Have you ever had trouble finishing a project or assignment on time? It’s a problem most of us have had. And that is because there are certain psychological factors involved that give us an exaggerated idea of what we can accomplish.

We all too easily fall victim to what psychologists call The Planning Fallacy. It is a mindset that leads us to believe we can complete a task in a certain amount of time, an estimate that almost always turns out to be wrong. We usually underestimate the time it will take.

There are a number of psychological factors that skew our estimates. One is called the Optimism Bias, an innate view that everything will come out right in the end. We overestimate our effectiveness and self-discipline, and focus on the end rather than the process, not taking into account the obstacles we may encounter.

Here are some ways to get past The Planning Fallacy and get things done on time.

1. Be realistic about your self-discipline
We usually assume we have more self-discipline than we actually do. Take this into account at the start.

2. List previous assignments that were not finished on time
This is another way of getting yourself motivated. If you see where you failed in the past, it can spur you to do better now.

3. Don’t wait to be motivated.
This is a problem many people have. They feel they have to wait until they are in the right frame of mind, the right mood, before they can get to work. Work whether you are in the right mood or not. Don’t wait for inspiration.

4. Step by step
This is a well known organizing principle – break down big projects into smaller, more manageable pieces. Take things one step at a time. Plan out a step-by-step strategy. Make up a schedule – a date and time for when you will work on each task in your plan – and stick to it.

5. Begin at the end
It sounds a bit paradoxical, but the idea is to envision the finished product and then work backward from there to make up your game plan for tackling the project.

6. Plan for disruptions
Life will get in the way, as it usually does. There will be distractions and disruptions that will throw you off track. Plan for them. Think about the disruptions that arose with past projects – how will you handle them. Develop a plan for getting back on track as soon as possible.

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