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One Question to Know If You Can Predict Your Future

One Question to Know If You Can Predict Your Future

The Boston “Big Dig” project — a central artery and tunnel through the city — is one of the biggest engineering fails of modern times.[1] While it did get completed, it took way longer than expected. It was eight years behind schedule when finished, and the cost got way out of control. It was supposed to be $2.6 billion and became $24 billion counting interest on the debt. Concrete was mixed wrong. A ceiling collapsed and killed a car passenger. The entire process was a mess.

    But how did this happen? How did a series of capable adults and city officials so drastically miss on the time and budget for a large project? And what can we learn from it?

    We are bad estimators

    We often want to assume projects and new initiatives will go according to a best-case scenario, i.e. no delays, no interruptions, etc. That’s usually not the case. Other priorities arise. Distractions happen.

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    You should be positive about the projects you undertake, yes. But you also need to prepare for the worst — and since most of us aren’t great predictors of the future, we definitely need those plans. Think of a basic, daily example: the supermarket. Oftentimes you’ll tell yourself “20-30 minutes for essentials.” Then you end up there 1 hour. We’re not good at estimating time, in general.

    When we were considering a new feature on Lifehack’s website, we initially thought we could finish it in two weeks. That didn’t seem like very long. But the concept of “two weeks” doesn’t help identify the time for each section of the project.

    So we asked ourselves a critical question: Can I break this down into smaller chunks?

    We decided to break down the work like this:

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    • 1.5 hours for research
    • 3 hours for building the tools foundation
    • 1 hour for testing
    • 1 hour for amendments etc.

      When we broke it down, it seemed like 2.5 weeks was a more reasonable time estimate.

      If you break a big project into smaller items, it’s easier to estimate. What if you thought of a 15-week project as 15 one-week projects? Wouldn’t that make the planning more successful?

      Further breaking it down

      Break big chunks into small, manageable tasks, then work through those one step at a time. Repeat the question: can I break this down still?

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        Whenever you break something down, think about going even further down — a 15-week project can get down to a 20-hour chunk, but that 20-hour chunk can become a series of 2-hour chunks too.

        The goal here is to make things easier for yourself — and make the estimation of time more realistic.

        Some projects, like The Big Dig, are huge in nature. That is true. But even The Big Dig could have been broken down into manageable chunks and probably come in closer to time and budget expectations.

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        In your personal life, you can definitely execute this strategy. Just make the big, overwhelming projects into small, manageable pieces. Work through those. Eventually the whole big project will be done!

        Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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        Last Updated on March 31, 2020

        How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

        How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

        How often do you find yourself procrastinating? Do you wish you could procrastinate less? We all know how debilitating procrastination can make us feel, and it seems to be a challenge we all share. Procrastination is one of the biggest hindrances to moving forward and doing the things that we want to in life.

        There are many reasons why you might be procrastinating, and sometimes, it is really difficult to pinpoint why. You might be procrastinating because of something related to the past, present, or future (they are all intertwined), or it could be as simple as biological factors. Whatever the reason, most of us follow a cycle when we procrastinate, from the moment we decide to do something to actually getting it done, or in this case, not getting it done.

        The Vicious Procrastination Cycle

        For some reason, it helps to understand that we all go through the same thing, even though we often feel like the only person in the world who struggles with this. Do you resonate with the cycle below?

        1. Feeling Eager and Energized

        This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it!

        2. Apprehension Starts to Come Up

        The beginning stages of optimism are starting to fade. There is still time, but you haven’t done anything yet, and you start to feel uneasy. You realize that you actually have to do something to get it done, and that good intentions are not enough.

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        3. Still No Action

        More time has passed. You still haven’t taken any action and probably have a lot of excuses why. You start to panic a little and wish you had started sooner. Your panic starts to turn into frustration and perhaps even irritability.

        4. Flicker of Hope Left

        You can still make it; there is a little time left and you ponder how you are going to get it done. The rush you get from leaving your task until the last minute gives you a flicker of hope. There is still time; you can do this!

        5. Fading Quickly

        Your hope starts to quickly fade as you try desperately to understand why you just can’t do this. You may feel desperate and have thoughts like, “What is wrong with me?” and “Why do I ALWAYS do this?” You feel discouraged, or perhaps angry and resentful at yourself.

        6. Vow to Yourself

        Once the feeling of anger or disappointment disappears, you most likely swear to yourself that this will never happen again; that this was the last time and next time will be different.

        Does this sound like you? Is the next time different? I understand the devastating effect that procrastination has on many lives, and for some, it is a really serious problem. You also have, on the other hand, those who procrastinate but it doesn’t affect them in any way. You know whether it is affecting you or not and whether it undermines your results.

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        How to Break the Procrastination Cycle

        Unless you break the cycle, you will keep reinforcing it!

        To break the cycle, you need to change the sequence of events. Here is my suggestion on how you can effectively break the vicious cycle you are in!

        1. Feeling Eager and Energized

        This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it! The first stage is always the same.

        2. Plan

        Thinking alone will not help; you need to plan your actions. I always put my deadlines one or two days in advance because you know Murphy’s Law! Take into consideration everything that you need to do, how long it will take you, and what you will need to get it done, then plan the individual steps.

        3. Resistance

        Just because you planned doesn’t mean that this time is guaranteed to be different. You will most likely still feel the resistance so expect this. This stage is key to identifying why you are procrastinating, so when you feel the resistance, try to identify it immediately.

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        What is causing you to hesitate in this moment? What do you feel?  Write them down if it helps.

        4. Confront Those Feelings

        Once you have identified what could possibly be holding you back, for example, fear of failure, lack of motivation, etc. You need to work on lessening the resistance.

        Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move forward? What would make it easier?” If you find that you fear something, overcoming that fear is not something that will happen overnight — keep this in mind.

        5. Put Results Before Comfort

        You need to keep moving forward and put results before comfort. Take action, even if it is only for 10 minutes. The key is to break the cycle and not reinforce it. You have more control that you think.

        6. Repeat

        Repeat steps 3-5 until you achieve what you first set out to do.

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        Final Thoughts

        Change doesn’t happen overnight, and if you have some deeper underlying reasons why you procrastinate, it may take longer to finally break the cycle.

        If procrastination is holding you back in life, it is better to deal with it now than to deal with the negative consequences later on. It is not a question of comfort anymore; it is a question of results. What is more important to you?

        Learn more about how to stop procrastinating here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

        Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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