks will require some transition time to clear your head and ensure you don’t get stressed out by a time crunch. Stress makes it more difficult to manage our Executive Functions (like emotional management) and stay on task.

It’s not that you can’t. You can. Big things are possible. There are just small things in the way. But even a small pebble can be dangerous if we ignore it. Willpower is not enough. Kindle your curiosity, make a plan, and go all in.

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