The hidden cost of keeping your options open

Photo by visualpanic

Photo by visualpanic

This spring, college students will be making decisions about the future. Whether “the future” means this summer, the next year, or the next five years, such decisions are always difficult, loaded as they are with the weight of opportunity costs. In these circumstances, a seemingly promising strategy is to maximize the possibilities you’ll have in the future. After all, isn’t college meant to open doors for you?

While it is true that college opens doors, a number of sources indicate that it is best to close most of those doors. Keeping your options open has a cost. Continue reading

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The Ebb and Flow of Motivation

Photo by Jenny Downing

At the start of the summer, I spent a good deal of time laying out my goals. I diligently set milestones. I pared down superfluous tasks, quickly deciding that learning a language and reading more than a handful of books would be infeasible with my summer internship and side projects. Even having multiple side projects was not the best, so I scheduled which months would be for what projects. I was ready to tackle the summer. Continue reading

The Key to Building Willpower

How often has this happened to you? You tell yourself that you’re going to work for the next hour, only to find yourself struggling after ten minutes. You remember hearing that breaks are good for productivity, so you decide to take one.

My ideal calendar

My ideal calendar

Two hours later, you reemerge from the Internet. You’ve “liked” your friend’s new profile picture, seen the new Dark Knight trailer, and learned why The Atlantic thinks women still can’t have it all in today’s corporate culture. If you’re really good, you might have also updated yourself on the latest developments in the global economy, cleared up your email inbox, and found the next book you want to read.

But you haven’t done your work.

Continue reading

The Science of Getting Things Done

Productivity philosophies always sound great on the outside

Photo by J. E. Theriot

Productivity philosophies always sound great on the outside, promising more free time, more autonomy, and a happier lifestyle. But not all of these philosophies deliver, and not everyone will like the same philosophies.

So how do you pick one productivity philosophy over another?

The typical answer is that this is a completely personal decision and you should do whatever works best for you.

We can do better than that. The typical answer doesn’t explain why systems like David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) have such widespread popularity. While good marketing does play a role, I’ve thought of a more satisfying answer based on some recent findings in psychology. I’m talking about two concepts, ego depletion and decision fatigue, which are two of the most fascinating phenomena I’ve read about in the past year. Continue reading