Four best jobs for work life balance

More workers are looking for work life balance than ever before. These four jobs are the best for maintaining the peace of mind that comes with good work life balance.

  • Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor

More and more Americans want better work-life balance. In the U.S., 57% of full-time employees indicate that their spouse or partner works 35 hours or more a week, too.

However, no other group craves a better work-life balance more than millennials. While 78% of full-time working millennials have a spouse or partner also working full-time, only 47% of full-time working baby boomers and 68% of Gen X experience this scenario. With two full-time working parents, quality couple time, family time and “me time” are becoming more and more scarce.

If your employer doesn’t sympathize with your desire for a more flexible arrangement, it may be the time to switch jobs. To help you escape the rat race, here are the four best jobs for work-life balance.

Recommended: Fifteen best entry-level jobs of 2015

1. Data Scientist

According to Glasdoor’s 2015 list of best jobs for work-life balance, the role of data scientist provides the best work-life balance. With an average 4.2 rating out of a possible 5.0, data scientist took the top spot in work-life balance across users of the recruiting site over the past year.

If you keep on hearing everywhere about the “power of big data,” this is what it’s all about. A data scientist uses the power of algorithms to process large amounts of data and use those findings to make recommendations that drive customer engagement and monetization. You’ll have to be comfortable working with monster spreadsheets and databases (think millions of rows and several terabytes), develop mad SQL and SAS skills, and keep up with the latest data mining tools and techniques.

Companies well-known for providing great perks and flexible schedules, including Facebook and Google, are hiring data scientists. With an average salary of $114,808 (according to Glassdoor), data scientist is one attractive career to look for.

2. Web Developer

U.S. News maintains a list of 100 best jobs in the nation. The list uses seven criteria, including 10-year growth volume, employment rate, and work-life balance, to rank the jobs. While U.S. News gave the dentist occupation the top spot in its list of best jobs, a closer look to the job satisfaction reviews shows that the web developer occupation provides better work-life balance.

According to U.S. News, web developers tend to have above average upward mobility, below average stress level, and high flexibility. Interviewed employers indicate that often their web developers don’t have to punch a clock. “We set deadlines, and as long as they get their work done, we’re flexible with hours.” two employers said to U.S. News.

The median annual salary of a web developer was $63,160 in 2013, with individuals earning between $33,320 and $110,350.

3. Tutor

In a study from Ernst & Young, respondents pointed out that the option to telecommute(working from another location other than the office or client site) is an important flexibility issue. In the same survey, millennials are more likely to say it’s important to be able to telecommute one to two days a week.

Tutoring enables individuals looking to telecommute as much as possible to really own their schedule. For example, since 2006 I have been tutoring business professionals to prepare for the GMAT, a standardized admission test used by most MBA programs around the world. I have been able to consistently tutor students first in Mexico and now in the United States. Currently, I work with Kaplan, a test prep company, and I’m able to teach students in person and online on my own schedule. (See also: The 3 Best Jobs for Expats and Travelers)

With the advent of several online tutoring sites, such as Tutor.com, Skillshare, and Wyzant, you’re not limited to your geographic area and can find students across the world. Some sites, such as Tutor.com, require you to commit to tutor at least five hours per week. However, you decide when those hours happen.

Having the ability to do their job in any country is key for millennials as 38% of them would make the sacrifice to move a country with better parental leave benefits.

4. Talent Acquisition Specialist

Ranking third on Glassdoor’s list, the talent acquisition specialist has a rating of 4.0 out of 5.0 in work-life balance satisfaction. Also known as recruiters or human resources (HR) specialists, talent acquisition specialists are in charge of finding, screening, interviewing, and recommending the best candidates for a job opening. One key requirement for talent acquisition specialists is people skills. If you can’t get along with different people in different settings, then this may not be the field for you.

While Glassdoor says that the average salary for this position is $63,504, U.S. News puts the median salary at $56,850. One of the main advantages of this occupation is stability, given that employment in this field is expected to balloon 15.5% from 2012 to 2022.

