The Science of To-Do Lists: Psychology Can Make You More Productive

Are to-do lists about feeling a sense of accomplishment or actually getting things done? The typical way of writing lists can result in feeling good about yourself at the expense of productivity.

Are to-do lists about feeling a sense of accomplishment or actually getting things done? The typical way of writing lists can result in feeling good about yourself at the expense of productivity.

What Makes a Winning Team? SNL and Google Have the Formula.

It's incredible to think that Saturday Night Live and Google, given their very different goals, create teams of people similarly. But as reporter Charles Duhigg discovered, they very much do.

It's incredible to think that Saturday Night Live and Google, given their very different goals, create teams of people similarly. But as reporter Charles Duhigg discovered, they very much do. For SNL, it was creator Lorne Michaels who managed a team of writers and comedians to produce a high-quality show under extremely rigid time constraints. At Google, the original hypothesis about teams — that the right combinations of personalities is what made them effective — proved false. What they found instead is that the coherency of group norms is the determining factor: in other words, is everyone on the same page about how the group works, and does everyone have a voice? If so, you can expect some good results.

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Want More Motivation? Take This Counterintuitive Lesson from the Marines.

Probably few organizations value self-motivation like the US Marine Corps, so when their recruits began showing deficiencies, officers dug into the latest psychologist research. Here's what they found.

Probably few organizations value self-motivation like the U.S. Marine Corps, so when their recruits began showing deficiencies, officers dug into the latest psychologist research. What they found is that one's "locus of control" greatly determines the extent of self-motivation: do you believe you are firmly in control of your destiny or that external events determine your life? Individuals whose locus of control is internal, i.e. they believe they control their own destiny, have a greater impulse toward taking action. New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg explains how the Marines took this data to better train their recruits.

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Understanding the Cues and Rewards of Habit

The cue and the reward become neurologically intertwined until a sense of craving emerges that drives your behavior.

So there is a woman, named Wendy Wood, who did a study when she was at Duke.  And she followed around college students to try to figure out how much of their day was decision-making versus how much was habit.  And what she found was that about 45 percent of all the behaviors that someone did in a day was habit; it wasn’t decision-making.  

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