Your brain’s lies about time

Reading time: 20 seconds

How long does it take for you to brush your teeth? To take a shower? To walk to work, or to the bus-stop nearby? To shop for provisions this weekend? Or to prepare tomato soup for dinner? Write down your estimates and measure those things with a stopwatch. You would be surprised.

We are born with programming that gives us an overly optimistic disposition towards the time things take – the planning fallacy. We see it everywhere in our culture. Online recipes with a 10 minute prep time and 20 minute cooking time are not possible, unless four-armed mutants do the cooking. Google Maps estimates for how long it takes to drive across the city seem to be calibrated at 4 AM, with Kimi Raikkonen on the wheel.´

The bottom-line is that things take longer than we think they would take. We scramble to make it to calls and meetings on time. We burn the midnight oil to meet a deadline we promised our boss. We rush to the airport wishing for short security queues, and with tall hopes that the flight is delayed by 10 minutes. Our poor time estimation skills are a constant source of stress in our lives.

Our brain is a master at bluffing to us how long things take. The only way to break this vicious cycle is to use a stopwatch and call our brain’s bluffs once in a while. That way, we can be more in touch with the reality of how long things actually take.

Life is hard enough without having to fit 40 hours into 24 every single day.

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