To some, it may come off as a surprise that respondents to the Glassdoor survey gave such a high rating to the work-life balance satisfaction of this job. However, those critics should keep in mind the following points:

  • Like web developers, talent acquisition specialists have to meet deadlines and have flexibility as long as they can hit their numbers.
  • Like tutors, talent acquisition specialists can leverage the web and their cellphone to do the bulk of the work remotely. With cloud-based HR software becoming the industry norm, a recruiter can do her work as long as she has an Internet connection.
  • Depending on their field of specialization, HR specialists have different hours and hiring seasons. Many recruiters welcome the break of pace and opt to work only during hiring seasons or on a part-time basis.

 

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Your Name Affects Your Opportunities In Life

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People tend to stop caring about their names once they get past certain life landmarks: getting teased for an unfortunate last name in high school, agonizing over a nickname in college, wondering if a spouse should change their name. After all, it’s just a name. Right? Wrong. Psychological studies have proved, time after time, that our names have a real impact on our fiscal, educational, and personal success.

Which is what makes the recent trend of bizarre baby names even more confusing. Many European surnames evolved from occupations — Glover, Baker, Smith, Abbot, Draper — and the plethora of first names that now exist is actually a pretty modern phenomenon; according to a BBC report, until 1800, 50 percent of all men in England shared the same four first names. You were most likely named after your parent, or a common saint. Looking to celebrities and book characters for inspiration is a very modern preoccupation, as is wanting your kid to be “different”. As we’ll discover, for some kids, that can actually backfire pretty badly, with far-reaching consequences for future education and success. You’ve got to be wise when you’re naming your kid.

As somebody who’s named her cat Eglantine (after Angela Lansbury’s dignified but clumsy character in Bedknobs & Broomsticks), I’m not one to talk. But at least Eglantine won’t have to navigate preschool, college acceptance, resumes, or changing her maiden name. What’s in a name? As it turns out, rather a lot.

1. You Earn More If Your Name Is Shorter

A large quantity of research has gone into what many adults worry about: is their name holding them back from professional success? According to a survey done by an online job search site, perhaps. The top-earning names for men among the site’s six million members were Tom, Rob, Dale, Doug, and Wayne, while top-earning women were called Lynn, Melissa, Cathy, Dana, and Christine. Seeing a pattern? Shorter — albeit, “whiter” names, which we’ll get to in a second — seem to be the key to a successful career. Five letters, in fact, was the optimal length.

Forbes, which analyzed the study, pointed out that the most common names among “C-level executives” (that is, CEOs, CFOs, CTOs and other big guns at the very top of any company ladder) were names like Lawrence, Marc, Denise, Cindy, and Sarah. Commonality didn’t guarantee you a top-level salary, though; having an easy-to-pronounce, familiarly short name did. Part of this may be that shorter names are seen as more sociable, because we as humans like easily understandable bits of information. It could also be that giving yourself a nickname makes you seem more “human” and less Christian Grey.

If you think this is nonsense, the study even put it in cold hard cash: every extra letter a C-level executive had in their name above the five-letter “ideal” cost them $3,600 in earnings per year.

2. A “White” Name Is More Employable Than A “Black” One

This famous but seriously upsetting bit of information comes courtesy of a 2003 study that demonstrated just how much harder it is in America to get employed with a so-called “ethnic” name. The study, “Are Emily And Greg More Employable Than Lakisha And Jamal?”, sent out resumes in response to Wanted ads in Boston and Chicago. The resumes either had a stereotypically “white” name or a stereotypically “black” one, and were of either respectable quality or high quality (you know, sterling references, lots of experience, the things that make a resume shine). The results were pretty sobering.

“White” names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews than “black” names, and even if “black” names were attached to the really stellar resumes, they still received a seriously low level of interest. “White” names on the awesome resumes, however, got a 30 percent jump in callbacks. The scientists pointed out that having a “white” name equated to having eight more years of experience on your CV.

