Work less, make more

Maybe this doesn’t apply when you’re trying to juggle a 9-5 job and writing or you’re a writer with a baby on your arm half the day, but there is an argument that the number of hours you work does not equal the amount you get done.

A properly dry academic research paper by John Pencavel looked into it and 25 pages later concluded:

This re-examination of the recommendations relating to hours of work of the HMWC finds them
broadly consistent with our analysis: at the levels of working hours in 1915 and 1916 during the War, hours reductions would have had small or no damaging effects on output; those weeks without a day of rest from work had about ten percent lower output than weeks when there was no work on Sunday holding weekly hours constant; night work was not less productive than day work and, indeed, may have been slightly more productive.

The Productivity of Working Hours – discussion paper no. 8129 – John Pencavel, Stanford University and IZA (April 2014)

That link is to the full PDF of the research paper so only click it if you’re really interested in this stuff to academic detail.

If you’re not, it boils down to how working 55 hours can achieve the same results as working 70 and I think we knew that. We ignore it and press on into the night, but the quality of our work and the speed drops stone-like after a while.

So don’t do that, okay?

Via LinkedIn and

Sunday read: the Internet knows when you’re depressed

How do depressed people behave online? According to a new study of college students with depressive symptoms — recently described by its authors in the New York Times — they compulsively check email, watch many videos, spend a lot of time playing games and chatting, and frequently switch back and forth between applications.

The Internet Knows You’re Depressed, but Can It Help You? – Maia Szalavitz, (22 June 2012)

It’s not at all clear whether you do these things because you’re depressed or whether doing this makes you depressed or whether you’re really just trying to get those crumbs out of your keyboard. And I have to think that chatting is a good thing. But read the full piece, would you?

This is the time you feel worst

When you’ve got a rejection. Or, according to The Atlantic, “depression strikes most around 7 or 8pm.”

It’s from a study that was not just solely American but also primarily about American teenagers. But it was done as an afterthought. There is a US service that’s like a texting equivalent of ChildLine or the Samaritans: teenagers can text in with their problems. You can immediately see how that would be good.

What perhaps Crisis Text Line of New York didn’t immediately see was that texts are logged and stored with a date and timestamp. With masses of texts all automatically, naturally having this information, it was like handing the charity a gigantic information resource.

So there are details about when people needing its help were feeling at their worst. And by when, it’s to the second. Do read the full piece because this technically curious secondary affect of the texting service contains some heartlifting details.

The other best way to learn something

Seriously, have a need to solve a problem or achieve a thing, that will get something into your noggin better than anything. But if you can’t do that, if you’re doing something general like studying for an exam, you can also do this:

When you’re studying something new, think of somebody you know and plan to teach it to them. Fellow students, a colleague, your significant other, anyone. As you go over the material, detail specifically how you would convey the knowledge to that person so they could understand it just as thoroughly.

Learn More Efficiently by Planning to Teach What You’re Studying – Patrick Allan, Lifehacker (14 August 2014)

Allan’s full piece is a report about an academic report and drilling down through the piece can only get you to the official abstract without subscribing. You’ve got the idea anyway.

It just takes three secon – sorry, what was that?

From New York Magazine (via 99U): it takes just three seconds to break your concentration and make it hard to carry on with your task. So yes, sure, answering the phone is guaranteed to do that – but so is just hearing it ring.

Things like text messages, social media notifications, or a random email notice may be all it takes to distract you. Even if you don’t read the messages, check the notification, or open the email, as this new research shows: all it takes to break flow is a quick chime from your browser or buzz from your phone.

Even a 3-Second Distraction Can Screw You Up – Melissa Dahl, New York Magazine (14 May 2014)

Dahl’s article doesn’t say a huge amount more but it does reference the original research so check that out. And hat tip to 99U for spotting it all.

They’ll hate you anyway

Most people do not create things. At least, they don’t create anything that many other people will ever know about. You can cook for your family for twenty years, nobody outside the ungrateful brats will ever know. You can save your multinational corporation a billion pounds and they definitely won’t tell the world. But if you do something that goes out to people, if you do create something or write something or produce something, you will be hated.

You’ll also hopefully be liked or even loved but the guaranteed one is hated.

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers examined predispositions towards topics that subjects knew nothing about.

Some critics are harsh by nature, not because of what they see in the creation they are criticizing.

They found a reliable trend in the responses of certain participants. Despite being asked about a myriad of unconnected topics—and asked again about new topics at a later date, to confirm they weren’t just in a bad mood—they found two abnormal groups who they classified as “likers” and “haters.” The “likers” tended to rate most things positively with zero external information, and the haters… well, you know where this is going.

Born Hatin’ – Why Some People Dislike Everything, Gregory Ciotti, 99U

I’d like Ciotti to use the word ‘myriad’ correctly but we are many years into that process by which the misuse of a word becomes the correct use just because nobody can be bothered to stop it. Nonetheless, the rest of the piece is particularly interesting about how all this applies to what we write online – and why we get some hatred back.

You lookin’ at me?

I want to tell you this:

Being a bully may be good for your health, study finds

Children who bully others have lower levels of inflammation later in life

Childhood bullying has been linked to a number of physical and mental health effects, including lower self-worth, depression, and serious illnesses later in life. But until now, researchers had largely focused on examining these effects in victims of abuse, not the bullies themselves. This may soon change, as a long-term study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was able to demonstrate that “pure bullies,” people who have never experienced bullying themselves, do in fact face a long-lasting health effect from abusing others. As it turns out, that effect is actually beneficial — even when compared to people who aren’t involved in bullying at all.

The Verge

Because I want to show you this:

Though do go pay some cash to the Frasier folk now, okay? The show is available on DVD.

The statistics behind BOGOF

I’ve noticed that whoever walks in to a supermarket at the same time as me is who will walk out at the same time too. We are driven around stores like machines, guided to what we want and where they want us to buy it, then kicked out as quickly and profitably as possible. I’m fascinated by how these stores work and so this article held me up this morning.

Once Dangler has set up his basic pricing rules, he’s ready to start testing out potential discounts and special offers to try and improve sales. He goes for an aggressive price cut on the own-brand natural yogurt, cutting the profit margin to a few pennies, and the volume of predicted sales balloons as a result. It turns out that people are really price-sensitive when buying cold desserts. Alas, a large proportion of the gains is offset by a drop in branded sales, meaning the idea would probably result in worsening relationships with suppliers in exchange for a modest increase in profits. We keep searching for the optimal solution, with every small change having an immediate trickle-down effect on related products. It’s like a chaos theory testing suite, with each price being a flap of a butterfly’s wings. The only thing missing is a button to make the system automatically optimize everything, you still need humans to input scenarios.

Along the way, I discover phenomena like asymmetric cross-price elasticity — an eight-pack’s price affects sales of four-packs more strongly than vice versa — and the fact that a “buy one, get one free” offer is more cost efficient than a straight 50 percent price cut (that’s because some people will still take just one).

You Priced This Milkshake – The Verge

Read the whole piece to find out who this Dangler is and how while this is an article about American supermarkets, it is featuring software owned by Tesco here in the UK.

The Onion: Study Finds Working at Work Improves Productivity

WASHINGTON, DC—According to a groundbreaking new study by the Department of Labor, working—the physical act of engaging in a productive job-related activity—may greatly increase the amount of work accomplished during the workday, especially when compared with the more common practices of wasting time and not working.

Full story: Study Finds Working at Work Improves Productivity – The Onion 5 November 2007