Tag Archive for 'time'

Harvard is Great When You’re Not Stressed Out

Coming back from Thanksgiving break can be a bit of a shocker. Turkey break is a wonderful time to chill out, eat food, ignore homework etc. etc., but getting back onto campus can be painful especially if you’re facing a mountain of work.

Somehow, this is one of the few times, I’ve managed to come back from break without actually facing a mountain of midterms / papers / psets / blahblah. I’ve discovered, funny enough, that Harvard is a fantastic place to be when you’re not stressed out.

There are interesting people about, good conversations to be had, fun events to go to, lots of ways to amuse yourself. But when you’re stressed, Harvard just seems like a dreary place.

If Harvard is lame, it’s because you’re making it that way.

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Time Debt and Harvard’s Addiction to Over-Commitment

My Economics professor made an interesting analogy last week, comparing time commitments to “time debt.” Harvard students have a tendency to “promise” time to other parties that will be collected at a future point in time in exchange for things like grades, money, fun, etc.

Unfortunately, we too suffer from time inconsistencies regarding our time use. We commit to too much now, but have to perhaps renege on our promises later. Time inconsistencies are generally used by economists to explain things like addiction to procrastination, but at the core of it all, is a self-control issue. Whereas some people cannot help but to pull out their credit card to buy that new pair of shoes, we cannot help but to say yes to an awesome opportunity that will only maybe just take 2 hours a week.

The funny thing about “time debt” — a promise to pay back time/effort at a future date — is that the interest compounds. Time commitments snow ball, people expect and demand more from you, and soon your 2 hour a week gig ends up 3 or 4 hours a week, during a week, of course, of midterms.

So what is this “time debt,” and why in the world is this a problem of many successful people?

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The Death of Wall Street, and Why Harvard Students Should Cheer

For better (or worse), ibanking is dead in the way we once knew it. Lehman Brothers ain’t coming back three or four times this semester tossing magnetic clips and shiny brochures at eager undergraduates and touting their numerous job opportunities.

The seniors this year will be pouting, missing out on the chance to sell their lives for a bazillion bucks a year. (Perhaps it’s too late for them to change their ways.) But, the juniors, sophomores and freshmen should take this as a sign of what will most likely be a turning point for the better when it comes to selecting a career.

If you have no idea what ibanking is, bless your soul. And for those who do know of it, this is why the death of 50% of the e-recruiting jobs is good for you.

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Spice Up Your Week with a Random Event

The great thing about Harvard is that tons of events, panels, speeches, lectures, conferences, dances, performances, plays, concerts etc. etc. go on each week. The pulse of activities on campus is crazy, but it seems like, a lot of people get caught up with their own extra curriculars and classes that they don’t get to enjoy the vivacious intellectual life on campus.

One thing I started doing last spring was to spice up each week with a random, quirky event. I went to the IOP and saw Elizabeth Edwards, learned about for-profit micro finance from the founder of a firm, and so on. Just this past week, I saw Brian Greene (astrophysicist extraordinaire) and plan to see Neal Stephenson (science fiction master mind who foresaw Second Life in 1992) this very weekend.

If you give yourself leeway in your schedule, you’ll be able to enjoy awesome events that Harvard has simply because its Harvard and end up loving your experience as an undergraduate more.

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Stop Planning Your Mind Away

One of the best pieces of advice that freshmen receive is: Do not try to plan out your four-year academic career. This piece of advice will be tucked away in that guidebook that freshmen get, in a section addressing course selection and academics.

The guidebook will then continue in a reassuring tone: Just make sure you’re taking the classes you need to take in order to set yourself up properly for your classes next year.

As I’m looking forward to my junior, senior years and my career plans, I’m realizing just how wise that advice is.

There’s no need to stress yourself out by planning each detail of your life.

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Recommendation: Todoist for Your To Do List

In a previous post, I examined ways of organizing your busy busy Harvard life. At the time, I didn’t have a good “To Do List” or task management organizer for you.

Now, I am proud to recommend Todoist.com

Todoist is a website that allows you to create To Do Lists (complete with deadlines and project breakdowns) that would make any dork envious.

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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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Just-In-Time Thinking

The Japanese perfected just-in-time inventory, with a great many savings and benefits. Right when you need a product, you produce it. No need to worry about the cost of holding that inventory and sitting pretty on potentially 5,000 extra units of stuff that might not sell.

Similarly, while I was stressing out over my class schedule last summer, I realized the sheer pointlessness of brooding over decisions that I can’t possibly make without further, next-to-the-last-minute information. I’m not going to be able to decide between two core classes unless I shop both of them…two or three months down the road. There’s no point in spending hours two or three months ahead of time trying to decide between the two.

Just-In-Time thinking is a way of managing decision-making, so that you think through what you need to think through WHEN you need to think through it.

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Business Ain’t Science: Lessons from Observation

I come from a science-esque background, loving lots of data, data analysis, theory, graphs and abstracts. Because Harvard lacks a business/retail/management major, I found myself applying much of the scientific method to solving the business problem for my internship.

The scientific method, after all, has gotten us Einstein’s equations, so why shouldn’t we be able to use that same method to embark on the most basic human enterprise of business? Unfortunately, scientists and business people generally do not see eye-to-eye. A scientist appreciates the intricacies and design of a Segway. The business person ponders how Segways translates into dollars.

Understanding the difference between science and business is essential in making the leap from a scientist’s mindset to that of a business person.

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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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