How Good Enough is Actually Optimal

Ten years ago, Jon Bell, now a designer at Twitter, told his wife that he’d be happy with how much he was making for the rest of his life.

I didn’t make much at the time. But that marked the day I began trying to fight back the impulse for “more” and instead try to discover how “enough” feels.

The conventional wisdom is that to be successful, you have to be really hungry for it, never content with mere sufficiency and outdoing everyone else. Surprisingly, Jon’s philosophy of aiming for enough is a better approach.

It all comes down to whether you’re a maximizer or a satisficer. A maximizer yearns for perfection — making the best decision after weighing all the choices while a satisficer goes for “good enough.” This doesn’t mean you have to settle for lower standards — but you do prevent yourself from “trying to maximize every single task outcome and ROI.”

maximizers vs satisficers

That’s why high achievers fall into the peculiar trap of getting mentally caught up in what you haven’t done — there’s always something else to be working on because it feels like, the more you do, the more you gain an edge. But focusing too hard on maximizing your productivity and choices can come at an ultimate cost to your time, health, and happiness.

Ironically, maximizing doesn’t lead to the optimal result.

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How to Short-Circuit Procrastination by Starting Before You’re Ready

stop procrastinating ruleThe time between intention and action can be unending.

Whether it’s getting around to joining that gym or applying to a job — you can be in a zone of perpetual procrastination I call “yet” in which there’s lots of time “researching” on the internet. Whether it’s a trivial or life decision, when you get in this zone, you’re mostly left overwhelmed, tired, and discouraged — all before you’ve even started.

Louis C.K. is one of the most prolific comedians today, who also writes, edits, produces, and stars in his critically acclaimed TV show Louie. He credits the way he keeps moving forward to a system he came up with for avoiding analysis paralysis and this zone of yet.

He calls it his 70% rule of decision-making, and it kicks him into action when there’s that irresistible call to procrastinate that leads to opportunities slipping by.

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How to Stop Working Too Much and Live Your Life

 

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Humans aren’t made to work around the clock — but our working culture refuses to acknowledge this. We’re still checking our email before we go to bed, not taking breaks and vacations, and burning out by burning the candle at both ends. 

Even when we aren’t fuzzy from fatigue, we can understand that working long hours has not just diminishing but unhealthy returns. But actually changing our behavior is tough. Employers still don’t trust the employees they can’t see and a long history of work where more hours meant more output seems to have forged a persistent guilt about how we spend our time.

Since the key to being happier and more productive is to not feel like you’re working all the time, one of the most obvious fixes is to set some time limitations. The weird thing is that one of the best ways to do this is to spend more time thinking about work.

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The Psychology Behind Why Relaxing with TV after Work Leads to Feelings of Failure

Watching TV After Work

After a tough day at work, most of us just want to kick back, turn on the TV and relax. The harder you’ve worked, the more that you want to turn off your brain for a bit to de-stress. It makes total sense, right?

It turns out that watching TV after a stressful day at work doesn’t relax or rejuvenate you. It’s worse, according to a recent study. Watching TV after a stressful day leads to feelings of guilt and failure. It doesn’t give you the downtime you need to prepare for the next day, nor does it keep you in a neutral state — it actually depletes you.

The reason this happens is a bit of a paradox but the psychology will make sense to productive people — and it will arm you with the knowledge you need to do get proper rest and relaxation after work.

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Why Curbing Your Fear of Being Alone Leads to Better Thinking

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Apparently hell is not other people but your own mind.

It seems that everybody always has to be engaged and entertained, from the divertissements of Netflix and swiping time away with your phone to a fevered expectation to keep doing stuff — be productive and social and busy! — as if all that defined a full life.

The idea that doing something trumps doing nothing is no new phenomenon that’s just been ushered in by the age of smartphones and Twitter and keeping up with various Kardashians. In 1670, French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Pascal was right. The aversion to tuning into yourself and hanging out in your own head has deep, human consequences for how we think, create, learn, lead, and are even ourselves.

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What You Don’t Know About Internal Motivation May Harm Your Career

winning

So you want to build a billion-dollar company, and it’s because you want to make people’s lives better by solving a problem while hitting it big, rich, and famous. Sounds like a winning combo of incentives to drive you to achieve startup success.

It’s not like both motives can’t coexist. Humans, complex beings that we are, walk around with a jumble of intentions, impulses, and aspirations in our heads — instead of one clearcut reason for why we do things.

