It’s hard to do accurately. Especially when it’s for something we have never done before like building a herb garden, or launching a product, or going through a business reconstruction. It’s almost always harder, more expensive and more time consuming than we expect.

Incorrectly scoping cost causes us to overcommit. We take on more than we can handle. We don’t even know that we did. As soon as one task runs longer we fall behind. We put in more hours and don’t catch up. We reach the end of the year burned-out and exhausted promising to do better.

Here is your chance. Undercommit. Build in margin for new stuff that you will scope incorrectly. Consider a big learning curve and a certain amount of unconscious incompetence you have not planned for. This feels like an inefficient use of time. You will be grateful when you get to the end of the year with high quality, completed projects without exhaustion and compromised health.

When tackling something new, bring in an old hand. Someone who has done it before. If not as an assist or project lead, at least as an advisor or soundboard to manage your expectations and energy.

Of course, if you plan to spend next year doing things you’ve done before, you will likely do them faster, provided that nothing changes.

Chances are: V.U.C.A.

John Cobb

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