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A Mixed Bag of 10 Thoughts, Quoted

I collect quotations from various places. Books and online. I make notes on the stuff I read every day.

I thought I’d drop 10 examples your way in this post. Just because. Maybe something will inspire or interest you further.

You never know when a comment here and an example there can come in handy. I also collect random stories that are of no use at the moment, but are quirky. When the right time comes along, I use the stories to inject some fun into a piece of writing.

Always be on the lookout for inspiration. You may find nothing of interest in the examples below. But when you see anything that makes you stop and think, it’s worth making a note of it. The more you can collect, the more you have at your disposal later on.

Note it down. Save it for later.

Collecting little thoughts is one way you can start to make good use out of what you consume.

10 Thoughts, Quoted

1.

“You will find the future wherever people are having the most fun.”

From the Introduction to Wonderland by Steven Johnson

In other words, get playful!

1play

2.

“Ultimately innovation is local. You have a problem to fix, a group who want to solve it, and you come together in a common space to work it out.”

http://blog.hefce.ac.uk/2016/12/19/how-higher-education-can-make-the-industrial-strategy-a-success/

I like how the ‘local’ doesn’t always have to be in terms of physical placement.

2connect

3.

“…holding on to the idea that willpower is a limited resource can actually be bad for you, making you more likely to lose control and act against your better judgment.”

https://medium.com/the-mission/the-way-youve-been-thinking-about-willpower-is-hurting-you-8621b1e2b30f#.x9wtrfkte

Willpower is limited if you think it is. I will you to keep going!

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4.

“If takers are selfish and failed givers are selfless, successful givers are otherish: they care about benefiting others, but they also have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests.” – p.182

From Give and Take by Adam Grant

Giving is wonderful, so long as you remember to give to yourself at the same time.

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5.

“A sociologist at the University of Chicago surveyed the references cited in a database of 34 million scientific articles. He analyzed the citations with respect to whether the articles cited were available online. The more journals became digitally available, the more recent the references became, and the narrower their scope.” – p.61

From Words Onscreen by Naomi S. Baron

The book was published in 2016. That feels like ages ago…

5time

6.

“Student loan policy wonks have always assumed that if you provide guarantees and limit liability/risk on student loans, then students will be ok with debt.  But if the facts of the policy don’t change people’s attitudes about risk, then the policies will fail, no matter how well they deal with the actual problems at hand.”

http://higheredstrategy.com/does-student-debt-matter-if-youre-not-going-to-pay-it-back/

This is just as relevant for parents too. The idea of debt, no matter how it’s presented, is too much for some. Especially when there have been past problems with more traditional debts, or they have spent their life avoiding debt. What do you think those parents will say to their children who want to go to university?

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7.

“Podcasting is sometimes dismissed as nothing more than radio in your ears, on your own schedule, but I beg to differ. It’s far more intimate than traditional radio. And news organizations that realize the power of this intimacy will likely have an advantage in the long run.”

http://www.niemanlab.org/2016/12/the-year-of-the-newsy-podcast/

On-demand audio for the win.

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8.

“Humans live peacefully with contradictions precisely because of their capacity to compartmentalise. And when contradictory statements, actions or emotions jump out of their contextual box, we are very good, perhaps too good, at finding justifications to soothe cognitive dissonance.”

https://aeon.co/ideas/how-our-contradictions-make-us-human-and-inspire-creativity

But when you recognise this, you can use the abundance of contradiction in wonderful ways too. Embrace the push and pull.

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9.

“Crucially, our ‘social orientation’ appears to spill over into more fundamental aspects of reasoning. People in more collectivist societies tend to be more ‘holistic’ in the way they think about problems, focusing more on the relationships and the context of the situation at hand, while people in individualistic societies tend to focus on separate elements, and to consider situations as fixed and unchanging.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

Specific generalisations. The article has some thought-provoking stuff.

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10.

A reason why conservatives tend to use nouns more than liberals is because nouns outline greater stability. Describing someone using nouns “implies more certainty and permanence about their state of being”.

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/01/12/why-conservatives-like-to-use-nouns-more-than-liberals-do/

Pay attention to how people describe things. Do they “feel positive”, or are they “a positive person”? You may get a better insight when you listen to how the sentences are constructed as well as what’s being said.

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Think of the little thoughts and stories you collect as stepping stones. Each step can take you closer to new ideas.

Over to you. It’s time to create out of what you curate.

Guilt and the Simplicity of Scheduling

What do I feel most guilty about in my day-to-day tasks?

The saved items in my feed reader.

As I write, there are 8 saved items, ranging from 16 hours to 13 days old. When those links are hanging around, it means I haven’t done something with them.

