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The Mirage of 'Simple'
Why Your Creative Project Takes Longer Than You Thought
This week, I found myself knee-deep in a project that I had been putting off…even though I was so sure it wouldn’t actually take long (story of my life). The project was creating my new lead magnet, Your Tech Trail Map: The Hassle-Free Guide for Coaches & Consultants. What I envisioned as a "quick PDF" turned into a Herculean effort that had me questioning my life choices. So let's dive into why we often underestimate the complexity behind seemingly simple tasks and how to navigate this tricky terrain.
The Iceberg Illusion: More Than Meets the Eye
You may have heard of the Iceberg Illusion—the idea that the product is just a tiny fraction of what went into its making. It's like looking at a beautiful painting and not seeing the countless brushstrokes, color mixing, and even the artist's moments of doubt and frustration. This illusion is even more pronounced in the digital age, where the speed of consumption makes us forget the labor that goes into creation and even “behind the scenes” looks are speeded up.
When you read a well-crafted article or flip through a neatly designed PDF, you're consuming the final product, the version that was smoothed out by hours of polishing, not trudging through the labyrinth of its creation. It is, as the saying goes, simple but not easy.
This gets worse when it’s something we don’t view as a “real” skill: writing, singing, drawing. After all, anyone can scribble on paper or make some noise, right? But even an incredibly challenging skill like landing a plane has people believing they can do it in a pinch. I’m hoping the same doesn’t apply to brain surgery, but I’m always willing to be unpleasantly surprised.
So the next time you admire someone's work, give a nod to the unseen hustle behind it. And while you’re at it, tell them how cool their creation is, and what you appreciated about it.
Planning Fallacy: The Time-Trap We All Fall Into
The "Planning Fallacy," a term coined by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, describes how terrible we are at estimating how long tasks will take. In a 1977 paper, they argued that, when making predictions about the future, people tend to rely largely on intuitive judgments that are wildly inaccurate.
We envision the end product and think, "Ah, a couple of hours should do it."
I could give you some tips on how to counteract this, but honestly, I don’t think they work, at least not for me. Just being aware of the planning fallacy doesn’t inoculate you from its effects, but it can help if you decide to do some estimating after all.
The Pomodoro Technique: Love It or Hate It, It Works
I have a love-hate relationship with the Pomodoro Technique. The idea of working in short, focused bursts sounds restrictive, but let's face it, creative projects are marathons, not sprints. You can't just power through; you need to pace yourself. And unlike repetitive tasks with set steps and measured timelines, you have no idea how long it’ll really take. It’ll take as long as it takes, so may as well start tallying those pomodoros.
Setting a timer for 25-minute work intervals (that’s the official timeline - I actually make mine either 37 or 42 minutes long) with short breaks in between can help you maintain momentum without feeling like you're running on fumes.
The Big Question: Is It Worth Your Time?
Before you dive into any project, especially one that seems "easy," take a step back and assess its value. Ask yourself:
Will this project move the needle for my business or personal growth?
Do I have the resources (time, emotional bandwidth, financial investment) to see it through?
What am I going to do when it takes 10x as long as I thought it would or require 10x the resources?
You probably won’t like the answers. Don’t let it stop you altogether, but don’t ignore that yellow light either. If you find yourself hesitating, it might be worth revisiting your project's scope or even considering alternative approaches.
The next time you're about to plunge into a "simple" project, remember that simplicity is almost always a well-crafted illusion. Arm yourself with the resilience, resources, and a healthy dose of reality to navigate the challenges that will inevitably come out of nowhere and punch you in the face.
Zoom decided that it’s time to stop giving all those OtterPilots, Fireflies Assistants, and Fathom Notetakers precious space in the Gallery View and released their own AI Assistant. It purports to intelligently process recordings, summarize meetings and chats, and more.
I’m digging the photos by the winners of the Minimalist Photography Awards. If only I could my own space (or headspace) to this state…
I learned a lot about product images from this book excerpt. Now I just need my own dedicated photographer and studio to implement.