Some things, like money, time, and effort, are scarce resources that need careful budgeting to be used optimally. Some of those, like effort and attention, can return stronger after resting from difficult use, as if they’ve been built up like a muscle through exercise, which makes the calculus of optimizing how much and when to … More What we can’t spend
Ever since I learned that the Dutch word for “to spend” (besteden) is used not just with time and money, as in English, but also with attention, I’ve started to wonder what else we have that we spend, and could be spending more wisely. Here is an incomplete list I’ve compiled: Money (of course). Time. … More What we spend
I often tell my students, “When you have a question, ask, because you’re probably not the only one who’s wondering.” I heard the same thing when I was a student, but I still felt embarrassed to ask. What if I really was the only one? Wouldn’t I be slowing down class to ask? If no … More If you have a question, someone else probably has it too…
We recently organized our freezer with a shelf riser and a couple of storage baskets from the Container Store and learned two things: I had been buying bag after bag of frozen chicken thighs because I kept thinking we were out. I think there were four bags in total, two opened. Once we had the … More Organization takes space
A fun problem making the mathematical rounds: if you give everybody some number of dollars (say you give 45 people $45 each), and at every tick of the clock everyone with money chooses one random person $1, how will the money eventually end up distributed? You might think it’ll stay approximately equal—”approximately” only because of … More Spontaneous Inequality
I’m fascinated by cases where, in order to achieve something, it’s better to focus on something else instead. Here’s Viktor Frankl’s take on success and happiness: “Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; … More That which cannot be pursued
Volunteering is like eating vegetables—should you do it even if you hate it, or should you concentrate on the kind you enjoy? … More Whether to enjoy serving others
We often optimize by looking for a nice middle partway along a spectrum: Exercising means challenging your body enough to respond but not so much that you hurt yourself. Astronomers look for potentially habitable planets in the”Goldilocks zones” around other stars, the bands where it’s not too hot and not too cold. It’s appropriate to … More When is a mixture better than a middle?