Sunday, September 13, 2015


It's been a whirlwind past couple of weeks. Months, really. But this past month was... overwhelming, to say the least.

In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best idea to stack up leaving my job, a 3-week trip to see family, Burning Man, departure on a six month trip, getting rid of everything I own, and getting a new motorcycle running.

But with a few stumbles here and there, I've successfully made my way to Mexico for two weeks of Spanish immersion courses.

When I last posted, I'd just finished a couple of busy days in Illinois seeing as many family and friends as I could squeeze in, and had made my way down to Florida for what I expected to be two laid-back weeks. After the lack of sleep and constant driving/moving around to get to see people I'd had in Illinois, that sounded like just the ticket.

As it turned out, I stayed pretty busy. A four-day ticket to Disney World helped with that, and a 2-year old took up most of the rest of the time (or at least the energy). I squeezed in whatever last minute preparations I could, for the motorcycle trip and for burning man, and started planning how I was going to get my apartment cleaned out and sell my car before BMan.

Let's just say things didn't go according to that plan.

On the 28th of August I planned to have my apartment cleaned out as I departed for Burning Man... I still had all of my stuff in there when I left. I planned to have sold my car... it went to Burning Man with me. I majorly underestimated the amount of time I'd spend on Burning Man prep alone, leaving me in a panic as I thought about trying to clean out the apartment in the time as well. I extended my lease, decided to take the car to Burning Man, and made a new set of plans for getting rid of the apartment and the car.

You can probably guess what happened to those plans too.

This morning, after sleeping for 3 hours (I fell asleep kneeling while packing, I was so tired), I finally admitted to myself that I wasn't going to be able to get the motorcycle packed up for leaving and also clean out the apartment in 5 hours. So I once again called my landlord, and (thank goodness) he allowed me to extend the lease a little further.

THIS time, I'm SURE the plan will work. What's that you say? You doubt me?

There's a phenomenon discussed in cognitive science called the planning fallacy. Essentially, when people estimate how long they'll take to finish something, they're... let's be generous, and say "optimistic." In fact, researchers found that if you asked someone to estimate how long something would take realistically, and then later asked them for the absolute best case scenario...

...they gave indistinguishable answers.

This is certainly not something that is unique to me - in the software engineering world, it's pretty well-known and pretty well-documented. And while knowing may be half the battle, it's not a solution. I've worked at two companies where people have struggled to deal with the planning fallacy through different methods - one by getting an estimate of when things will be done and then just expecting it will take 3 or 4 times as long, and one by getting the estimate and then just having people work ridiculously long hours to make that deadline (though both got better at their respective ways of dealing with it over time).

But, being me, I do notice my particular tendencies that lead to these problems. Like my inner monkey, which is unbelievably strong. I was literally sitting at my desk a few days ago saying OUT LOUD to myself that I need to be packing up my apartment, while simultaneously loading up a video game. Three days to departure, and my panic monster still hadn't kicked my inner monkey into gear, so here I am paying for rent on an apartment to store things that I should have cleaned out months ago.

I'd like to finish up the blog post with a big conclusion outlining the perfect solution to the planning fallacy. How I read the follow-up article and perfectly implemented it, and here's how you can too. But we all know I don't have that - because here I am.

But I can say this: despite knowing myself well enough to know this was going to happen, I'm still here. I still said to myself that I'm going to do this trip. I'm going to get rid of everything I own. I'm going to go to a country where I don't speak the language and do whatever I can to manage and thrive. I knew I'd screw it up, I knew it'd be suboptimal because of the lack of planning or being late on something.

But I'm here. So here we go, on the not-so-perfect start of my not-so-perfect trip.

[Pic is one of the ones I put on Craigslist to give away the last of my stuff after most of the furniture was out.]

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