The thing is, you would think that having multiple motives would result in, well, more motivational power. When you can hit two goals with one activity, don’t you just have more incentive to do the activity? If you want that promotion because you get to expand your skillset and increase your prestige, doesn’t that help drive you even harder to go for it?

There’s one problem. There’s a tricky truth about motivation that might be preventing your best performance.

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This Company Made Millions Because There Was Nothing Going On

harvest

Harvest is a multimillion-dollar, fantastically profitable, growing business that boasts thousands of customers from freelancers to Fortune 500 companies. The company has grown to over 30 employees and boasts one of the most beautiful tech offices in New York City.

But it’s how they did it that’s most impressive — over the course of 10 years, without a dime of outside investment, 100% bootstrapped, and in the city of New York.

In an age of tech celebrity, high-profile fundraises, and billion-dollar acquisitions, it’s how Harvest founders Shawn Liu and Danny Wen’s achieved success that you’ll find incredible. What Shawn told me was their secret ingredient is something you’ll never guess.

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3 Surprising Science-Backed Ways to Find More Time Today

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Somehow, time is your enemy, while more time is also a luxury.

Things weren’t much different a few centuries ago in 1682, when William Penn wrote: “Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst.

Understanding our strange relationship with time simply helps us manage it better. When you feel like you have time, the world opens up. You’re motivated to act and explore on the one hand, and savor and breathe, on the other.

Contrast that when you feel like you don’t have enough time. It’s stressful and taxing and you start making decisions based on that anxious feeling of lack. It might mean reaching for the quick, unhealthy snack rather than your usual walk and putting those non-urgent (but important) activities that nourish and enrich you, like exercise, personal projects, and relationships, on hold.

Since how you think about time affects the reality of how you spend it, the ability to influence that perception can be incredibly powerful. Here are three surprising methods, backed by research, that will help expand your sense of time and motivate better decisions about how you use it.

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How Long It Really Takes to Form a New Habit, Backed by Science

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s when he began noticing a strange pattern among his patients. When Dr. Maltz would perform an operation — like a nose job, for example — he found that it would take patients about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face. Similarly, when a patient had an arm or a leg amputated, Maltz noticed that the patient would sense a phantom limb for about 21 days before adjusting to the new situation.

These experiences prompted Maltz to think about his own adjustment period to changes and new behaviors, and he noticed that it also took himself about 21 days to form a new habit. Maltz wrote about these experiences and said, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”

In 1960, Maltz published that quote and his other thoughts on behavior change in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. The book went on to become an blockbuster hit, selling more than 30 million copies.

And that’s when the problem started.

You see, in the decades that followed, Maltz’s work influenced nearly every major “self-help” professional from Zig Ziglar to Brian Tracy to Tony Robbins. And as more people recited Maltz’s story — like a very long game of “Telephone” — people began to forget that he said “a minimum of about 21 days” and shortened it to, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.”

That’s how society started spreading the common myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit (or 30 days or some other magic number). It’s remarkable how often these timelines are quoted as statistical facts. Dangerous lesson: If enough people say something enough times, then everyone else starts to believe it.

It makes sense why the “21 Days” Myth would spread. It’s easy to understand. The time frame is short enough to be inspiring, but long enough to be believable. And who wouldn’t like the idea of changing your life in just three weeks?

The problem is that Maltz was simply observing what was going on around him and wasn’t making a statement of fact. Furthermore, he made sure to say that this was the minimum amount of time needed to adapt to a new change.

So what’s the real answer? How long does it actually take to form a new habit? Is there any science to back this up? And what does all of this mean for you and me?

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How to Stop Life from Passing You By: the Weird Science of Stretching Time

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One unnerving aspect of getting older is how life seems to start speeding up. Feeling that whoosh as time rushes past you can be disheartening as you wonder where the days, or months, or even years go.

Yet we’re not doomed to march to time’s relentless beat. Your sense of time is weird and pliable — stretching, compressing, coming to a standstill. And you can mold it, to some extent, to move to your own beat.

When you encounter the familiar, time seems to constrict and when you acquire new knowledge, it expands. Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains:

Time is this rubbery thing…. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, “Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,” it shrinks up.

That relationship between time’s elasticity and whether your brain is processing new information gets at why time seems to turn up the tempo as we age. As the world starts to become more familiar, we learn less and sometimes even seek information and experiences that fit within what we already know. There’s less adventure, play, exploration, creativity, and wonder to invite and engage with newness.

The way you spend your time influences how you perceive it. So the choices you make about what to do now impacts how you’ll manage your time later. Here are two ways to make your days richer and more memorable so that your sense of time expands and life doesn’t pass you by.

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