The Bee I Keep Getting Stung By

Am I the only one that comes up with “great” ideas that I’m going to knock out lickity-split and relish in my “get it done” success? Oh man, I can start projects – for work or home – like nobody’s business. I’m a pro at that!

Just last week, less than 12 hours after being mentally fried from my dissertation proposal, I had a grand idea to do some DIY kitchen renovations. You know, nothing major, just refinish the cabinets, pour concrete counter tops, tile the backsplash, add corrugated metal under the counter, build bar stools, and maybe start replacing some appliances. Seems simple enough, right? The funny part is, I almost had my uber handy husband convinced that we should just start ripping counter tops out that night. He likes that sort of thing.

Truthfully, we’ve had a prototype of a bar stool (yes, “a” as in 1) that we built sitting in our kitchen – unfinished – for about a year. I’m lying, it’s been more like 2+ years.

Surely we could just take on these extra few items in our “spare” time. Notice that is not a question, but rather a statement. Here we go, the “not Chip and Joanna Gaines”, on #demoday!

Photo credit: Magnolia Market

The problem is, if I’m honest, I’ve got a lot of projects that I start and never finish. What I’ve realized is that I’m ambitious at the start, then my interest wains and my frustration grows. It’s true with the sports events we plan as well…I’ll think an event will be a snap to pull-off, then find myself reeling when it takes more resources than anticipated.

My lack of patience is one reason for this pattern, another one is this sneaky little devil called “planning fallacy”.

Planning fallacy basically says it doesn’t matter what our objective is, we are highly likely to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete it. In other words, our best laid intentions often deceive us. It will always take longer, more…

Here’s an interesting take on planning fallacy from a Freakonomics podcast that is worth the read/listen. (Sidebar: Freakonomics Radio is one of my favorite podcasts)

Those of us in the sports scene often get stung by this bee repeatedly. I have, and I’m allergic to bees, so when I get stung, the whole world knows I screwed up from my physical reaction…like the movie Hitch. That’s wearing a mistake on your sleeve.

As we grow in professional and personal maturity, we need to plan for the planning fallacy. How do we do this? Here are 5 simple suggestions:

1. Build in “fluff”. Extra time, extra money, extra XYZ resources. If you don’t use them, great!

2. Cut your goal in half. This recommendation comes straight from Jon Acuff’s great book Finish, in which he tackles some tricks to actually shortening your to-do list rather than lengthening it. Is your objective a must do? Can it be reduced? What are the consequences of reducing it? These are all great questions to ask to determine if your goal is too audacious or needed at all.

Photo credit: Jon Acuff

3. Increase the timeline. Does it have to be accomplished on the fictitious timeline you’ve established in your head? Remember, this is the same brain that came up with the crazy idea in the first place. Another Acuff recommendation (seriously, read the book, it’s funny, honest, and chalk-full of good advice).

4. Be a sandbagger! Huh? Yep, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be accused of being a sandbagger than of someone who under-promised and over-delivered. Note: not cool on the golf course, however.

5. Don’t fight the fallacy. We all know _ _ _ _ happens. We can be the most well-organized, detailed event director on the planet, but curve balls will ALWAYS whiz in causing for minor or major redirections.

If you follow these tips, you just might not get stung by the pesky planning fallacy bee the next time around. Who knows, if you do, maybe you won’t have such a bad reaction. And if planning fallacy does leave you red and swollen, I recommend a big dose of grace. Remember, we’re all learning on this crazy train!

As for our kitchen renovation…well, I swallowed my pride, decided to put it on hold and instead spent about a day working with my husband to finish the intended set of 4 bar stools. It might just be one small part of the overall goal, but it got done, they look great, and now I feel accomplished.

This is Stoll on Sports. Remember, as Garth Nix noted, “Bee stings are very educational.”

PS – This blog is in no way meant to disparage bees, or the important role they play in the larger eco-system. Reference to bee stings is purely an analogy. 🙂

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