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

The Psychology of Delusions There are 5 major types of delusions.

This is where they come from.

A delusion is a fixed, relatively immutable, persistent, false belief with no basis in reality.

Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock
Source: Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock

We talk often about “deluded” people: “The person on the talent show is clearly deluded about their lack of singing ability.” “That politician has delusions of grandeur.” “She’s deluded if she expects to be promoted.” “You have to be deluded to believe anything salesmen say.”

A delusion is a belief held by an individual or group that is demonstrably false, patently untrue, impossible, fanciful, or self-deceptive. A person with delusions, however, often has complete certainty and conviction about their delusory beliefs. They resist arguments and evidence that they are wrong.

People have illusions about smell (olfactory), taste (gustatory), temperature (thermoceptive), and touch (tactile). They may experience highly disgusting or very pleasant or unusual smells when meeting a particular person. They may find ordinary foods (oranges, chocolate, milk) have different tastes than others experience. They may find cool objects burning hot or warm objects frozen; traditionally smooth objects (like a balloon or cat’s fur) may feel rough or uneven.

The most written about of all delusions, paranoia, has been shown to follow various stages: general suspiciousness; selective perception of others; hostility; paranoid “illumination” in which all things fall into place; and, finally, paradoxical delusions of influence and persecution. Delusions often totally preoccupy people and cause them considerable distress because they do not doubt their beliefs are correct.

Delusions differ from illusions. We have visionary and auditory illusions; for instance, that the sun goes around the earth or that ventriloquists’ dummies actually speak. We have selective memories/illusions of happy childhoods. These are things that seem true to the senses or memory, but are known to be false or have no basis in reality.

There are some caveats: Some religious delusions are impossible to verify and hence falsify. Other delusions have a self-fulfilling prophecy, such as a jealous person accusing and attacking an innocent partner, who then leaves them for another. In that sense, these people cause their delusions to come true.

Novelists and playwrights often have interesting characters with delusions. Commonly portrayed are delusions that a person is totally controlling one’s behavior or that one has committed a heinous or terrible crime or sin that merits severe punishment. There are characters who believe others to be mind readers, or that other’s trivial and insignificant events, objects, or remarks have personal meaning or significance. Religious delusions have also been well-known down the centuries.

Psychiatry and Delusional Disorder

Psychiatrists may diagnose someone as having a delusion disorder under a number of very specific situations:

  1. A person must manifest one or more non-bizarre delusions for at least a month.
  2. The person has not met other behavioral criteria to be classified as someone with schizophrenia.
  3. Audio and visual hallucinations are not prominent, though tactile and olfactory hallucinations may be.
  4. Despite the person’s delusions or their behavioral consequences, their psychosocial functioning is not essentially impaired enough to be considered particularly odd or bizarre.
  5. If the specific delusions impact a person’s mood, these fluctuations do not last very long.
  6. The disturbance is not the result of physiological or medical conditions, like the medication a person is taking.

Sometimes psychiatrists say it is difficult to distinguish from other disorders like hypochondriasis (particularly among those with little self-awareness); body dysmorphic disorder (preoccupation with imagined bodily defects); Obsessive Compulsive as well as Paranoid Personality Disorder.

The delusions of people with schizophrenia are often clearly bizarre, utterly implausible, not at all understandable; one might believe the brain has been replaced by that of another person or that one has shrunk to be three feet tall. On the other hand, non-bizarre delusions could be possible. For instance, people may feel they are being followed, photographed or recorded, that somebody is slowly poisoning them, that their partner is always cheating on them, or that their boss or neighbor is in love with them.

Some delusions cause people to make dramatic changes in their life: leave their job or partner, move from their house (or even leave the country), or dress very differently. The person with delusional disorder, however, appears normal when their delusional ideas are not being discussed.

People with delusions can become very moody, often causing their relationships and work to suffer. Interestingly, some cultures and groups have particular beliefs that may in other cultures be seen as clinically delusional.

