GRANTED: Why the Oxford comma is (sometimes) needed
Back by popular demand: Wondering. Every month, I'll weigh in on some of your questions about psychology, work, my work, and whatever else piques your curiosity. Submit here.
Caveat: I'm reluctant to give advice. I keep noticing that some of the worst advice comes from the people who are the most eager to help. In their rush to give answers, they fail to ask enough questions to understand the dilemma. Giving advice is like solving a puzzle: it's best to gather all the pieces before trying to put them together.
Some puzzle pieces I've found interesting lately:
1. Graduates of Elite Universities Get Paid More. Do They Perform Better? (Vasyl Taras, Grishma Shah, Marjaana Gunkel, and Ernesto Tavoletti, HBR)
When you hire from a university that's 1,000 slots higher in the rankings, on average you only get 1.9% better performance. Prestigious schools don't have a monopoly on potential—pedigree is a poor proxy for motivation and talent.
2. Time Confetti and the Broken Promise of Leisure (Ashley Whillans, Behavioral Scientist)
Emails, texts, and social media aren’t just eating 10% of our free time. They’re fragmenting it into tiny pieces of “time confetti” that we can't enjoy. A simple solution is blocking out uninterrupted time for leisure, just like for deep work.
3. Women’s Leadership is Associated with Fewer Deaths During the COVID-19 Crisis (Kayla Sergent and Alexander Stajkovic, Journal of Applied Psychology)
The early evidence: COVID fatality rates were lower in countries with female leaders and states with female governors. Women announced lockdowns earlier and more successfully. They expressed more awareness of people's fears, concern for their pain, and confidence in their plans.
4. The False Promise of Morning Routines (Marina Koren, Atlantic)
I love this call to end the obsession with morning routines—and the shaming of those who reject them. One person's productivity ritual is another's cage. Instead of mindlessly adopting others' habits, be mindful about the ones that serve you well.
From My Desk:
5. Procrastinate Much? Manage Your Emotions, Not Your Time (NYT)
Procrastination isn’t a time management problem; it’s an emotion management problem. We’re not avoiding work—we’re avoiding negative emotions that certain tasks stir up. We put tasks off to avoid the fear of failing, the frustration of being stuck, the boredom of doing something monotonous. When we understand the emotions that fuel our procrastination, we can manage it better.
If you’re looking for an excuse to procrastinate, here's my new favorite defense of the Oxford comma: