I got hit by the rule of four this afternoon. After I returned from a movie and before I even set foot in the house, I decided to replace the garage door bottom seal. It's just a U-shaped piece of rubber that rides in two channels at the bottom of the door. I already had the replacement part; how hard could it be?
I figured it would take 10-12 minutes to complete the project. If I had thought it would take any longer, I would have had lunch first.
Taking out the old was more involved than I thought because somewhere in the door's history, it hit something that pinched one of the channels. It took a while to spot that but it only took a screwdriver to fix.
Putting the new seal in would have been no big deal if I had taken the seal out of the package and let it stretch. Instead, I had a piece of recently folded rubber that wanted to stay folded, bending the little tabs that slide through the grooves. A little silicon spray and and a lot of muscle and in it went.
All told, the project took about 45 minutes. Let's see - I estimated 10-12, it took 45. Yep, smack dab inside the rule of four.
I came up with the rule of four when I was repairing the junkers I drove during my twenties. I was always replacing or repairing something and I noticed it always took about four times longer to replace that alternator or starter or do that oil change than I originally estimated. Later, in college, I noticed it took four hours to write a computer program that at first glance I thought would take one. Today, at work, cleaning customer data, keying in orders, preparing for meetings, whatever, they all take four times longer than I expect. No wonder I miss so many deadlines. Of course, I'm not the only one who does it, so I fit right in.
Even this blog post. I estimated it would take five minutes to write. It's been 20. And that folks, is the rule of four.