For the lack of a plan

I spent close to five hours working on an assignment that I thought would take me an hour at the most.

It was an ad hoc project, and as often the case with many ad hoc projects you can’t really tell how long they’d take till they were done. My initial estimations were based off of casual look-throughs the source data I was working on, and a rough understanding of what the requirements were.

Expecting it to be not too complicated, I jumped into the assignment without thinking too much about it.

I’ll think about it as I go along, I thought.

And going deeper into the assignment, I quickly grasped what had to be done. A plan of attack was developed on the fly, and on I went.

Almost five hours later, on I was still going.

What went wrong?

I think the biggest mistake I made was rushing into things. I wanted to get the project out as soon as possible, and had set unrealistic internal and external completion time estimates. This led to a complacency at the start; an escalation of worry in the middle; and a near-panic toward the end.

With a little more forethought, I might have saved myself chunks of time. Had I known the multiple files I needed to process were so similar, I’d have done it in batches instead of piecemeal. Had I known the requirements more intimately, I wouldn’t have removed data I eventually needed. And had I known how unstructured the data would be, I’d have quoted an extended timeline that would have given me more breathing space.

In an attempt go faster, I skipped what might perhaps have been the most important thing: planning.

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