Messy – Tim Harford

As one of the BBC’s top statistics correspondents, Harford is not the person I would expet to write a book subtitled “How to be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World”.  But this is not a book on tidying, but on how the human brain requires opportunity to be creative, new constraints to seek new solutions and move outside our comfort zones.

Now in the spirit of “forced improvisation”, a quote from a page picked at random:

As Bezos [of Amazon] liked to say during the crunches of 1998 and 1999, ‘If you are planning more than twenty minutes ahead in this environment, you are wasting your time.’ He was a man in a hurry. No wonder he created such an almighty mess.

This was from a chapter titled “Winning” and describes how some successful military and business tactics involve making “good enough” decisions so fast that your opponents are unable to react. This is also descibed as Trump’s tactic as getting inside his opponents’ OODA loop such that they are incapable of reacting before he has moved onto his next tactic.

Overall this is a fascinating look at how to keep yourself on your toes, and the benefits that can come from doing so. I’m still going to keep my tidy desk though!

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness ProjectI don’t usually read self-help books but this was a reread of a book group book suited to the New Year as I typically make resolutions and set goals for the year ahead. I might even keep them this year. The Happiness Project has resonated with me for a long time, especially the paragraph:

Jamie is my fate. He’s my soul mate. He pervades my whole existence. So, of course, I take him for granted.

The whole book is about making an effort to do the things that make you happier in the long term without dramatically changing your life. It acknowledges that this is more difficult than the automatic response a lot of the time, but claims the effort is worth it. Making a difference to your own life by choosing how to spend time, and relationships by choosing where to put the effort into something constructive, recognising when you are expecting something unrealistic and choosing when to keep quiet and not overreact.

Of course it so often is, at the end of a day I feel much better if I’ve got some productive work done, done some baking and played with my son than if I’ve lounged around, browsed the internet and snacked mindlessly. Its just finding the motivation to do that former that’s the problem. The idea of being accountable to a “resolutions chart” even if kept privately seems a good idea. Which is exactly why I’m typing this rather than making one.