April 16, 2010

Scientific Evidence to Explain Why To-Do Lists Fail

A new scientific study lends credence to the idea that to-do lists don’t work. The study suggests that, when it comes to taking action and creating results, humans have two-track minds.

The study, “Divided Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes,” summarized in the Ars Technica story “In multitasking, more than two tasks do not compute,” used brain scans to observe brain activity while people did two or more things at once, and when they switched tasks or were interrupted. The resulting picture is of a brain that has two areas for guiding tasks. They can work together, for focus on a single task, but more often they split up, with one focusing on one task, the other one focusing on a second task.

April 10, 2010

Graptitude and the Clutter-to-Riches Story

I coined a new word, “graptitude,” in a dream a few moments ago. It’s the word “gratitude” with the “p” transposed from “grasp” or “grip,” and it refers to the practice of feeling grateful for the objects in your immediate physical surroundings — the things that are close enough that you can touch them or pick them up in your hands.

This is an idea you might have picked up from The Secret or from the mass of movies and writing that surrounded that work, with the talk about an “attitude of gratitude” and the vision boards made up of pictures that represented a person’s future material surroundings. In keeping with the mystical approach of The Secret, though, it made no attempt to name most of the things it talked about. Graptitude was just one of dozens of ideas that would fall under the rubric of Low of Attraction.

And graptitude is one of the simplest demonstrations of Law of Attraction. If you feel good about the physical objects that are around you already, it becomes easier for you to collect the material possessions you really want. This works, as countless rags-to-riches stories attest, even if the physical objects you see when you start out aren’t your own possessions. It works even if the things around you don’t have any worldly value. It works because feeling good about material things makes it easier to own material things, including the things you ideally would like to own.

April 06, 2010

Why It’s So Hard to Use Up What You Have

A month ago in the Happiness Project blog, Gretchen Rubin wrote about her challenges with her resolution to “Use up what you have”:

And sometimes I find myself saving things instead of using them, even when that makes no sense. I buy new white t-shirts, then “save” them. I don’t use the lovely stationery my sister gave me for Christmas, I’m “saving” it. But not using things is the same as wasting them. I want to put things to work and use them up.

The difficulty with this, of course, is a matter of scale. If you have an ordinary amount of possessions, it is already more than you can possibly use up.