Why Everything Always Takes Longer Than You Think — Science of Us

Projects at work, around the house, and whatever it is the construction workers have been loudly doing across the street from me for months now: Everything always seems to take longer to complete than anyone expects. If you’ve ever set a deadline for yourself, and then watched in alarm as the set day came and went and the thing you’re working on somehow still isn’t done, at least you can rest assured that it’s not just you.

This tendency, in fact, is so common it has its own name — perhaps you’ve heard of the planning fallacy, a cognitive bias identified by the dream psychology team of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979, which holds that people tend to underestimate how long it will take them to get stuff done. A good explanation of this can be found in Mindwise, by University of Chicago psychologist Nicholas Epley. In it, the author asks the reader to conduct a little self-experiment; all it requires of you, if you’d like to play along, is pen and paper, or perhaps a new Google doc


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