Think about your last project. Did you underestimate how long it would take? Many of us fall into this trap. Our perceptions of our available time, our abilities, and any roadblocks we may hit are greatly skewed. This is a phenomenon called the planning fallacy, and it happens to professionals at all levels and in every occupation. Here’s how to set more realistic targets for yourself.

  • Be objective, not subjective. Ask yourself: How much time and effort have similar tasks required in the past? Or ask a colleague to help with your estimate to remove your own biases.
  • Commit early and publicly. Tell someone when you’ll get the task done and how long it will take. This external commitment pressure will prevent you from leaving all of your work to the last minute.
  • Schedule buffer time. There will always be things that come up and you may simply need more time. To ensure a more realistic deadline, take your original estimate and increase it by 25%.
  • Assume the worst. Imagine what will go wrong before it actually does. Identifying any potential (if unlikely) issues will help you come up with a suitable backup plan.