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Why Scheduling Breaks Can Boost Creativity

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To get more work done at work, you should pencil in time for breaks. The energy shortage that follows a caffeine-fueled hustle is inevitable for everyone. A study from researchers at Columbia Business School adds a twist to this idea: According to their report published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, breaks are best for creativity when they’re scheduled ahead of time.

The study, which the authors outlined in Harvard Business Review, was broken into two parts. For the first portion, they asked participants to solve two separate problems in a set amount of time. They told one half of the group to switch problems at predetermined points; they told the second half to manage the time they took with each task as they went along.

The second experiment was similar, only this time study subjects had to come up with creative answers to two open-ended questions. Once again, researchers gave half the group a strict schedule to work from while telling the other half to wing it.

Both cases pointed to one conclusion: Groups that jumped from task to task at set times were more creative than those that didn’t plan their breaks in advance, even though participants predicted the opposite would be true. According to the study authors, forcing yourself to pause what you're doing can give your mind the quick refresh you didn’t know it needed. They write for HBR, “Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one they had written. While they might have felt that they were on a roll, the reality was that, without the breaks afforded by continual task switching, their actual progress was limited.”

Past research has shown that taking breaks at work can lead to more productivity overall. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2016 connected breaks to a boost in energy and concentration and less headaches, back pain, and burnout. To get the most out of your daily breaks, remember to decide when to take them at the start of each day, even if that means adding them to your calendar app.

[h/t Harvard Business Review]

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7 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Memory
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Being cursed with a bad memory can yield snafus big and small, from forgetting your gym locker combination to routinely blowing deadlines. If your New Year's resolution was to be less forgetful in 2018, it's time to start training your brain. The infographic below, created by financial website Quid Corner and spotted by Lifehacker Australia, lists seven easy ways to boost memory retention.

Different techniques can be applied to different scenarios, whether you're preparing for a speech or simply trying to recall someone's phone number. For example, if you're trying to learn a language, try writing down words and phrases, as this activates your brain into paying more attention. "Chunking," or separating long digit strings into shorter units, is a helpful hack for memorizing number sequences. And those with a poetic bent can translate information into rhymes, as this helps our brains break down and retain sound structures.

Learn more tips by checking out the infographic below.

[h/t Lifehacker.com.au]

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The Only Way to Answer ‘What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’ In a Job Interview
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Thanks in part to the influence of Silicon Valley and its focus on the psychological probing of job applicants, interview questions have been steadily getting more and more abstract. As part of the interview process, today's job seekers might be asked to describe a vending machine to someone who’s never seen one before, or plan a fantasy date with a famous historical figure.

Even if the company you’re approaching isn’t fully on board with prodding your brain, at some point you may still come up against one of the most common queries applicants face: "What is your greatest weakness?"

"Some 'experts' will tell you to try and turn a strength into a 'weakness,' to make yourself look good," writes Inc. contributor Justin Bariso. "That advice is garbage."

"Think about it," Bariso continues. "Interviewers are asking the same question to countless candidates. Just try and guess how many times they hear the answers 'being a perfectionist' or 'working too much.' (Hint: way too often.)"

While responding that you work too hard might seem like a reliable method of moving the conversation along, there’s a better way. And it involves being sincere.

"The fact is, it's not easy to identify one's own weaknesses," Bariso writes. "Doing so takes intense self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to accept negative feedback—qualities that have gone severely missing in a world that promotes instant gratification and demands quick (often thoughtless) replies to serious issues."

Bariso believes the question is an effective way to reveal an applicant’s self-awareness, which is why companies often use it in their vetting process. By being self-aware, people (and employees) can correct behavior that might be affecting job performance. So the key is to give this question some actual thought before it’s ever posed to you.

What is your actual greatest weakness? It could be that, in a desire to please everyone, you wind up making decisions based on the urge to avoid disappointing others. That’s a weakness that sounds authentic.

Pondering the question also has another benefit: It prompts you to think of areas in your life that could use some course-correcting. Even if you don’t land that job—or even if the question is never posed to you—you’ve still made time for self-reflection. The result could mean a more confident and capable presence for that next interview.

[h/t Inc.]

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