Tim Harford Columnist

Is there a more reliable source of disappointment anywhere in the world than my own daily to-do list? Each night I write down everything I plan to do in the morning, and I transfer all the uncompleted tasks from the previous day. I’ve done this for more than a quarter of a century. In 10,000 days, have I ever looked at yesterday’s list and nodded with satisfaction that every item had been ticked off? Not once.

I can take consolation in knowing I am not alone. Whether the task is as trivial as processing the past hour’s e-mails or as colossal as building a high-speed rail link or staging the Olympic Games, we almost always underestimate the time and effort involved...

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