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Missed a deadline? Not quite uncommon.

We all miss deadlines once in a while. But have you ever wondered why we keep doing it? And how we can stop?

First, guess who’s to blame. No it’s not your teammates. It’s your brain. Our brain creates an unconscious bias that lures us into that trap. Its commonly known as the “planning fallacy”. It is the tendency of our brains to under-estimate the task at hand and either over-promise or under-perform, usually more over-promise. Our brains tricks us into blaming others for not meeting deadlines rather than our ineffectiveness of planning. The primary cause for the “planning fallacy” is the fact that our brains try to plan out the best-case scenario, not accounting for the hiccups. But hiccups do happen, almost always, and we end up exceeding our deadlines.

So then we would think that why do we need deadlines at all? Well, as it turns out, our brain also needs that spear in its back that forces it to get any work done. Without any deadlines, we might not get any work done at all. (Our brain’s weird, n’it?). Also, work expands to fill up the time it is given, also our brain’s doing.

So how can we work towards meeting these “required” deadlines (and make ourselves feel better)? Here are some pointers:

  • Front-load your week: Finish harder, more time-consuming and important work before taking on trivial tasks.
  • Retain a buffer in the deadline: Leave some lee-way for the hiccups.
  • Publicize your deadlines: Making deadlines public make you more accountable (your brain working again).
  • You can always use some digital help with reminders.

You can check out the complete post on lifehacker for a detailed analysis.

-Akshar Rawal

Pixar’s Inside Out

This past Saturday we finally saw the long awaited Inside Out. Its an animated movie by Pixar that describes how the brain works. It is quite detailed in the way it works for an 11-year old girl. It took 5 years to make and is quite accurate (atleast from what I know about memory). Pixar has put quite an effort in researching memory functions and portraying them in the way that they have in the movie. Don’t want to spoil too much of the fun now, do I?

Not going into too much detail, it anthropomorphizes five basic feelings, joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fright. It describes how the various functions of the brain are operated by them primarily focusing on the memory functions. It is a really great watch.

Moreover, it is quite legit. Checkout this post that details on the level of research that has gone into making the movie. BUT BEWARE! SPOILERS INBOUND! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

-Akshar Rawal

Latency of a thought

How long does it take to think a thought? Isn’t that straight forward now. I’m sure you have one right now in your head. But how long did it take for your brain to think that thought? A number of things can be classified as thoughts. But it is not possible to measure the latency for all of them. To measure the time, we need a start and and end point. Our end point would be where the thought start. But it might not be possible to see the start for the seed of all thoughts. Reactionary thoughts, however can be used as a baseline to estimate the latency of thinking a thought.

Yeah its recursive and complicated (coz aren’t all recursions? ). But head on over to Gizmodo to read on an interesting analysis on how long it really takes to think a thought.

-Akshar Rawal

Cheer ’em up!

Ever find colleagues or friends in distress? What did you do to make them feel better? How did you do on your quest?

If you have, I’m pretty sure you are not the only one. When dealing with a situation like this, it is all about reflecting the pain, dividing it to make them feel it less. It’s about being a friend, a true friend, even if it is with a colleague. There’s a lot of advice out there for dealing with such situations. But a few pointers that I feel help the most are summarized below.

1. Show that you’re approachable. Make them feel that you you understand, and understand! Show your support.

2. Do not propose general advice and help (like “Let me know if you need anything”). Rather offer specific help pertaining to the situation, if possible. And do not offer unsolicited advice. The last thing they want is a blow on their ego and unsolicited advice has that effect. If you cannot directly help, refer them to someone who can.

3. A version of unsolicited advice is asking the person to cheer up. That almost never helps. Rather help them face the problem head on and get over it. It’s more often than not to be sad and get it over with rather than stuffing it aside and happily continuing. It is important to get closure.

4. Respect their privacy and recognize it in conversation. Do not go overboard with feelings.

5. Do not be judgmental. It usually helps to think about similar situations you’ve been in or others you know have been in. It generalizes the situation in your head and helps you to not be judgmental.

6. Distress is often from conflicting mindset/feelings/choices. Help them recognize this and help them choose wisely.

These are some things that I have picked up along the way. If you have any to share, please mention them in the comments below.

-Akshar Rawal

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