It is a relatively rare disorder usually occurring later in life, particularly among people with relatives who have other disorders. Most appear argumentative and hypersensitive.  Many do not seek treatment and become, over the years, more and more isolated.

Types of Delusion

Psychiatrists have noticed five clear types of delusions:

  1. Erotomanic. These individuals believe someone is seriously in love with them, more in the Hollywood romance, even spiritual way, rather than in the sexual sense. It is often a famous person—a film star or famous athlete—but also can be powerful superiors at work. Whilst someone with this delusion can keep it a secret and do very little, others may expend a great deal of energy trying to contact their delusional lover via emails, visits, or stalking. Most are women, but men with the delusions tend to act more boldly and get in more trouble with the law, particularly if they believe their ‘lover’ is in trouble or imminent danger.
  2. Grandiose. These are sometimes called delusions of grandeur and manifest when a person believes (with no evidence) that they are special: they have amazing abilities or have made a vitally important discovery. Often the delusions are religious for those with the disorder, often believing that they have a unique and privileged relationship with the “The Almighty.” Sometimes they feel they are a prominent person and have special relationships with other prominent people.
  3. Jealous. This is clearly manifested in the strong, but unfounded belief that a partner is unfaithful and cheating on them: Odd bits of ‘evidence’ are put forward for these claims. They may hire a private detective, attempt to imprison their partner as well as physically and verbally attack them.
  4. Persecutory. This is the belief that someone or some group is conspiring against them. They could be cheating, spying on, harassing, or gossiping about them, or even attempting to poison or drug them. They are often angry and resentful with deep feelings of injustice. Many attempt to quell the persecution by legal means or appealing to authorities. It is the most common type of all the delusionary disorders. Some even get violent and aggressive towards those they believe are deliberately targeting them.
  5. Somatic. This is the delusion that one’s body is somehow strange or not functioning properly. It may be the belief that one smells odd, or that particular parts (nose, breasts, feet) are particularly odd, misshapen or ugly. Often people with these delusions believe they may have some internal bug or parasite that is destroying or affecting some very specific part of their body.

Cause

The causes of delusions are unknown. Current interests in neuropsychology have lead some to speculate that malfunctioning biological features may cause or exacerbate the problem. Some have implicated basal ganglia, others the limbic system and still others the neocortex. Investigations continue.

For others, genetic explanations are best because so many with delusional disorders have first-degree relatives with these and related disorders.

Other researchers point out that many with the disorder have had difficult childhoods characterized by instability and turbulence, callousness and coldness. They consider delusions to be an impairment in the ego defense system aimed to protect and bolster the self. They see the paranoid or persecutory delusions as an attempt to project onto others things they do not like to admit in themselves. Treatment includes traditional counsellng,psychotherapy, and the use of antipsychotic drugs.

Dissimulation and Delusions

Many rightly claim that in interviews and on questionnaires, people lie, fake, or deceive. Psychologists call this dissimulation, but have recently distinguished between two very different types of dissimulation:

  • Impression management. This is all about presenting oneself in a positive light, perhaps forgetting certain things and sharing small “white lies” about another.
  • Self-deception. Strictly speaking, this is not lying but is more like a delusion. If someone says they have a sense of humor, but everyone who knows them says they do not, they are deceiving themselves. Similarly, when someone feels ugly or plain whilst everyone else (friend, acquaintance, stranger) believes they are not, it implies a negative self-deception. At interviews, some forms of self-deception begin to get close to delusions.

To Stop Procrastinating, Start by Understanding the Emotions Involved

Time management goes only so far; the emotional reasons for delay must also be addressed

Chronic procrastination is an emotional strategy for dealing with stress, researchers say, and it can lead to difficulties in relationships, jobs, finances and health.
Chronic procrastination is an emotional strategy for dealing with stress, researchers say, and it can lead to difficulties in relationships, jobs, finances and health. ILLUSTRATION: YAO XIAO

Putting off a work or school assignment in order to play videogames or water the plants might seem like nothing more serious than poor time-management.

