In the New Yorker, Maria Konnikova looks at the research behind procrastination and finds that those of us who are most likely to procrastinate have impulsive tendencies, or a lack of self-control (which makes sense).
Some tips on doing the things you’re avoiding doing:
“The problem with a goal we’re avoiding is that we’ve already built into our minds how awful it’s going to be,” he said. “So it’s like diving into a cold pool: the first few seconds are terrible, but soon it feels great.” So, set the goal of working on a task for a short time, and then reassess. Often, you’ll be able to stay on task once you’ve overcome that initial jump. “You don’t say, ‘I am going to write.’ You say, ‘I will complete four hundred words by two o’clock,’ ” Steel says. “The more specific, the more powerful. That’s what gets us going.”
Another tip involves downloading apps that prevent you from browsing certain websites (like maybe this one!) when you’re at work and should be putting together spreadsheets or whatever it is that you’re putting off. I haven’t ever had to resort to this, but I know Meaghan has, so maybe she can tell us whether or not those programs have been effective.
Lastly, if you want to try assessing how much of a procrastinator you are, take this test by Piers Steel, a psychologist from the University of Calgary. After seeing that I had to log in to take it, I almost put it off! But I did it and scored a 36.11 out of 100, which means I am a casual procrastinator—fairly conscientious and self-disciplined with a few irrational impulses.
I almost abandoned the test halfway through, though, because I wasn’t sure how many questions I was going to be asked (there aren’t too many). What about you? How did you score?
I want to start the discussion of Helaine Olen’s Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry with a true story.
When I finally got a job that paid over $50,000 a year, I started doing all the right things.
I paid off all my debts—both the medical debt I owed on an unexpected foot surgery and some non-student-loan educational debt. I contributed to my 403(b) and took the full company match. I started a Roth IRA and made the maximum yearly contribution. I got a “high-interest” ING checking/savings account which—I just checked—was paying 1.5 percent interest that year.
In order to further this financial prudency, I did all the other stuff too—I got the slow cooker and started packing it with lentils, I walked instead of taking taxis, I continued my long-standing love affair with the public library.
And then I started doing the math. As I wrote in a now-defunct blog on April 18, 2009:
If five years of working earns me enough savings to live on for one year, then how many years will I need to work to be able to have enough savings for retirement?
Never mind the variables or inflation or 401(k)s or anything like that. Let’s even ignore things like getting married, having children, buying a house, traveling, major medical expenses, etc. Let’s just look at the basic math.
5=1. 10=2. 20=4. And even after working for the next 40 years (which would make me 67 years old) I’d only have enough money saved for 8 years of retirement.
Again, we’ll leave the variables out (and the response “but people usually spend less money per year when retired,” which I will balance out with “yeah, but stuff is going to cost more in forty years”).
What does one do when looking at an equation like this? Try to invest? Try to save more? I can’t be the first person who’s stared down the end of this equation.
Helaine Olen’s Pound Foolish also stares this question in the face, and doesn’t quite come up with an answer. READ MORE
Have you gotten a chance to watch Snowpiercer yet, the best movie ever made about a post-apocalyptic #AmtrakResidency? If not, you have a little more time: we’re going to chat about what it has to say about money and class on Friday, July 25th, instead of the 24th, so that — huzzah! — ‘Folder Anne Helen Petersen can join us. She has Feelings about this movie, guys. Feelings she’s excited to share.
According to IndieWire, producer Harvey Weinstein calls Snowpiercer “a smart movie for a smarter audience.” Like, as opposed to a dum-dum movie for everybody. That’s the reason that he experimented with releasing the film to viewers via Video On Demand, iTunes, Amazon, and other outlets after it had only been in theaters for a couple of weeks, as we mentioned. He didn’t think an uncut version would please a broad audience, interested less in the politics and more in the axe fighting. The gamble seems to have paid off:
The theatrical marketing–a fraction closer to $5 million than $25 million–provided the launchpad for VOD. “We’ve devised a multi-platform model,” says RADiUS’s Quinn. “We’re here to crack that no man’s land between a boutique movie and a blockbuster where there’s no middle ground.” “RADiUS did it perfectly for a giant financial success,” boasts Weinstein. “We’ve done $2 million in a week on VOD. We’ve never done that much, it’s our biggest weekly number. I think we wind up grossing $4-5 million theatrical beyond VOD, which makes for us all with ancillaries like TV very profitable. That’s the reason I brought in Tom and Jason to TWC, to do an amazing job. I’m not just an old theater guy, I want to be innovative and make movies work.”