I have usually read the items in question, but the saved area is a hold for links I want to use somewhere. That’s why 13 days is too long. It’s not quite two weeks, but I should have actioned it by now.

This isn’t the same as procrastination. It’s more a missed opportunity. I haven’t even considered working through the links, which means they’re pointless hanging around indefinitely.

There are two easy ways to deal with these links:

1. Delete them. The ruthless option;
2. Deal with them RIGHT NOW. The active option.

For me it’s roughly 80% dealing, 20% deleting. I tend not to delete unless the moment has well and truly passed.

All I need to do is sort everything out where they need to go. There’s never anything saved that will take up too much of my time.

I’ll clear through the 8 items that are still hanging and use a stopwatch to see how long it takes me to sort everything out.

Stopwatch (photo by purplemattfish)

I could have used one of these, but went for my phone’s stopwatch instead. (photo by purplemattfish) (CC BY-NC-ND)

Go…

[Time Passes…Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock…]

And relax.

6 minutes 37 seconds to deal with 7 of the 8 items. The only article I didn’t move was a piece I hadn’t read yet (the 16 hour old piece). Of the 7 items, I deleted one and actioned the others.

I can feel less guilty again. In six and a half minutes, I have taken care of a fortnight worth of stuff that was making me feel guilty.

From now on, all I need to do is schedule a fortnightly task. 20 minutes set to one side and I should have it clear in less time than that. Much better than getting an occasional pang of guilt and rushing through the list, annoyed with myself.

[Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and performed the task again today, before publishing. It worked brilliantly again. 20 items down to 2 in 18 minutes. The oldest item was 8 days old. In the time I spent, I did around 80% dealing and 20% deleting again. From the two trial runs, I’ve spent roughly one minute per item.]

When you’re faced with ultimately forgettable or picky little tasks, try setting aside a bit of time every now and then. It needn’t be a huge commitment, but it should be enough to stop those moments where you suddenly remember something and feel guilty that you didn’t do it sooner.

Not only can I now breathe a sigh of relief, but also celebrate that I have an ongoing plan to deal with any backlog I may get each fortnight.

I even managed to get this post written in the process. Win.

What is making you feel guilty and how will you deal with it?

Jobs, Time, and Shifting Expectations

How many job applications will you have to send off before you land a job as a graduate?

While sixth form students expect to fill out 17 job applications after they graduate from university, those already studying in higher education expect to apply for 26 jobs before finding success.

These findings come from a YouGov report on first jobs.

I wonder if students much closer to graduating are more acutely aware of what is to come. For a sixth former, there is still a lot of time stretching before them. A graduate job seems far removed from their current position. They aren’t even at university. Expectations can be more casual, even when taken seriously.

clock (photo by fiddle oak)

Photo by fiddle oak via Compfight (cc)

Would a fresher expect to fill out a slightly higher number of applications and a final year student consider the number higher still? As the clock ticks ever closer to your time, the reality (and worry) is bound to kick in.

Look at the question of potential salary. Again, sixth form students believe, on average, that earnings will be around £23,000. Compare that with those at university and the figure drops to £20,250.

Then you have work experience. Not quite two thirds (64%) of sixth formers surveyed were concerned about a lack of work experience. On the other hand, more than three quarters (76%) of university students thought that no experience would get in the way of working in their preferred field.

The results read as if expectations drop the closer students get to graduation. Students are considering their future from a different viewpoint. That future is no longer so distant. There is less time to be casual.

As perspective changes, so can expectation.

Here are some ideas of what might cause university students to be less positive in their expectations:

  • More understanding of expected salaries based on increasing research as graduation approaches;
  • Fear of being let down;
  • Fear of letting themselves down with a lower salary;
  • Realism trumping hope.

That’s not to say the majority of soon-to-be graduates aren’t hopeful and willing to engage. But it does highlight how many people alter their position as things are imminent. For better or for worse, concepts of time–and time left remaining–can shift our thoughts.

What do you expect of the future? Do you prefer to convey a realistic, possibly even understated, projection? Or do you continue to confidently anticipate quick job success and good earnings to boot?

10 Ways to Give Procrastination a Bypass

Forget fear. Toss out time constraints. When you put things off, it’s rarely about these things.

You’re much more likely to procrastinate when your assignment isn’t interesting, when it’s limited in scope, and when you don’t have clear instructions.

Even group work changes your attitude. You’re more likely to stall for time over collaborative tasks compared with working on your own.

photo by mar.al

photo by mar.al

Procrastination isn’t a simple beast. There are many reasons behind it. Even when you know you’re doing it, the way to recover from procrastination isn’t always obvious.