In case you were wondering if things have changed since 2003, a 2014 research paper found that employers are just as racially discriminatory now as they were then. It’s a seriously unfair world, and white privilege and racism are very real.

3. An Easy-To-Pronounce Name May Get You More Promotions

A 2011 study found something interesting: if your name’s easy to pronounce, it may help you get ahead. And that applies to both first names and surnames. Apparently we form more “positive” impressions of words that we can pronounce and process easily; our brain rewards the name for being easy as opposed to driving us slightly nuts.

The study pointed out that even drugs with simpler names are seen as safer and more effective than ones with complex names. The scientists did experiments with name association that proved that people “like” shorter names better in others — and found that people with easy-to-pronounce surnames tend to have higher-up jobs in law firms.

4. A Last Name At The Beginning Of The Alphabet Might Help You Get Into College

There’s a caveat on this one: it was done in the Czech Republic, where names obviously differ in some significant ways from America, complete with cultural associations. But a study, done in 2007, found that if your last name is at the beginning of the alphabet, you’re more likely to be accepted into both application-only high schools and into college.

It’s likely this is because, in some places, applications are processed alphabetically, and that quotas are filled early on, leaving spaces few as the alphabet progresses. Of course, this depends on how your college processes applications, so don’t count on it helping you out.

5. Highly-Gendered Names Influence How You Do In School

It seems that social expectations of gender actually have a predictive role in how a kid behaves, at least when it comes to their name. According toresearch by Northwestern University reported by TIME, linguistically “feminine” and “masculine” names actually may predict a girl’s interest in more male-dominated subjects like math and science. Studies of twins showed that girls with less girly names were more inclined to stick with STEM subjects.

And there’s a flip-side, too. The studies also showed that boys with stereotypically “feminine” names, like Ashley or Courtney, often exhibited significant behavioral problems in middle school, likely in response to bullying. Poor kids.

6. Keeping Your Maiden Name May Earn You More

In an interesting revelation from 2011, a Dutch study revealed that people assess women who keep their maiden names as smarter and more career-focused than those who don’t. Part of this is likely the result of social change and evolved expectation: there’s a clear statistical link between high levels of education, marrying later in life, and the practice of keeping maiden names.

So it could just be a case of (albeit highly-problematic) connect-the-dots. But the research also found something more concrete: women who hadn’t changed their names earned higher salaries overall, often by up to $6,000 more a year. It seems that public perception about maiden names may be keeping married women who remove theirs from reaching their full earning potential.

7. Using Your Middle Initial Makes People Think You’re More Intelligent

If you’ve ever read an academic paper by “Professor A. E. X. Whatever” and wondered why they felt the need to cram every little initial into their title, there may be an answer in public perception. The practice in academia often comes from an attempt to distinguish your name from similar ones, butresearch in the European Journal of Social Psychology has revealed that using the initials of your middle name actually makes people think you’re smarter.

People rated essays as better-written and more intelligent if the writer was given a middle initial, or three. I didn’t know this before I started to go by my initials, but I’m pretty damn glad I did now.

Images: Evelyn Giggles/Flickr, Giphy, QuickMeme

18 Behaviors of Emotionally Intelligent People

Emotional intelligence is a huge driver of success

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When emotional intelligence (EQ) first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70 percent of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into the broadly held assumption that IQ was the sole source of success.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as being the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. The connection is so strong that 90 percent of top performers have high emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.

Despite the significance of EQ, its intangible nature makes it difficult to measure and to know what to do to improve it if you’re lacking. You can always take a scientifically validated test, such as the one that comes with the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book, but unfortunately, most such tests aren’t free. So, I’ve analyzed the data from the million-plus people TalentSmart has tested in order to identify the behaviors that are the hallmarks of a high EQ. What follows are sure signs that you have a high EQ.

