Hofstadter’s Law, also known as the planning fallacy, has become very popular within the scope of time management and especially within that of project planning:

Performing a task will always take longer than you expect, even when you take into account the Hofstadter’s Law itself.

It doesn’t matter how we estimate the time we need to accomplish a task because we will never meet our deadline. However, we cannot trust 100% what seems to be a new version of Murphy’s Law, otherwise, we would never be able to accomplish anything at all. Anyway, when it comes to setting deadlines, planning our work and estimating time, we should take the Hofstadter’s Law into account along with the other laws of productivity.

The ‘ideal estimations’ issue

One of the biggest challenges we may face when planning our tasks is to estimate the time it will take us to finish each of them. As a rule of thumb, we always do it wrong. The main reason is that our time estimations are based on ideal situations: we don’t take into account unforeseen events, problems that may arise, our team work capacity or the complexity of the tasks themselves, just to give a few examples.

So when sitting in front of your to-do list, remember to save some time to review all potential obstacles that may arise in the process. This way, you will be able to leave a time margin to ensure that any possible delays won’t affect the overall planning.

You must also bear in mind that the bigger the task is, the more difficulties you’ll have in estimating time in a proper way. The same happens when you’re drawing up long-term planning: meeting deadlines is harder over time. So try to shorten your planning periods and the tasks within them so that the Hofstadter’s Law won’t ruin your goals.

Translation by Susana Castro.

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Image: Lacie Slezak

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