February 26, 2015 05:59 PM
That’s a little-known concept called the planning fallacy, which is a strong tendency to chronically underestimate task completion. The planning fallacy is one of the most difficult behavioral patterns to change, experts say.
…Roger Buehler, a psychology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, estimates that people on average underestimate task-completion time by as much as 40%. His studies have found the same issues for matters as small as mailing a letter and as critical as income taxes.
Researchers have tested several strategies that have been found to help people slow to finish their work. One involves predicting how long it will take to get something done based on past experiences. Another is breaking down a task into very detailed steps.
In a 2004 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Dr. Kruger and a co-researcher found that when “unpacking” a task—or breaking it down into detailed steps—individuals provided more accurate estimates of how long something would take to get done. The four scenarios studied were getting ready for a date, holiday shopping, formatting a computer document and preparing food.
I'd say that this is the biggest scheduling difference between my wife and me. I break things down in meticulous detail and she tends to just wing it. I think the end result is that we just annoy each other most of the time.
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