But researchers say chronic procrastination is an emotional strategy for dealing with stress, and it can lead to significant issues in relationships, jobs, finances and health.

In August, researchers from Stockholm University published one of the first randomized controlled trials on the treatment of procrastination. It found a therapy delivered online can significantly reduce procrastination.

Psychologists also are studying other ways people might be able to reduce procrastination, such as better emotion-regulation strategies and visions of the future self.

Scientists define procrastination as the voluntary delay of an action despite foreseeable negative future consequences. It is opting for short-term pleasure or mood at the cost of the long-term. Perhaps we didn’t finish preparing a presentation on the weekend because we had house guests. That is just intentional delay based on a rational decision, says Timothy Pychyl (pronounced pitch-el), a psychology professor at Carleton University, in Ottawa, who has published extensively on the topic.

What triggers procrastination and how can people overcome the urge to put off tasks? Prof. Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University joins Lunch Break for some advice. Photo: Getty

The essence of procrastination is “we’re giving in to feel good,” Dr. Pychyl says. “Procrastination is, ‘I know I should be doing it, I want to, it gets under my skin [when I don’t].’ ”

Ben Lockwood, a 39-year-old office manager in Chippenham, about 100 miles west of London, knows the feeling all too well. Even though he isn’t a lazy person, he says, he struggles with procrastination at work and in his personal life. He says he feels paralyzed by wanting to do everything perfectly, which then makes him feel anxious about getting started.

Instead of looking for a new job, he might go to the gym—a move researchers call “moral compensation.” That is when procrastinators do something to make themselves feel good or productive in order to avoid the task that needs to get done.

Mr. Lockwood says this pattern of behavior fills him with self-loathing. “I think I’d rather tell someone I robbed a bank than tell them I procrastinate,” he says.

Chronic procrastinators often hold misconceptions about why they procrastinate and what it means, psychologists have discovered. Many chronic procrastinators believe they can’t get started on a task because they want to do it perfectly. Yet studies show chronic procrastination isn’t actually linked to perfectionism, but rather to impulsiveness, which is a tendency to act immediately on urges, according to Piers Steel, an organizational-behavior professor at the University of Calgary.

TO PROCRASTINATE LESS, START BY DOING THIS

Tips from research led by Timothy Pychyl, Piers Steel and Alexander Rozental.

  • Break a long-term project down into specific sub-goals. State the exact start time and how long (not just “tomorrow”) you plan to work on the task.
  • Just get started. It isn’t necessary to write a long list of tasks, or each intermediate step.
  • Remind yourself that finishing the task now helps you in the future. Putting off the task won’t make it more enjoyable.
  • Implement “microcosts,” or mini-delays, that require you to make a small effort to procrastinate, such as having to log on to a separate computer account for games.
  • Reward yourself not only for completing the entire project but also the sub-goals.

People may assume anxiety is what prevents them from getting started, yet data from many studies show that for people low in impulsiveness, anxiety is the cue to get going. Highly impulsive people, on the other hand, shut down when they feel anxiety. Impulsive people are believed to have a harder time dealing with strong emotion and want to do something else to get rid of the bad feeling, Dr. Steel says.

Some people claim they purposely leave things to the last minute because they work better under stress, but true procrastinators get stressed out by the delay. It’s arguable whether the quality of their work is actually better than if they had started earlier, according to Dr. Pychyl.

Experts say the consequences of chronic or extreme procrastination can be serious: Marriages break up, people lose jobs and often feel like impostors. Fuschia Sirois, a psychology professor at the University of Sheffield, in England, recently began studying the effects of procrastination on coping with chronic illness.

The mental-health effects of procrastination are well-documented: Habitual procrastinators have higher rates of depression and anxiety and poorer well-being.

Less is known about physical effects, and especially serious health problems. In a recent paper, Dr. Sirois and colleagues found procrastinators with hypertension and heart disease were less likely to engage in active strategies for coping with the illness, such as finding meaning or taking action, such as arranging to exercise with a friend. They were more likely to adopt maladaptive behaviors, like being avoidant or blaming themselves for the illness and trying to forget it.

