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How Setting A Schedule Can Make You Less Productive

It can seem like there’s never enough time – not enough for sleep and not enough for play, not enough for cooking and not enough for exercise.

There’s a relatively new term to describe this feeling: time famine, or the sensation of having too much to do without enough time to do it.

In order to structure what little time we feel we have, one strategy we deploy is scheduling. In fact, reliance on organizational tools like daily planners has been on the rise. In two recent surveys, 51 percent of respondents said they regularly used their calendar app, while 63 percent of office workers consider calendars “very important.”

The idea is that scheduling will make you more efficient: When you allocate your time, it organizes your day into a series of appointments, meetings and calls, while blocking off free time for other activities or tasks.

But in a series of eight studies, Gabriela Tonietto, Steve Nowlis and I found that scheduling can sometimes backfire – and actually make us less productive.

An appointment approaches – and time ‘shrinks’

Much of scheduling’s downside has to do with the anticipation of a meeting or appointment. When we know a scheduled meeting...

‘Find Your Passion’ Is Awful Advice

Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, remembers asking an undergraduate seminar recently, “How many of you are waiting to find your passion?”

“Almost all of them raised their hand and got dreamy looks in their eyes,” she told me. They talked about it “like a tidal wave would sweep over them,” he said. Sploosh. Huzzah! It’s accounting!

Would they have unlimited motivation for their passion? They nodded solemnly.

“I hate to burst your balloon,” she said, “but it doesn’t usually happen that way.”

What Dweck asked her students is a common refrain in American society. The term “Follow your passion” has increased ninefold in English books since 1990. “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” is another college-counseling standby of unknown provenance.

But according to Dweck and others, that advice is steering people wrong.

“What are the consequences of that?” asked Paul O’Keefe, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale—NUS College. “That means that if you do something that feels like work, it means you don’t love it.” He gave me the example of a student who jumps from lab to lab...

Harnessing the Benefits of Physical Transformation for Career Reinvention

The single most important part of my own personal journey for career reinvention has been integrating an obsession with exercise and diet into the work of transforming from corporate executive to a successful executive and career coach and speaker. The benefits from my obsession with physical transformation are measurable in medical terms and priceless in psychic terms. While the work of career reinvention is mostly brain work, the physical regimen is a game-changer for the mental work.

The Physical Starting Point for My Career Reinvention:

Like many corporate and road warriors who wake-up in their late 40’s or early 50’s, I found myself with 30 extra pounds and as it turns out, according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic Executive Health Center, a baker’s dozen or so of health warning signs. Years of sitting at a desk or in meetings, flying weekly, and spending way too much time in restaurants had all taken their toll. I had reached critical mass in more ways than one with my health.

That was four years ago. I returned just this past week to run through what I describe as the medical carnival ride from hell, and after 18 appointments...

The Psychology Of Why You Feel Alone Even When You’re Surrounded By People

Despite the world’s population creeping upward by around 200,000 people a day, many of us have never felt as alone.

We are more connected than ever before, yet we somehow feel more isolated. We have the ability to reconnect with our high-school classmates and talk to our heroes on social media, yet we feel that we have less intimate connections than the generation before us. And it’s not just a nagging feeling in the back of our minds—it’s affecting our physical health, too. The news headlines speak for themselves: “Chronic loneliness is a modern-day epidemic.” “Loneliness is a public-health threat.” “Widespread loneliness is killing people and we need to start talking about it.

But our social lives aren’t the only place we experience loneliness. We are also spending more time working than we have in previous decades—especially in the U.S. All those extra hours spent around our colleagues should help us foster closer relationships. But when you arguably spend more time with your workmates than your own family, why can the office sometimes still feel so isolating?

BYU psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad is one of the world’s leading researchers on social...

15 Minutes Of Exercise Can Make a New Skill Stick

As little as a single 15-minute bout of cardiovascular exercise increases brain connectivity and efficiency, according to new research.

If you want to learn to walk a tightrope, for example, it’s a good idea to go for a short run after each practice session, the research suggests. The recent study, which appears in NeuroImage, shows that exercise performed immediately after practicing a new motor skill improves its long-term retention.

It’s a discovery that could, in principle, accelerate recovery of motor skills in patients who have suffered a stroke or who face mobility problems following an injury.

In earlier work, Marc Roig of McGill University, the senior author of the study, had already demonstrated that exercise helps consolidate muscle or motor memory. What he and the research team sought to discover this time was why exactly this was the case. What was going on in the brain, as the mind and the muscles interacted? What was it that helped the body retain motor skills?

To find out, the research team asked study participants to perform two different tasks. The first, known as a “pinch task” is a bit like a muscular video game. It consists of gripping an object...