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An Economic Theory Developed in 1817 Can Help You Cut Your To-Do List in Half

Most mornings, while I drink my coffee, I jot down a to-do list. “Call bank,” I write. “Respond to one zillion emails. Clean kitchen. Prepare for meeting. Write article. Read friend’s cover letter. Go for jog.” This is not a list of things that I will actually do. It’s more a list of things to remember to feel guilty about not doing later, when it is nighttime and I am back home, in bed, staring up into the darkness.

The problem with my lengthy to-do lists is that they are utterly unrealistic. And yet one really does need to call the boring old bank and respond to mountains of emails, etcetera. Or at least, I thought I had to do all those things—until Tiffany Dufu, author of the new book Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less, taught me about the theory of comparative advantage.

In Drop the Ball, Dufu—an activist for women’s issues and chief leadership officer at the professional networking startup Levo—encourages women to stop striving for perfection in both their professional and personal lives. Most women seeking a better work-life balance don’t need some secret formula for success, she...

Chronically Late People Share One Positive Personality Trait

Earlier in the year, I worked out how to stop being 10 minutes late everywhere.

The reason why I’m constantly behind schedule turned out to be counterintuitive. I was too organized for my own good, trying to effectively spend every last second of spare time cramming in as many to-do items as possible. Instead of spending the final five minutes before leaving the house idly flicking through a magazine, I was trying to sew buttons back onto coats and quickly cleaning out my freezer drawer. In my effort to be productive, I wound up being less time-efficient.

And so I vowed to slow down and accept the concept of free time, instead of turning every spare moment into a race to tick off chores. I’m happy to report that it’s working well so far. But I’ve also realized that while a lot of people feel embarrassed about running late, there’s an under-appreciated positive trait that most unpunctual folk share: People who are consistently late are incredibly optimistic.

We’re the type who thinks the play won’t actually start until 7.08, or that we definitely have time to stop for a coffee and make...

It’s Not Too Late: Resolve to Have a Successful Year

The New Year’s celebrations may be behind you, but it’s never too late to focus on mastering the tactics and skills that will lead to success. Here are 10 tips for developing the attitude, intention and presentation that will help you reach your goals:  

The Right Attitude

1. Take yourself seriously. Not seriously like in an egotistical way but seriously like your choices have consequences. If you aren't taking yourself seriously right now, I guarantee it has to do with the logic of depression, meaning that you tell yourself things like this: "I tried before, and I failed." If this is you, understand that your mind isn't functioning right. You're going to have to retrain your brain, even if you have to stand there in front of the bathroom mirror in the morning and make accurate statements to yourself repetitively. Not phony affirmations. Sentences such as this: "I can't control the past. I can control what I do right now."

2. Stop being irrationally afraid. Sometimes we think, "If X happens, I'm screwed." Sometimes we live our whole lives that way. We don't speak up when we should. We don't leave...

Federal Hiring Freeze Puts Performance Management in the Spotlight

The federal hiring freeze is on, and federal human resources leaders are sifting through the details to determine how it applies to their agency. But in terms of a long-term personnel strategy, many of these details are only somewhat important.

The real story is how the freeze and other plans imposed by President Trump will impact agency operations now and in the future. Performance management is more important than ever for federal Human Resources leaders. Here’s why.

1. Performance analytics are critical.

Peter Drucker coined the phrase “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” While some have disputed the concept, what can’t be questioned is the increased reliance on data and analytics throughout the business world and in government. And this trend will continue. Indeed, former Attorney General Eric Holder gave a government twist to Drucker’s phrase when he noted that “what gets measured is what gets funded and what gets funded is what gets done.”

Measuring employee performance will likely be increasingly important for the new administration. Agencies will look for insight into top performers to see who is best prepared to move into leadership positions as boomers retire and succession plans...

Get Back on Track to Meeting Your Goals With These Three Steps

New Year’s is already a distant memory and there’s plenty of uncertainty about what 2017 will bring. But one thing is for sure. We’re already well past making resolutions. Some of us never started, and others gave up too quickly.

We convince ourselves we don’t have enough time, money, or other resources to follow through on our resolutions—whether our intentions are to get healthier, become more organized, save money, reconnect with loved ones, or try a new hobby. But there’s good news. If we reject this “never enough” thinking, research shows, we can get on a path to fulfillment and really make 2017 a year of personal change.

As for how to get back on track, first, be deliberate about your ultimate goal. People have a tendency to pursue things they can count: the number of steps taken daily, the hours spent with a child, or the figures in a budget. Tracking numerical progress is straightforward, but it also obscures our ultimate objectives: becoming healthier, strengthening a relationship, or completing a project.

University of Chicago professor Christopher Hsee and his colleagues discovered that people irrationally overwork to pursue goals they don’t actually want...

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