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Is there a Science Behind Working Smart?

- By Dwaipayan, 05 August 2020 | 5 MIN READ


We can always develop a smarter approach and plan to create manageable workloads and get more done. As human beings, we are often bad at estimating how long it will take to complete tasks.

We all have a bias in our thinking that makes us underestimate how long projects will take even after we have completed similar tasks. It is called the planning fallacy, a subconscious phenomenon that everyone is susceptible to.

The planning fallacy often causes us to agree to an unrealistic workload with unrealistic deadlines. This leaves us feeling optimistic early on, but as time goes by, the impending deadlines cause panic. We lose focus, and our productivity suffers. The very idea was first proposed by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. In one of their study in 1994.

 How Your Overconfidence Fuels Planning Fallacy

Sometimes your burning desire to be productive causes you to fail. We’re at times blind and don’t see the big picture, even when we have earlier faced similar situations of unexpected problems and distractions.

The science behind this thought process is called optimism bias, which causes us to believe that we are at a lesser risk of experiencing obstacles during our project. optimism is a good thing it’s needed, but sometimes while planning your workload optimism can cloud your judgment.

According to a recent study involving brain scanning uncovered that our neurons encrypt desirable information that boosts optimism but fail at incorporating negative information. When someone wins a lucky draw, we’re wired to think that we can win, too. But when someone meets a bad accident, we ignore the fact that the same can happen to us.

We set ourselves to exceed expectations and help the company succeed could be counterproductive at times. As you take on more work than you can manage, you will eventually miss deadlines, let your team down, and feel discouraged.


The magic of “Task Segmentation”

Divide Up and Prioritize Your To-Do List

The more items you have on your to-do list, the more the possibility that you’ll run into something unexpected increases, which will affect your entire workload. By developing a to-do list that prioritizes tasks, segments larger tasks into subtasks, and allocates time to each item, you can reduce the effects of the planning fallacy.

This method is called task segmentation. Studies have found that it reduces the planning fallacy because the summation of estimates for the subtasks more accurately represents the time it should take to complete the entire task.


Here is how to create detailed to-do list segmented first by priority and then by time:

•         Step One: Prioritize based on the value of each task. Tasks that have the greatest impact are listed first. Be descriptive and use action verbs for each task

•         Step Two: Break down the larger tasks into subtasks and assign time to each subtask.

•         Step Three: Arrange your tasks into three lists: a 3 months calendar, a weekly project list, and daily to-do list. Remember, as a rule, never put more than three tasks on your daily list.

Apply Data from Past Projects to Schedule better

Using a software-based solution something like Asana to manage your workload will help keep you on schedule and automatically track your progress. By tracking the progress of each task, you create a data story that will help predict future projects of similar scope.

Don’t Just Trust Your Brain to Work Smart

We can’t completely stop our subconscious minds from cognitive biases like the planning fallacy. These supposed flaws in our thinking help us when making quick decisions. But they can also hurt our thought processes without us realizing it.

Smart work starts with detailed planning when taking on more work for a given time. By developing methods to counter your biases and using the right tools, you will improve your ability to estimate the right amount of work and get more done.




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