You have a robust emotional vocabulary

All people experience emotions, but it is a select few who can accurately identify them as they occur. Our research shows that only 36 percent of people can do this, which is problematic because unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions.

People with high EQs master their emotions because they understand them, and they use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so. While many people might describe themselves as simply feeling “bad,” emotionally intelligent people can pinpoint whether they feel “irritable,” “frustrated,” “downtrodden,” or “anxious.” The more specific your word choice, the better insight you have into exactly how you are feeling, what caused it, and what you should do about it.

You’re curious about people

It doesn’t matter if they’re introverted or extroverted, emotionally intelligent people are curious about everyone around them. This curiosity is the product of empathy, one of the most significant gateways to a high EQ. The more you care about other people and what they’re going through, the more curiosity you’re going to have about them.

You embrace change

Emotionally intelligent people are flexible and are constantly adapting. They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major threat to their success and happiness. They look for change that is lurking just around the corner, and they form a plan of action should these changes occur.

You know your strengths and weaknesses

Emotionally intelligent people don’t just understand emotions; they know what they’re good at and what they’re terrible at. They also know who pushes their buttons and the environments (both situations and people) that enable them to succeed. Having a high EQ means you know your strengths and how to lean into and use them to your full advantage while keeping your weaknesses from holding you back.

You’re a good judge of character

Much of emotional intelligence comes down to social awareness; the ability to read other people, know what they’re about, and understand what they’re going through. Over time, this skill makes you an exceptional judge of character. People are no mystery to you. You know what they’re all about and understand their motivations, even those that lie hidden beneath the surface.

You are difficult to offend

If you have a firm grasp of who you are, it’s difficult for someone to say or do something that gets your goat. Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which creates a pretty thick skin. You may even poke fun at yourself or let other people make jokes about you because you are able to mentally draw the line between humor and degradation.

You know how to say no (to yourself and others)

Emotional intelligence means knowing how to exert self-control. You delay gratification and avoid impulsive action. Research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is a major self-control challenge for many people, but “No” is a powerful word that you should unafraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

You let go of mistakes

Emotionally intelligent people distance themselves from their mistakes, but do so without forgetting them. By keeping their mistakes at a safe distance, yet still handy enough to refer to, they are able to adapt and adjust for future success. It takes refined self-awareness to walk this tightrope between dwelling and remembering. Dwelling too long on your mistakes makes you anxious and gun shy, while forgetting about them completely makes you bound to repeat them. The key to balance lies in your ability to transform failures into nuggets of improvement. This creates the tendency to get right back up every time you fall down.

You give and expect nothing in return

When someone gives you something spontaneously, without expecting anything in return, this leaves a powerful impression. For example, you might have an interesting conversation with someone about a book, and when you see them again a month later, you show up with the book in hand. Emotionally intelligent people build strong relationships because they are constantly thinking about others.

You don’t hold grudges

The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. When the threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when the threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Letting go of a grudge not only makes you feel better now but can also improve your health.

You neutralize toxic people

Dealing with difficult people is frustrating and exhausting for most. But high-EQ individuals control their interactions with toxic people by keeping their feelings in check. When they need to confront a toxic person, they approach the situation rationally. They identify their own emotions and don’t allow anger or frustration to fuel the chaos. They also consider the difficult person’s standpoint and are able to find solutions and common ground. Even when things completely derail, emotionally intelligent people are able to take the toxic person with a grain of salt to avoid letting him or her bring them down.

You don’t seek perfection

Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target because they know that it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and should have done differently instead of moving forward, excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.

You appreciate what you have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it also improves your mood by reducing the stress hormone cortisol (in some cases by 23 percent). Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who work daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experience improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol play a major role in this.

You disconnect

Taking regular time off the grid is a sign of a high EQ because it helps you to keep your stress under control and to live in the moment. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even–gulp!–turning off your phone gives your body and mind a break. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels. Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email with the power to bring your thinking (read: stressing) back to work can drop onto your phone at any moment.