More information about how to rent the film from the comfort of your own couch here, or go see it in a theater if you can and show Harvey Weinstein that smart people go to multiplexes too. But, um, you might not want to watch it alone. It’s like Wall-E meets Brazil, okay? It’s dark. You need a hand to hold / arm to grab, or at least I did.
In the late eighteen hundreds, the port cities of the American West were dangerous nests of sailors, prostitutes, and gangsters—none more so than Portland, Oregon. The most infamous relic of those bad old days are not the wooly beards of its male population, but the Portland Underground, the city’s network of so-called “shanghai tunnels,” which tourists today are often told were used to spirit unsuspecting men, perhaps lured by a half-naked prostitute to an establishment where they were drugged and kidnapped, toward their final destination: pressed into service on a ship.
These kidnappers were known as crimps, and the “king of the crimps,” according to folk legend, was a man named Joseph Kelly. By his count, some two thousand souls owe their time at sea to him. Kelly spent his early life on the sea as well: In his memoir, he wrote of once being shipwrecked on the island of Madagascar. Rescued from the shipwreck by the natives, Kelly was fed soup. Afterward, he looked into the clay jug that stored the rest of the stew and discovered the right hand of one of his shipmates. When a typhoon struck, he and some other sailors followed the lead of a man described as an old pirate, and escaped from their rescuers; they were promptly picked up by pirates. Fortunately, Kelly and his band managed to lock the pirates in the ship’s belly before heading ashore in India.
In 1879, Kelly got off a ship in Portland. In those days, since sailors weren’t allowed to leave their ships until they reached their final port, many sailors disappeared when they arrived—fleeing for jobs in the local logging industry, for instance. About three-fifths of all sailors who arrived in Astoria or Portland ditched their ships. These desertions were a problem, since captains needed able-bodied men to set sail again. This gave rise to the crimps: If a ship needed to find more men, the captain sent for a crimp, who supplied bodies for up to fifty dollars a head. Kelly took up the trade and became so good at it that Stewart Holbrook, a “rough writer” who specialized in selling local Portland history to the reading public of the East Coast literary establishment, and Kelly’s somewhat besotted biographer, described him as “an artist, for the magnificent imagination he applied to his occupation was nothing short of creative.”
I read this Talk of the Town last night about Burt Shavitz, the 79-year-old real Burt of Burt’s Bees, and was OBSESSED.
Shavitz finally sat and told the Burt’s Bees story, starting with building his hives—“It’s a way to make a living if you’ve got a strong back and a strong mind and good eyes”—and then, in 1984, meeting a single mother named Roxanne Quimby, who was camped by Lake Wassookeag. “She was man-hungry,” he recalled, “and she and I, by spells, fed the hunger.” Quimby and Shavitz began selling his honey, then candles from his beeswax, and finally—in a masterstroke—his motorcycle-riding, golden-retriever-raising life style. In 1999, Quimby bought Shavitz out for about a hundred and thirty thousand dollars; eight years later, the company was sold to Clorox for $913 million.
It ends with a semi-charming anecdote about Burt peeing outside? Very Talk of the Town-y. Since reading it I have told everyone I’ve talked to (so, two people!) about Roxanne Quimby, capitalist villain and/or misandrist hero. Upon re-reading, though, Shavitz’s phrase “man hungry” tipped me off to the possibility that there is a lot more going on here? READ MORE
On the heels of Ester’s exploration of trust fund kids (my position: don’t trust ‘em), I came upon this rather wide-ranging indictment of elite colleges and the admissions process in the New Republic: in short, the author avers, the Ivies squelch creativity, channel thinking and energy into a narrow set of endeavors, reinforce privilege, and perpetuate the illusion of a meritocracy: “This system is exacerbating inequality, retarding social mobility, perpetuating privilege, and creating an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead.”
And the cause (aside from, you know, how rich people always set stuff up to benefit themselves)?
Not increasing tuition, though that is a factor, but the ever-growing cost of manufacturing children who are fit to compete in the college admissions game. The more hurdles there are, the more expensive it is to catapult your kid across them. Wealthy families start buying their children’s way into elite colleges almost from the moment they are born: music lessons, sports equipment, foreign travel (“enrichment” programs, to use the all-too-perfect term)—most important, of course, private-school tuition or the costs of living in a place with top-tier public schools.