In addition, procrastinators often seem unable to see as clearly into the future about their choices and behaviors as non-procrastinators—a phenomenon she calls “temporal myopia.” Their vision of their future selves is often more abstract and impersonal, and they’re less connected emotionally to their future selves. Temporal myopia may be largely due to their high levels of stress which can shift their focus to more immediate rather than distant concerns.

“A lot of us think, I’m doing it for me” and that in the future we’ll benefit because of what we’re doing now, says Dr. Sirois. But procrastinators aren’t as good at envisioning this. Dr. Sirois, Carleton’s Dr. Pychyl and others are testing interventions for helping procrastinators better envision and connect with their future selves.

Focusing on time management alone will help procrastinators, but only so much, the scientists say. The emotional regulation component must be addressed as well.

Dr. Sirois and Dr. Pychyl also have focused on short-term mood repair as an anti-procrastination strategy. They teach people to recognize that they might have strong emotions, such as anxiety, at the start of a project but to not judge themselves for it. The next step is just to get started, step by step, with a narrow focus.

At Stockholm University, researchers set out to test whether a self-help treatment could have an effect on more-severe forms of procrastination, as the research in this area was lacking. Though there are many self-help books and experimental lab studies, the group wanted to design an intervention that, if shown efficacious, could be rolled out widely, such as via the Internet, said Alexander Rozental, a clinical psychologist and doctoral student who was an author of the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Some 150 participants were self-reported high procrastinators and were randomly assigned to complete the intervention, either by themselves, with the guidance of a therapist or to a wait-list control. The treatment program consisted of 10 weekly modules.

One component focused on goal setting, such as breaking down long-term goals into smaller and more-concrete sub-goals. Instead of saying one was going to work on a paper on Tuesday, participants were taught to be specific and divide it into manageable sub-goals: I am going to work on a paper for one hour at 11 a.m.

The intervention also employed a reward system. Participants would give themselves something positive, whether a cup of coffee or a break after accomplishing mini-goals, rather than wait until finishing the overall goal.

Another module involved exposing procrastinators to stressful feelings or thoughts in brief but gradually longer periods. The goal there is to help them feel that they are better able to manage their emotions and not to instinctively follow them.

The results showed that after intervention with both guided and unguided self-help, people improved their procrastination, though the guided therapy seemed to show greater benefit. The researchers, who have continued following up with the participants, will look at one-year outcomes later this year to see if the results were maintained.

They also are conducting a study of college students receiving either group therapy or Internet-based cognitive behavior therapy, where they will look not only at self-reported procrastination but also at real-life outcomes including academic grades and use of alcohol and drugs, Mr. Rozental says.

In Calgary, Dr. Steel’s lab is testing and helping to develop new software with a Hong Kong company, Saent, that helps by delaying the loading of websites such as Facebook for 15 seconds or so, using “micro-costs” such as requiring a password before surfing the Web. Sometimes these little bits of effort are all that are necessary to deter procrastinators from distraction, Dr. Steel says.

Mr. Lockwood, the procrastinator from the U.K., has developed his own strategies for helping him delay tasks. Since he’s had to pay late fees before for not paying bills on time, for no reason other than he didn’t put the check in the mail, he now makes sure he’s always stocked with stamps and envelopes at home and has online bill pay set up for as many places as possible.

But he wishes he could shake his procrastination in other areas of his life. He says his girlfriend is always planning their vacations because he has a hard time getting started and is reluctant to ask for time off. But he actually enjoys the act of planning trips. He says one day he would love to surprise her by coming up with the idea and doing the planning.

“If you’re an occasional procrastinator, quit thinking about your feelings and get to the next task,” says Dr. Pychyl. “But if you’re a chronic procrastinator, you might need therapy to better understand your emotions and how you’re coping with them through avoidance.”

Write to Shirley S. Wang at shirley.wang@wsj.com

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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