You limit your caffeine intake

Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, which is the primary source of a fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response to ensure survival. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyper-aroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. Caffeine’s long half-life ensures you stay this way as it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body. High-EQ individuals know that caffeine is trouble, and they don’t let it get the better of them.

You get enough sleep

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams) so that you wake up alert and clearheaded. High-EQ individuals know that their self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when they don’t get enough–or the right kind–of sleep. So, they make sleep a top priority.

You stop negative self-talk in its tracks

The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that–thoughts, not facts. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural tendency to perceive threats (inflating the frequency or severity of an event). Emotionally intelligent people separate their thoughts from the facts in order to escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive, new outlook.

You won’t let anyone limit your joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within.

The surprising benefits of reading before bed

3986164316_9c49f5310c_oViviana Calderón/flickr
Reading before bed can reduce stress by 68%.

We’re all commitment-phobes. We scan, we skim, we browse, but rarely do we read.

Our eyes ping-pong back and forth from facebook posts to open chat boxes, unclicked emails to GIFs of dancing cats, scanning for keywords but barely digesting what we see. Average time spent on an online article is 15 seconds.

In 2014, the Pew Research Center revealed that one-quarter of American adults hadn’t read a single book in the previous year.

And that’s a shame because those who read consistently exhibit significantly greater memory and mental abilities at all stages in life. They’re also better public speakers, thinkers and, according to some studies, better people in general.

Cracking open a book before you go to bed could help combat insomnia, too: A 2009 study from researchers at University of Sussex showed that six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68% (more relaxing than either music or a cup of tea), thus clearing the mind and readying the body for sleep.

The reasoning, per psychologist and study author Dr. David Lewis is that a book is “more than merely a distraction, but an active engaging of the imagination,” one that “causes you to enter an altered state of consciousness.”

It doesn’t matter if your book of choice is by James Patterson or James Joyce, fiction or fact, so long as it you find it fully absorbing. Because when the mind is engaged in a world constructed by words, tension evaporates and the body relaxes, paving the way for sleep.

Where do the hours go? Graduate students and procrastination experts share their best time-management tips.

April Krowel cringes every time she recalls it. It was early December and she had planned to decorate her home for Christmas with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. But she still hadn’t started her 30-page practicum paper, which was due the following week.

“I really thought it would be no big deal,” says Krowel, a counseling psychology doctoral student at Ball State University. “But it literally took all weekend to complete. I ended up getting it done and got a good grade, but it was at the expense of spending time with my family.”

After that weekend, she made a promise to herself never to let it happen again. Now, she uses Apple’s iCal calendar program to keep better track of upcoming assignments and schedules time for working on them weeks before they’re due. She also sets reminders to avoid forgetting anything.

“It’s very important to me that my family doesn’t suffer while I’m pursuing my PhD,” she says.

Krowel’s ruined weekend was the result of an all-too-common phenomenon known as the planning fallacy, says procrastination researcher and Carleton University psychology professor Timothy A. Pychyl, PhD. He and other researchers have found that people tend to overestimate how long it will take to complete short tasks and underestimate the time longer projects will take. Then there’s the fact that we forget to schedule time for the basics, says Pychyl.

“One of the biggest myths when it comes to time management is that next week always looks free,” Pychyl says. “But if you put everything into the calendar that you have to do before you do anything else — things like eating, sleeping, buying groceries — you see right away that you really don’t have a lot of time.”

Time management is especially important for graduate students because they have so many concurrent projects, and that is likely to continue throughout their careers, Pychyl says. Get your schedule under control with these tips from several time management mavens:

Audit your time

Take a week to keep track of exactly how you spend your time, Pychyl suggests. Be it showering, eating or doing laundry, every activity should be tracked.

Nicholas Scheidt, for example, uses Google Calendar to schedule and color-code every single thing he does, from driving to sleeping, to going out to brunch on Sunday mornings.

