Decisions, Decisions

Not What to Decide, but How

Put first things first with the help of software

 Google presents a feature to help you fight your own bad habits

Ever find yourself frittering away the day responding to email after email? Ever think that if you'd just spent 8 hours working on that project, you'd be done and still have time to answer those emails in front of the TV later that night? Sure, we all have.

 

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Why we simply don't do the hard stuff first is a fascinating question in its own right. I mean, if we're going to be happier at the end of the day having ignored the emails, why don't we learn to ignore them? It's too much to get into here, but see the psychological literature on intertemporal choice and previous posts and the Don't Delay blog if this interests you.

The good news is that the always-innovating Google is here to help with their experimental "Take a Break" feature in Gmail. When clicked, it prevents you from checking your email for 15 minutes, telling you do something more productive instead.

To use it, you'll need to manually activate "Gmail Labs" inside Gmail. See the Gmail blog or if you're impatient, try Settings -> Labs from Gmail. Right now, it's only enabled in the US and UK.

Other tools to try if you can't get down to work at work:

* Temptation Blocker: a Windows program to prevent you from using any other program (especially good to prevent you from opening your Email client or Web browser).
http://sourceforge.net/projects/temptblocker/

* Time Tracker: An extension to the FireFox browser that tracks how much time you waste on various sites.
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1887

Dan Goldstein is Assistant Professor at London Business School and Principal Research Scientist at Yahoo! Research.

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