Last 10% = 90%

Day 119 Week 17 Q2 Sunday, April 30, 2023

When the last 10% = 90% of the time. We have all been there. Fresh and flushed from riding the learning where the concept is more clear than the execution. We know exactly how to do it, but it takes a lot longer because it must be done ten times to get it right. The good news is we understand what to do and are doing it. The bad news is no matter how many times this happens, we underestimate how much time it will take to finish.

This is not directly because we do not know what we are doing, but it is indirectly. When a task or project has been performed or completed many times, we know how long it takes. But when we involuntarily innovate or improve or simply go for another ride, on the steep part of the learning curve just to get at the rush, then we are no longer in the territory where we know exactly what to do. And because we are creative outliers, we actually like spending time exploring and discovering instead of repeating the same old tasks, processes or projects.

This is when the last ten percent takes a second ninety percent of the time. And yes, 90 percent times two is 180 percent. And yes, at least 180% of the time, this is what you should expect when dealing with the unknown. Exciting new learning curves do take time. Okay, we can round it off to twice as long to do things you do not know how to do. And hey, we are doing very well here as for many people who do not routinely engage the unknown, it can take ten times as long or sometimes never even get done.

There is no point in beating yourself up for being a poor time estimator. How can you be good at estimating the unknown? The fact that you spend a significant chunk of your life involved in the unknown is a large part of what makes you, who you are, a creative outlier. You could deliberately stop being curious and courageous enough to tackle the unknown routinely, and then you would be much better at estimating time.  In fact, this is what most of the population does between the age of five and fifty. They stop being creative outliers because spending their life tackling the unknown is somewhat of a luxury that neither employers nor partners appreciate. However, that may be exactly what attracted them to you initially.

One way to avoid this dilemma is to have partners and bosses who are also creative outliers who appreciate you because they are like you! Of course, some of these people expect you to change and settle down, and since most of the population does change and settle down, it is not an unreasonable wish.

But if you have made it past your twenties or thirties and are still addicted to steep learning curves and are not showing signs of being apologetic about your curiosity, then the writing is on the wall or on your soul. You are a creative outlier and want to be one and accept yourself that way, so others had better accept you for who you are.

You spend another 90% of your time and effort on the last 10% of the project, bringing it in at twice the initial estimate.  And these diminishing returns make for excellence and where tomorrow comes from.