The most familiar names in fast food are also the worst. Turns out no one actually likes McDonalds hamburgers, Taco Bell burritos, or Subway subs. According to a new Consumer Reports survey:
many of the biggest names earned significantly lower scores for the foods that made them famous, notably McDonald’s. The chain, which serves flash-frozen patties made with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef, touts them as free from “preservatives, fillers, extenders, and so-called pink slime.” Such a pledge might be comforting, but it’s hardly a rousing endorsement. McDonald’s own customers ranked its burgers significantly worse than those of 20 competitors, including Hardee’s, White Castle, and Carl’s Jr. No other house specialty scored as low.
Taco Bell’s burritos were also voted least luscious. And the subs from Subway, the world’s largest restaurant chain with more than 40,000 units in 106 countries, are near the bottom of the list.
Also at the bottom of the list with Congress and Comcast are nationwide chains Panda Express, Burger King, KFC, and pretty much anyplace that attempts to pass off crust-with-sauce-and-cheese as pizza: Little Caesar’s, Cici’s, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s are all in the bottom 10. Poor Domino’s! They’ve been trying so hard. The most worthless of all though is Sbarro, which makes perfect sense to everyone who ever had to gag down a slice there while waiting for their mom to come pick them up from the mall.
If no one can stand these places, why do they do such vigorous business? READ MORE
I spend most of my job coaching people on what to do with their careers. You might think this means I have my own life figured out. In reality, my job history shows a lack of focus and intense desire to live in locations that please me. From the mouth of a person who has likely looked at your resume, here is my career history:
Annual Conference Intern, Non Profit in D.C.
I was hired to do all of the logistics planning for the organization’s annual conference in Boston, MA. I found the job on idealist.org because that was back when I still had ideals and didn’t mind being broke. I believe it paid $10 an hour with a monthly metro card. My boyfriend at the time drove me out to D.C. for the summer where I lived in a married couple’s guest bedroom. The job was fairly low stress and my coworkers were nice. One time I won free burritos for the whole office when I dropped my business card in a fish bowl at Chipotle so I like to think that I was their favorite intern of all time. I also got a free trip to Boston out of the deal, where I learned the key lesson that networking is really about a bunch of highly paid people boozing.
I briefly considered staying in Washington D.C. because it’s an amazing city and you make friends at Front Page over pitcher beers and making fun of people who wear their Yale jacket to bars. I sadly left D.C. in favor of returning home to go to graduate school. Somewhere lingering in Dupont Circle is the ghost of the woman I would have been had I stayed.
Lesson learned: Sometimes the city makes the job. Also, if you are going to live in D.C. for the summer, live somewhere with air conditioning.
Obituary Editor, Night Shift
Ah Craigslist, you wanton beast. I was going to graduate school and looking for a gig that could accommodate my erratic student schedule. I found a posting on the old craig’ers for a part time editing position. The job was at a subsidiary of a legitimate newspaper. They had a snack room so I was sold. I worked all kinds of crazy hours, usually starting at 8pm after my evening class. Sometimes I worked onsite and sometimes I worked from home. It’s amazing what kind of people you run into when you live your life like a vampire, waking up at 2pm to start your day. For example, I encountered a crackhead that chased me on the el with a handful of Monopoly money. I fell in love with literally every boy I met at that job because they were all geeky writer/musician types who would crack jokes about punk bands and Russian history. We were allowed to listen to music while we worked and we tried to amuse ourselves with obscure covers of pop songs. When I reflect, these were the best coworkers I’ve ever had and sadly it was the lowest paying job I had in my adult life. READ MORE
Here is an real tweet that I really tweeted yesterday:
My inbox may be zero, but my GTD list is spiraling out of control. Time to reconfigure my Horizons of Responsibility or something. #GTD
— Nicole (@HelloTheFuture) July 21, 2014
I meant every word of it.
I’ve been practicing GTD, or David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, since 2008. That’s well over 300 Weekly Reviews. An uncountable number of Ubiquitous Capture Devices. The regular, systemic processing of my Inboxes to Zero.
What does this have to do with personal finance, you might ask? When I was working as an executive assistant, practicing GTD didn’t have all that much to do with finance except for the part where it helped me pay my bills on time. It was only when I switched to the freelance world that GTD became an essential part of my money management.
It’s probably time for a quick update of what “GTD” is. At its core, “practicing GTD” means sorting through all of the various inputs that come at you every day — email inboxes, Twitter feeds, online chats with editors, personal conversations — and isolating every task that you have agreed to complete onto a single list. Then, you organize the list into completable chunks of action items, and you get things done. READ MORE