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How Plans Grow

Have you ever set out to complete a “quick” project, only to have it grow well beyond your initial estimate? You learned that it contained more complexity than you expected, and took more time than you anticipated.

Well, take heart. It’s not just you! This happens to me all the time as well.

I found a fun way to show you a recent example of this.

When I went to add some Google Calendar integration to the Fractal Planner, my initial plan had only 3 tasks that I had to do.

Watch how the plan grows from there as I discover how much structure the project *ACTUALLY* had.

[NOTE: there is NO SOUND on this video, so no need to check your speakers]

Can you relate to this, or what?

In a couple days I’ll post another video where I remove finished items from the list, so you can see the “natural rhythm” of a project.


This entry was posted in fractal planning, to do list, unexpected complications and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted April 7, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    That’s exactly how each one of my days (and projects) seems to go. And, if I have the discipline to actually follow through and finish the whole thing, I find that the journey to completion was far longer than I thought it was going to be.
    Every to-do has several to-do’s buried inside.

    • Jim Stone
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I think anyone who works on any kind of complex creative project should be able to relate to this. That “to-dos” buried inside “to-dos” is a great description of the fractal nature of our plans. I plan to say a lot more about how “fractal awareness” can make us more productive and less stressed about our work.

  2. Posted April 7, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Great stuff Jim! Yes I can definitely relate to the ‘scope creep’ of a project. I use Basecamp to track my project timelines and scoe and it helps tremendously when it comes to working with clients.

    • Jim Stone
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Having a “maybe later” list can help with “scope creep” as well (and being willing to move things off the main plan to the maybe later list). Sometimes I’ll create an in-between project as well. So, I’ll be working on PROJECT. Then, when I see I’ve got 3 new features in PROJECT, and two of them really don’t need to be in the initial package, I’ll split PROJECT into PROJECT(Now) and PROJECT(Later).

      Also, sometimes it’s scope creep that causes our plans to expand, and sometimes it’s a matter of discovering that your project is actually more complicated than you thought (even while keeping the scope constant).

      • Posted April 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        I do the same thing. The base project may grow or split as new ‘features’ or options are added, requested or discovered. Like you said, sometimes, the best planning in the world will overlook some items until you get into the “mix” and then you discover “I really need to include this now” but that include is a full week of coding :-O
        Usually, the client gets to enjoy the ‘overdelivery’ but sometimes it is just too much to give away as part of the package and can be offered at a reduced price sine the basic project would still work without the option, but adding it makes it that much more of a complete package.
        Of course, if\when this happens, I will ask the client before I start the development, but even if they don’t want it right then, I will keep it my “list” for upgrades:-)

  3. Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    They key is to always know what step needs to be taken care of NEXT and HOW to do it. Leave out the HOW, and you’re liable to procrastinate.

    • Jim Stone
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Gene. Exactly. HOW and WHY. That’s where fractal awareness is indispensable. “HOW” is just a matter of breaking things down. “WHY” is just a matter of moving up a level or two in your plan, and asking some questions.

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