When it comes to Estimates, don't count on your future self

August 5, 2019

I have never met a gentler, nobler and generally better person than my future self. Tomorrow, I will stop smoking. I will eat that bar of chocolate today, but tomorrow, I will exercise. Tomorrow I will start reading that book, and I will start learning that skill.

Everyone who has ever done a New Year’s Resolution knows that this “tomorrow” probably never comes, and most of us either know better than making unrealistic plans, or generally don’t beat themselves up about it.

But when it comes to Estimates, there’s a difference - people trust that their future self will be a better person than they are now. Here are a few symptoms of that issue:

  • Believing that the issues and troubles of the past will not occur in the future (“We went through a lot, but the future looks bright!”)
  • Not taking into account past estimation mistakes (“I might have been off previously, but that was an exception - this time I will be right!”)
  • Generally believing that the past was an exception, and the future will follow the rules (“So John was sick and Mary left last month, but next month, everyone will be available!”)

There are countless other examples on how our estimates are skewed because we generally believe that the future will be better than the past. This generally leads to underestimation. In reality, there is no reason to believe that the next two weeks will be substantially different from the previous two weeks (Except, of course, for planned changes such as vacation). It’s like predicting the weather: If you have no other data available and don’t happen to be a meteorologist, it’s safe to assume that yesterday’s weather will not be substantially different from today.

So, you either should let go of the notion of a better, nobler future self, or start improving yourself right now - and not tomorrow.

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