Why you should never advertise your plans

Students talking in a restaurantMy previous blog post on time management was about how to make your plans easier to implement.  It’s great fun to make plans for yourself. You might be so happy about your admirable new intentions that you want to tell someone else about what you’ve decided to do.  After all, if you say out loud that you intend to learn Bayesian statistics, doesn’t that make you more accountable if you get lazy?  Why not say something to your friends over dinner to stop yourself from backing out?

You might want to think twice.  Gollwitzer et al. 2009 presents four experiments suggesting that when you tell people you intend to engage in “identity-relevant activities”, it becomes less likely that you’ll actually follow through with your plans.  If you want to read that long monograph or get comfortable with R, just do it. Continue reading “Why you should never advertise your plans”

Turn jobs into tasks

Last time I wrote about the problem of multitasking.  The fight to stay focused doesn’t always involve balancing your real work with a distraction; it can also be about juggling multiple projects.  Even if you are working exclusively on important items, it’s still best to do one thing at a time because you’ll get more done that way.

Students writing in the library
[Paul Dodds]
The trick here is to divide your jobs into smaller tasks so they don’t become large amorphous blobs that overlap each other all day.  For each ‘to do’ item on your list, divide it until you are left with tasks that can be finished in a finite amount of time.  See the following for an example of the sort of list I might use to organise and follow up on a meeting: Continue reading “Turn jobs into tasks”

Stop multitasking

The idea of me writing about time management seems like a joke.  But then again, maybe I’m actually well-suited to the task: I need all the artificial props I can muster to keep myself on task.  Even a bad runner can win a race with a bicycle.  I’ll share a few of my tricks with you, starting with how to stop yourself from multitasking.

It can be tempting to multitask. Student listening to music while on the computerIt’d be nice to say that this is because we’re good at it, but those of us who feel the temptation most strongly are probably the worst at it.   That’s because the ones who end up multitasking the most are those with lower executive control and higher impulsivity, which makes them have trouble resisting a second task (Sanbonmatsu et al. 2013).  At the same time, these people find it harder to actually do what multitasking requires: rapid switching between tasks (Banich 2009).  The students you see in the library with one window open to a music video and another open to a journal article might think they’re being efficient, but they’re probably the ones who will suffer the most from what they’re doing. Continue reading “Stop multitasking”