But don’t panic, there is hope! Check out these ten tips to turn procrastination into productivity. Don’t take any more risks, act now!

  1. Find an angle to suit you – There were times when I was trudging through the most boring texts, so I tried to find ways to make it more exciting. True, that can be difficult at times and I didn’t always manage it. But when I did, I was much happier putting the work in. If you can pull something out the bag, do it and watch everything fall into place more easily.
  2. Beat the bore – When you simply can’t find an interesting angle, move past the yawn by forcing yourself to work for a really short time.
    Promise yourself 10 – 15 minutes. Just get started and see where it takes you. When you begin, it’s easier to keep going. You never know, you may even find something that takes your interest by then!
  3. Don’t look at what is necessary. Look at what is possible! – Working out the bare minimum you can get away with is actually a recipe for procrastination. The moment you artificially restrict yourself, you’re telling yourself to work less. No wonder it feels easier to put things off.
    Instead of closing down your options, stretch yourself further. By framing the task this way, you’ll do yourself a massive favour.
  4. Keep trying to understand the task until you really do – We’ve all had that moment of doom when we don’t have a clue what’s expected of us. The temptation to put it off is strong, because it’s easier to bury your head in the sand than to attempt what you don’t understand.
    Better than either tactic, however, is to ask for clarification. If nobody on your course is sure (or you don’t understand/trust their explanations), explain to your tutor what you’re struggling with. Don’t leave it at “I don’t understand what you want”, but try to explain what you think is expected and ask them to clarify where you’re uncertain. The sooner you know where you’re headed, the sooner you’re likely to move in that direction.
  5. Clear your head – With too much going on around you, it’s not the best environment to work in. Even locked in your own room, a smart phone is a gateway to the world and untold treasures. An Internet connection takes you wherever you want. Music can consume you.
    Sometimes you just need to breathe.
    Short bursts of meditation can help you work on tasks with more focus and clarity of mind. If you set aside an hour to work and find the hour slips away with nothing done, schedule another hour and meditate for 20 minutes first. Work for the remaining 40 minutes. Do this meditation two or three times a week. A smart phone may be a gateway to the world, but meditation may be a gateway to your mind.
  6. Clear your social calendar – Some deadlines may feel reasonable, but they are very rarely unworkable. If time is strapped to the point that you even cannot schedule time to study, you’re doing too much. This isn’t procrastination (unless you deliberately over-scheduled!). This is trying to do too many things.
    You’re at uni for many reasons. One of those reasons is to complete your degree. If you’re not in the right position to do that, you may have to change your position and give up on some of your other commitments.
  7. Be wary of ‘unequal’ task setting in long-term assignmentsO’Donoghue and Rabin argue:
    “When the costs of completing different stages [of a project] are more unequal, procrastination is more likely, and it is when later stages are more costly that people start but don’t finish projects.”
    Dissertations have unequal elements, because some areas will require more time than others. However, by boxing those elements as if they are a ‘task’ to complete, you may dread the time when longer ‘tasks’ arrive. Instead, set time out differently.
    Break things down further. Find an equality to the tasks you are dishing out within the overall project. You may need to write Chapter 3, but it’s not helpful putting ‘Write Chapter 3’ on your to-do list. Keep breaking it down until you can visualise the tasks at hand and have a grasp on what you need to do to complete them.
  8. See the difference between team assignments and individual projects – Gafni and Geri studied 160 MBA students and found that individual deadlines were more likely to be less problematic than group deadlines. Even when an individual task was voluntary, students were punctual. With group deadlines, tasks were more likely to be left until much nearer the last minute. If the group task was voluntary, it was often not completed at all.
    Is collective procrastination easier to fall into? Next time you’re faced with a group assignment, take individual responsibility. Make it about you first and make it about the group once you get into gear.
  9. Set your own deadlines – Your assignment may not be due for a couple of months. The procrastinator in you may tell you, “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to do that. Forget about it. Even when there’s just a fortnight left, you’ll have enough time. Go on, you already have enough on your plate”.
    Simply leaving everything until later is not best practice for effective work. And you can manage your time far better than that.
    Keep a rough schedule diary for the semester/term at the very least. Then give yourself your own deadlines for work, much earlier than that official date.
  10. Ask “Why am I doing this?” – When the work becomes a blur of pointlessness, you’re likely to procrastinate just the same as when you’re bored. Find a reference point to help you hold on to why you’re working on this assignment. It may be a long-term reason, it may be a short-term reason, but whatever you make of it, your aim is to give clear reason behind your study.
    “If the process isn’t getting you the outcome you want, you need to change the process.” – Mike Reeves-McMillan

Want to look a bit further into combating procrastination? Here are a couple more related links: