Tag Archive for 'productivity'

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Hacking the Mental Supply Chain

The supply chain and distribution network behind a simple product, like a lamp, is ridiculously intricate and complex. Chances are the lamp had to cross the seas, move through customs, hit a warehouse, get distributed via trucks or planes, hit the stores, get deboxed and brought out to the sales floor for a given store. And somewhere along the way, all of this needs to be coordinated.

Think of the sheer number of people involved, the time, the effort. But, somehow, we can keep massive grocery stores perfectly stocked with a few thousands different types of items. So, although the supply chain is exceedingly complex, the network becomes more efficient with increases in scale and follows a few basic principles.

If you consider the end product of thought and action — be it a novel, new business etc. — it too follows a mental supply chain of sorts, going from conception to finalization.

This post examines ways to improve the mental supply chain — decreasing the time/effort between thought and action and increasing efficiency overall.

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On Surviving Reading Period

Reading Period is that time of heaven/hell when students have approximately a week and a half of “no” classes to spend time reviewing for their finals and writing their final papers. It’s wonderful because classes meet less often. It’s awful because it’s a mammoth amount of free time to re-remember what you should have learned this past semester.

Kids at other schools looong for this. Harvard kids have a tendency to love and hate it because it is and isn’t quite the original conception of the “Reading Period.” Sometimes classes still meet, sometimes you have four papers due and take-home finals.

Here are some tips I’ve gained from my 3 previous reading periods on how best to survive and utilize this precious but damning amount of free time.

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The Art of Managing Mental Space

Mental space — like physical space — is what we have very little of as college students. When I took on a leadership role in January, one of the former officers mentioned, “It doesn’t take up much time, but it takes up a lot of mental space.”

What she meant was that the amount of mental energy you needed to devote to the position was much larger than the time actually required. This struck me as an — oh, so that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all along — moment.

Last semester, I was at odds with my schedule (or google cal rather). I would stare at the white empty boxes that seemed to populate my schedule at the end of the week, but when I mentally sat down to balance the accounts, I kept coming up short. It seemed like I had a lot of free time (suppose n hours/week), but I didn’t seem to get n hours of work accomplished and I never actually felt like I was anything less than busy.


Thus, I will try to use the concept of “mental space” to better manage your time (and happiness!) in this entry.

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