“Every single hour on my calendar is accounted for, so that I have a very clear view of what I’m doing,” says Scheidt, a clinical psychology graduate student at Carlos Albizu University in Miami. Then, when he needs to find extra time to study for exams or write a paper, he just looks at the calendar and reprioritizes.

“It’s just so helpful to know where every hour is going because then you can really control your time better,” he says. Even just tracking your schedule for a week gives you a much better sense of how you are spending your time, how long certain tasks such as grocery shopping or reading email really take. You can then build a more accurate schedule for yourself.

Find what works best for you

Experiment with a few different schedules, suggests Cady Block, a medical-clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. If you’re a morning person, set aside a couple of hours in the morning to study. Block says she tends to work best by doing what she calls “chunking,” where she does certain tasks on certain days.

“I found that shifting my mindset too many times during the day — between conducting research, attending practicum for a few hours, and then visiting another site to see patients, for example — made me inefficient,” she says. “But if I lump all research into one day, and practica into another, I am able to concentrate all of my attention on what I’m doing.”

She also chooses not to work on weeknights, reserving that time for relaxation, and then spends a portion of her weekend on coursework and research activities that can be done outside the lab, such as writing manuscripts.

“I know other students who do the opposite, and that works for them,” she says.

Establish bright lines

Leave little room for negotiation once you put something on your agenda, Pychyl says. “There’s no starting the task at 10:15 a.m. if you said you’re going to start it at 10 a.m.,” he says. “You have to honor your schedule as if it’s set in stone, because otherwise you’re setting the precedent that these things don’t matter.” If you must give yourself any leeway on this, plan two options for the time chunk — for example, either read studies or write a section of a paper. This strategy should apply to both work time and personal time, Pychyl says: “There needs to be a point in the day where you say, OK, I’m going to do some recreation now.”

Just get started

So much of good time management is getting past the “I don’t feel like it” mentality, Pychyl says. “The truth is that your motivational state does not have to match the task at hand,” he says. “Very often, attitudes follow behavior, so just get started.” You’ll likely be surprised by your renewed interest in the task once you make a little progress.

Get (a little) help from friends

Block suggests enlisting another student in your cohort to help keep you accountable and meeting with him or her often to review progress. “I know of students who put together ‘dissertation groups’ where they met once per month and reviewed progress on their dissertations,” she says. “Your peers can often be your key to success in graduate school, as long as you choose them well.”

Use small chunks of time

How often do you think to yourself, “I only have 15 minutes before my next appointment — that’s not enough time to write that memo/read that article/type up those client notes. I’ll just surf the Web instead”? Pychyl suggests using that time to get started on the task. “You might be surprised at how much you can get done in a day by just using those small chunks of time to make progress on something,” he says.

Use technology to avoid distraction

Social networking and email checking are a procrastinator’s best friend. To help you stay on task, download a productivity tool that allows you to block certain sites on certain days and times of the week, such as Leech Block, Google’s StayFocused or Apple’s Focusbar app.

“If you know that Facebook or YouTube consumes a good amount of your time, these apps can help eliminate those distractors,” says Sheila Modir, a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Abandon perfection

As a busy graduate student, you don’t have the time and energy to give every project your all, says Aileen Chang, a school psychology doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. If there’s an assignment that’s not crucial to your realm of study, but that you’re required to complete, Chang recommends giving yourself only a set amount of time to do it. “Once that time limit is up, consider the product ‘good enough’ and move on to the next task,” she says.

Reward yourself

It’s important to plan breaks — and even an occasional vacation — to refresh your mind and spirit, Scheidt says. While he was writing his dissertation last year, Scheidt took day trips to the botanical gardens to clear his mind. As a bigger reward — and an impetus to stay on task — he scheduled a trip to Argentina for after the project was completed.

“You really need to have incentives like that to stay motivated,” he says.

11 Facts About Your Soul-Sucking Commute

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Commuters at the Bedford Ave subway station board a crowded train December 22, 2014 in New York.  The last stop that the L train makes before traveling to Manhattan is said to be over-congested during the morning rush hour.

Photo: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Maybe you saw the recent, disheartening news that New Yorkers have longer work weeks than residents of any other major U.S. city. One of the main reasons the New York City work week is so long, according to the new report by city comptroller Scott M. Stringer, is that commuting takesfor-freaking-ever. Each week, an average New Yorker spends six hours and 18 minutes commuting, well above the national average of four hours and 11 minutes.

With this in mind, Science of Us took a dive into the scientific literature on commuting. Here are the best facts we found on the daily routine, and the variety of ways it’s sucking the soul right out of you. (The short version is: Commuting is mostly terrible and you should probably work from home if you can.)

The worst thing you’ll do all day is your morning commute.Social scientists Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger surveyed about 900 women in Texas, asking which of their daily activities made them happiest. At the very bottom of the list — worse than working or cleaning house — was the morning commute. (The evening commute, incidentally, is the third worst thing you’ll do all day, according to this sample.)

You’ll never get used to it. It’s awful every day, but each day carries its own particular awfulness. “You can’t adapt to commuting, because it’s entirely unpredictable,” Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilberthas said. “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

But you’ll be happiest if you walk, bike, or take the train. People who commute in these three ways are more satisfied with their commutes than people who drive, take the bus, or take the subway, according to a McGill University survey of 3,377 commuters in Montreal.

A longer commute might even ruin your marriage. A decade-longstudy of 2 million married people in Sweden found that couples with long commutes — defined here as 45 minutes, by car — were 40 percent more likely to divorce than couples who never commuted. (Hat tip to our pals at Science of Relationships for covering that one.)

But, weirdly, your relationship might be happier if you commute in the same direction. A study of 280 married couples in the U.S. and 139 in Hong Kong found that the couples who headed to work in the same direction tended to be more satisfied in their relationships. It’s perhaps one of those small, meaningless similarities that people may unconsciously value for no logical reason (like sharing a birthday), the researchers theorized.

Time spent commuting is time spent not exercising. Also: not cooking and not sleeping. According to an analysis of data culled from five years of the American Time Use Survey, “Each minute spent commuting is associated with a 0.0257 minute exercise time reduction, a 0.0387 minute food preparation time reduction, and a 0.2205 minute sleep time reduction.” And when people with long commutes do exercise, they tend to do so at lower intensity than people with shorter commutes. Who has the energy for intervals after fighting your way on and off the train?

A lengthy commute might make people less politically active.Researchers used data from a Georgetown University survey of 1,001 Americans, with questions that covered a wide variety of topics, including work, commute length, and political participation (defined as voting and donating money to a political organization or group, among other things). And they found that the more time people spent commuting, the less likely they were to be politically active. Compared to someone who works from home, a person with an hour-long commute is 12 percent less likely to participate in politics, according to their findings.

How telecommuters have it made, by the numbers. Whencompared to “extreme commuters” — those whose total daily commute time exceeds three hours, people who work from home sleep 44.7 minutes more and spend 63 percent more time exercising. (The average commute — 50 minutes — doesn’t have quite so dire an impact, resulting in only 11.03 minutes of lost sleep and just 1.29 minutes of lost exercise relative to telecommuters.)

Money helps matters, though. A relatively famous study suggested that, all else being equal, for a person with an hour-long commute to be as happy as a telecommuter, the commuter’s salary would have to be 40 percent higher than their work-from-home buddy’s.

There is another way to make a commute happier, but it is terrifying. When University of Chicago psychologist Nicholas Epley asked suburban Chicago commuters to chat with strangers on the train, he found that they ended up enjoying the ride that day more than they usually did. (However, I tried this last summer and cannot in good conscience recommend it.)

There is at least one good thing about commuting. For some people, report researchers at the University of California Transportation Center, the ride home is a time to decompress, let go of work stress, and make the transition back to home life.

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