We’re all terrible estimators. We think we can guess how long something will take, when we really have no idea. We see everything going according to a best case scenario, without the delays that pop up. Reality never sticks to best case scenarios.
That’s why estimates that stretch weeks, months, and years into the future are fantasies. The truth is you just don’t know what’s going to happen that far in advance.
How often do you think a quick trip to the supermarket will take only a few minutes and then it winds up taking an hour? And remember when cleaning out your room took you all day instead of just the couple of hours you thought it would? Or sometimes it’s the opposite, like that time you planned on spending four hours doing an assignment only to have it take just thirty five minutes. We humans are just plain bad at estimating.
Even with these simple tasks, our estimates are often off by a factor of two or more. If we can’t be accurate when estimating a few hours, how can we expect to accurately predict the length of a “six-month project”?
Plus, we’re not just a little bit wrong when we guess how long something will take, we’re a lot wrong. That means if you’re guessing six months, you might be way off: We’re not talking seven months instead of six, we’re talking one year instead of six months.
We Said This: Break the big thing into smaller things. The smaller it is, the easier it is to estimate. You’re probably still going to get it wrong, but you’ll be a lot less wrong than if you estimated a big project. If something takes twice as long as you expected, better to have it be a small project that’s a couple weeks over rather than a long one that’s a couple months over.