Our Tendencies to Procrastinate

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.

RIP Malls

Malls are dying, or so claim certain real estate barons quoted on the New Yorker's Currency blog this week.

The Man Who Made ‘Catan’ While Hating His Day Job

Adrienne Raphel has a really lovely profile of Klaus Teuber, a dental technician from Darmstadt, Germany who designed games in his basement during his spare time. One of those games ended up taking off and later designated by Wired as "The Monopoly Killer." Teuber's game: The Settlers of Catan, which I've only gotten to play once but found it really fun.

Our Problem With Being Overworked

The longer hours we work, the less productive and efficient we are, so why have we built a culture where being overworked is more of a badge of honor and less of a reason to send people home at a reasonable hour? James Surowiecki looks at this question in his New Yorker column this week:

Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. As Solomon put it, past a certain point overworked people become “less efficient and less effective.” And the effects are cumulative. The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.

If the benefits of working fewer hours are this clear, why has it been so hard for businesses to embrace the idea? Simple economics certainly plays a role: in some cases, such as law firms that bill by the hour, the system can reward you for working longer, not smarter. And even if a person pulling all-nighters is less productive than a well-rested substitute would be, it’s still cheaper to pay one person to work a hundred hours a week than two people to work fifty hours apiece. (In the case of medicine, residents work long hours not just because it’s good training but also because they’re a cheap source of labor.) On top of this, the productivity of most knowledge workers is much harder to quantify than that of, say, an assembly-line worker. So, as Bob Pozen, a former president of Fidelity Management and the author of “Extreme Productivity,” a book on slashing work hours, told me, “Time becomes an easy metric to measure how productive someone is, even though it doesn’t have any necessary connection to what they achieve.”

Because the person who stays late at work and demonstrates dedication to her job reaps all the rewards, right? Not always. Raise your hand if you’ve worked long hours and wasn’t rewarded for your hard work.

In light of the death of a Bank of America intern who worked long hours, junior analysts on Wall Street are being told to cut the number of hours they work down. Goldman Sachs, for example, told their analysts that they should be working no more than 75 hours a week (rather than the previous norm, which was to never go home). But as Surowiecki points out, it’s not just about cutting hours, but also unreasonable expectations. Because people who leave work and then go home to continue doing work because they’re afraid they’re going to get behind are just continuing the cult of being overworked in the privacy of their own home.

Photo: Tim Regan

Job of the Day: Former Beekeeping Brand Ambassador

Okay fine I am going to watch this documentary. While applying one of the thousands Burt's Bees products I get in my stocking for Christmas every year and then never use, because chapstick is a scam.

“Welcome to the paradise of the modern artist.” – An Interview With Tom Toro, ‘New Yorker’ Cartoonist

I met Tom in English class during my sophomore year of high school, and we became acquaintances and occasional friends. Mostly, I had a crush on him. After high school, I moved out of the Bay Area and to the East Coast, where I received sporadic updates on high school friends from my good friend Julia. She mentioned something about Tom drawing for the New Yorker, a piece of information I filed away until I saw this cartoon posted on Facebook.

Letting Go of Our Loyalty to Certain Brands

How brand loyal are you?

When the Weather Gets Bad, We Tip Better for Deliveries

Have you heard? The Polar Vortex may be coming back. I spent most of the previous Polar Vortex holed up with tea and wrapped up in a fleece blanket. Gauging the number of times the buzzer rang in my building, it seems as if my neighbors coped by ordering tons of takeout. Did they give the delivery people who ventured out into the freezing weather nice tips? The data says yes, according to The New Yorker.

Graham Crackers For Everyone!

Andrew Solomon writes for the New Yorker's Currency blog about Honey Maid's new ad campaign, and when following the ad money means that in some states, advertising is more progressive than public policy. I think Solomon puts it best here: "I’d prefer that people such as I get our rights because we command respect and evince dignity, but if we get them because there’s money in it, that’s fine."

Stop Thwarting Yourself With All That Positivity

In today's edition of Convenient Theories for Me, Weekly, Adam Alter at the New Yorker's Currency blog outlines why 'thinking positive' tricks your brain into complacency and keeps you from achieving your dreams:

To Video Game Buyers, Longer Often Feels Better

In the New Yorker, Simon Parkin says when it comes to buying video games, players put a premium on length, no matter how good the game is.

How the Digital Divide is Helping to Drive Inequality

The New Yorker's Joshua Rothman has an interview with our favorite (foodie) economist Tyler Cowen, who talks about his new book Average Is over, and why he thinks technology is one of the biggest culprits currently driving inequality in the U.S.