Why The Planning Fallacy Ruins Your Day Before It Starts

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Planning Fallacy

Did you know that in 12 minutes, you can bake a cake, write a blog post, or do a full-body workout? Why do so many of us struggle to finish things on time?

These people don’t realize they’ve fallen into the planning fallacy. It makes you think you all the time in the world to do whatever you want. Those who fall for it end up late.

I used to go through this problem, too. As a kid, there were days when I thought I could take a nap or read a book before doing my homework. Unfortunately, I learned that time isn’t something that I can control. If I wanted to finish my job on time, I had to learn how to set my mind to my objective. Are you interested to know how I did it? Here’s what you need to know about the planning fallacy and how you overcome it to stay on schedule.

What Is The Planning Fallacy?

Having a credit card is good because it has a lot of benefits. But you know what’s a bad combination to credit cards? Lack of self-control! An article in Economic Notes said that credit card users with low self-control are more likely to carry a massive debt on their credit cards. They only see the benefit and fun of using the credit card on the actual purchase but lack sight of the payment due date. The problem starts when the due date comes in, and the amount due cannot be paid in full until the accumulated balance left gets bigger and bigger.

We’re prone to think we can finish an essay in one hour. If the paper is due next week, you think you have time in the world to rest. Then, when you check the clock, you’re only five minutes away from submitting your paper.

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This phenomenon is called the planning fallacy. It was discovered by two behavioral psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Both noticed that people tend to start doing something in their own time. Some trusted their intuition and waited until they felt ready to begin. Others predicted how much time it would take to finish a task. Regardless of intuition or prediction, there wasn’t enough time to do the job right once they got to work. Whether it was cooking or paperwork, these people made the wrong call and had to rush their work. That’s the danger of the planning fallacy: you lose so much time that you feel you have to either give up or compensate with a rushed performance. 

How It Affects Your Business

Now that I’ve illustrated how the planning fallacy works, it’s time to show you what it can do to your business. Procrastinating anything in life is never a good idea, but it can be a dangerous error in business. Here are four possible effects of the planning fallacy that can cost you money and resources.

Poor Performance

As I’ve already mentioned, the planning fallacy makes you hurry and causes you to perform poorly. If you try rushing a project, it will come out bad. You’re more likely to make several errors and not notice them. Can you imagine how bad that will look? If your work seems sloppy, it doesn’t matter if it’s a good idea or a valuable product. People will turn away and look for something more impressive and refined.

Lack of Direction

Rushing your projects or assignments will cause a lack of direction. Because you lost so much time, you’re likely to try and finish everything at once. However, your mind won’t be able to concentrate on one task. You might keep shifting your attention from one goal to another. For example, if you keep changing focus from the tires to the engine, you can’t build a car on time. Doing so will only split your efforts and confuse you.

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Anxiety and Anger

When our plan falls apart, we often lose our patients. It’s common for us to get mad and anxious about the upcoming deadlines of our tasks. Unfortunately, we usually take it out on our colleagues or partners. We might feel as though it’s their fault.

Loss of Trust

Lastly, sloppy and hurried work will always lead to broken trust. People we work with or work for will feel let down and lied to because we failed to deliver what we promised. Have someone ever promised to pay you back, and they never did? It hurts when you realize you’ve been lied to. That’s the same betrayal we do to others if we don’t do our jobs properly. 

Five Proven Methods to Staying On Schedule

I’ve pointed out how dangerous the planning fallacy is and what it can do to our business. However, there are ways to fight it and keep moving. I’ve had to learn how to stick to my schedule. This way, I make sure that what I promise, I deliver. Sometimes, I can exceed everyone’s expectations if I stick to the plan. I use five proven methods to ensure I do not fall into the planning fallacy.

1. Outline Daily Goals

I’m an advocate of journaling my thoughts. For me, being able to write down and express how I feel and what I’m planning has helped me understand myself. It also helps me remember what I aim to do for the day. If you want to keep to your tasks, always write them down and read them aloud. The more you reinforce your objectives, the longer they will stay in your mind. I also recommend writing down why you are doing these things. 

When we feel the purpose of a task, we feel motivated to do our job correctly.

2. Shut Off Potential Distractions

Sometimes, our plans fall apart because we let ourselves get distracted by the things around us. It might be loud noises from down the street or that new TV show playing in the background. When we get distracted, we lose track of time. So, to keep these grievances away, find a quiet place where you can focus on your work. If you can’t avoid the noise, you can drown it with soothing music or ambient sounds. You can also shut off your app notifications or log out of your social media.

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3. Set Realistic Deadlines and Tasks

When Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky examined why people fell for the planning fallacy, they found that several predicted their timelines. They imagined an ideal scenario where they could work without issue. While we can’t expect everything, we shouldn’t try and imagine that all will go smoothly. What I often do is set a realistic goal and a deadline I can do for the day. For example, I put out three tasks I have to do throughout the day. I time myself in each job to see how much work needs to be done. I also set a deadline to finish everything for that day within eight hours. If you have trouble timing yourself, you can use work timers like Hubstaff.

4. Be Accountable For All Actions

Many people who fall for the planning fallacy blame their colleagues or loved ones. They might say that a birthday kept them from finishing their project. Some might claim that no one tried to help. I think that’s not fair. I believe that we should always be accountable for our actions. Everyone has the same amount of time, and it’s our mission to make the most of it. When I was in the military, I learned that timing is everything. If you were late by one second, there was no excuse. You were late, plain and simple. My time there taught me that time management was something I had to be accountable for. And if you start thinking that way, you can begin fixing your schedule and becoming effective.

5. Do It

Sometimes, our mood doesn’t seem right. We might not feel ready to start the day. We might be tired or bored, or unmotivated. The thing is, even if we waited, our tasks would still be there. They aren’t going to disappear even if you slept throughout the day. There are days when I want to keep sleeping, but I know I have to work. So, I simply tell myself to do it. I tell myself that I have to get it done now. I tell myself that my problems and struggles will only get more complicated if I keep waiting. I can finish them and go about my day if I start now. Once you start applying this mindset to your life, you’ll realize that you can push your body and mind to get back to work.

In Summary

The planning fallacy is a phenomenon where we overestimate how much time it takes to finish one task. This can make us take longer to start working and make us cram our efforts into a short amount of time. The planning fallacy can cost us our jobs and our credibility if we’re not careful. That’s why I offer five simple strategies to stay on schedule. You can focus on getting work done by outlining your goals, turning off all distractions, and setting a realistic deadline. If you remain accountable for your actions and decide to start now, you can get so much done before the day is over.

  1. Buehler, R. (2019, May 30). The Planning Fallacy: An Inside View. Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved from: https://spsp.org/news-center/character-context-blog/planning-fallacy-inside-view
  2. Kishore, K. (2021, August 12). The Planning Fallacy. Harappa. Retrieved from: https://harappa.education/harappa-diaries/planning-fallacy-its-meaning-and-examples/
  3. Rampton, J. (2020, May 12). What Is the Planning Fallacy, and How Can You Avoid It? Entrepreneur. Retrieved from: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/350045
  4. The Decision Lab. Accessed on July 8, 2022. Planning fallacy. Retrieved from: https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/planning-fallacy

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