All Estimates Are Lies

“I just have two emails to send, and then I’ll stop working for the day. Give me 30 minutes.”

This is what I said to my wife of 16 years last night. I made a 30-minute estimate in a split-second and promptly dove into the work. And those two emails? They actually took 90 minutes. One of them took nearly 45 minutes to craft. The other one exploded into three separate emails, a few adjustments in our company time-tracking software, and a short chat with Casey before I actually clicked the send button. My 30-minute estimate changed into a 90 minute project. And then I worked for another hour beyond that.

How could I have been so wrong? Those emails took me three times longer than I predicted. Worse yet, these were two very small tasks. I wasn’t estimating something that could take weeks or months. I was estimating my next 30 minutes. I was undistracted, my laptop was already open, and I even had the first email started.

A major portion of my job is to write emails and to communicate with people. So I should know how long it takes to write emails like these. Right? Wrong.


Read the full article at, originally published on January 21, 2015.

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