It’s happening again.
You’re scrambling to finish a work project just hours before the looming deadline. As you breath in shallow breaths you feel the tension in your shoulders start to mount.
This is what stress feels like.
“Never again.” You whisper to yourself. You promise that from now on you’re going to start all your projects early to give yourself time to finish them.
But it never happens.
Before you know it, you’re back scrambling to finish another project and feeling that stress once again.
The cycle continues.
So why does this happen? Why can’t we seem to finish anything on time even when we feel like we’re working hard?
The #1 Reason We Miss Deadlines
Put simply, we have the habit underestimating how long activities take to accomplish.
And this is true with almost everything. Here are a few examples:
The “15-minute trip” to the bank takes at least 25 minutes.
That “quick five-minute call” takes twice as long.
The project that we think we can knock out in two hours ends up taking four hours instead.
Why do we have this underestimation habit?
First, as overachievers we think we can “do it all.” We have no problem piling more and more projects on our plates. And we don’t give ourselves enough time to do them right.
Second, most of us tend to idealize what our “future selves” are capable of accomplishing. When we think about ourselves in the future, we imagine someone with more willpower than us who can accomplish activities with Elon Musk-like determination.
Therefore, when we plan how long a project will take to finish, we imagine our “nearly perfect” future self doing it without struggle.
But then when we’re in front of our computer and it’s time to get to work reality sets in, and things rarely go as planned. For example:
Maybe the words don’t come out as fast as we would like.
Or unforeseen (yet necessary) research causes a delay.
Or polishing the finished product takes more time than expected.
A Simple Strategy For Hitting All Your Deadlines
So what’s the solution?
Just add 50% to all your estimated completion times.
Give yourself three hours to do that project instead of two. Plan on 8-minutes for that “quick phone call” instead of five. Leave your house at 6:15 p.m. for that 7:00 p.m. dinner instead of 6:30 p.m. Allow 18-months to build a new 6-figure revenue stream instead of a year.
I first heard about this idea from George McKeon in his excellent book Essentialism and this strategy has liberated me. I’m now rarely stressed to make last minute deadlines. I’m also getting more done than before.
If you give this strategy a chance, I believe you’ll encounter similar results. It takes discipline, however. There will be that part of you that still feels you can “do it all.”
Successful people feel “lazy” when they don’t have many projects going on at once. They think fewer projects will cause them to get behind their competition.
But these are lies we tell ourselves.
If you think about the accomplishments you’re proudest of, most likely they came at the end of a period of extreme focus. You were spending a disproportionate percentage of your time on one project to the exclusion of everything else.
Success always follows this pattern whether it’s a one-hour project or a decade-long project. So when we give ourselves time to accomplish our goals we’re embracing a proven formula.
And when embrace this formula, the days of deadline stress will soon be over. You’ll be hitting deadlines and goals faster and with less stress than ever before. By giving yourself permission to do “less” you’ll end up accomplishing much, much more.
Now let’s hear from you. How do you plan on putting this strategy into action? Let me know my commenting below