Archive for May 2012

The perils of the outsourced self

Varwwwclientsclient1web2tmpphpe324sp 1To see the future of the "happiness industry", head to California: if there's a way to charge money for a service that promises to make life better, some Californian will have figured it out. In certain jails there, nonviolent offenders can pay around $100 a day for an upgrade to a nicer cell, further from violent inmates, and sometimes with the right to use a laptop. Californian life-coaches abound, obviously, while new agers congregate at the world-famous Esalen centre, in Big Sur, to study craniosacral therapy and shamanism. And, as the (California-based) sociologist Arlie Hochschild discovered, in California you can consult a "wantologist" who, for a fee, will help discover what the Want-ology™ self-help system refers to as your "soul wants". Increasingly, Hochschild argues, we are "outsourcing intimate parts of our lives". If you want to – in the US, anyhow – you can now rent a friend, rent a grandma, or pay someone to visit a deceased relative's grave.

The one-sentence solution to almost all procrastination (no, really)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan — to a problematic degree, some might argue — of productivity tips and tricks like the Pomodoro Technique, Mark Forster’s Autofocus system, and the geeky godfather of them all, David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I enjoy few things so much as spending a Sunday afternoon restructuring my to-do lists, because I am tragic like that. And I’m generally as distrustful as anyone of “quick fixes”. All that said, I ought to admit that one single-sentence piece of fridge-magnet advice has helped vastly more, when it comes to getting over roadblocks in work (and not just in work), than everything else combined:

Don’t wait until you feel like doing something.

Oliver Burkeman I'm a writer for The Guardian based in Brooklyn, New York. My new book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking explores the upsides of negativity, uncertainty, failure and imperfection. Each week in This Column Will Change Your Life I write about social psychology, self-help culture, productivity and the science of happiness, and make unprovoked attacks on The Secret.

I also blog about things for Guardian US and write a monthly column for Psychologies magazine. Hello.

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