A question I’ve been thinking about more recently is, what makes health behavior change so special? And surprisingly enough for someone who’s spent over a decade focusing on health behavior change, I think the answer is: It’s not. The more I explore other behavior change challenges, the more I see that designing for health isn’t really different from other types of behavior change interventions. Continue reading What’s Different About Designing For Health?
Last year I finished 180 books, according to my records on Goodreads. My reading tastes generally lean toward fiction, but include a healthy dollop of non-fiction, especially books related to behavior change, education, and design. In recent years I’ve gotten stingier with my highest ratings, reserving five stars for only the books that really leave an impression on me. In 2016, there were seven books that I gave five stars (a little fewer than 4% of my total reading). Here they are.
The subject of “bad” grades has been on my mind lately. With many university semesters drawing to a close, I’m watching my friends who teach at the college level cope with the by now routine requests from students to elevate their grades, whether through extra credit, re-grading an assignment, or just because. Based on stories from my friends, students can be quite aggressive in their pursuit to enhance a grade. Continue reading The Good Thing About a Bad Grade
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go through media training. Much of the training was common sense: Prepare for your interviews, hone the points you’d like to make, and stay on message. But one counter-intuitive tip had to do with the ways we automatically insert pauses into conversations to buy ourselves time to formulate answers. Continue reading (Don’t) Repeat After Me: The Not-So-Quotable You
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the same principles I valued back then for teaching are the same ones I emphasize today in thinking about coaching people to improve their health and happiness. Basically, I want to help people learn a set of skills that they can apply to the challenges they face in a way that helps them achieve meaningful goals. It’s sort of nice to see that these ideas have been percolating in my consciousness for a long time, and that in a different way than I’d planned, I’m living the dream.
Here’s the teaching philosophy (unedited, though I added some emphasis where things particularly caught my eye). Continue reading My Teaching Philosophy (and how I guess I never change!)
The fact is, people read differently on the web than they do in other formats. They scan: 79% of them told Jacob Nielsen that their first move when landing on a new web page is to scan. This means that there’s potentially really great content being left in the dust because page visitors aren’t noticing the deeper meaning when they scan.
Worse, people are classified into three types of web users: readers, scanners, and bottom feeders. Each type is progressively less likely to read in detail than the last, and guess which type is the least common? We readers are going the way of the dodo. Continue reading Writing and Formatting for Improved Reader Engagement
As someone who has a PhD in psychology (from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor), I am often asked by other people whether it’s worth them pursuing the same degree. There’s no right or wrong answer, and only you can decide whether you want to spend the time and effort to get an advanced degree. However, I thought it might help people if I outlined some of the benefits and advantages of getting a PhD, as I see them based on my own experience.
Before I get started, keep in mind that PhD programs differ quite a bit between disciplines. If you’re thinking of getting a degree in engineering or English, your program might look a lot different from mine, so keep your grain of salt handy.
You might want to get a PhD in psychology if . . . Continue reading Should I Get a PhD in Psychology?
Being an organizational psychologist does not necessarily make one organized, but it’s true that organization systems can increase productivity, efficiency, and even happiness. I’m a particularly good organizer of email; colleagues often ask me for older documents or information because they know I can find it quickly. It’s become a bit of a point of pride for me to see how quickly I can locate a given piece of information. I’ve compiled a few of my top strategies for organizing email so that it’s easy to sort, find relevant information when you want it, and impress colleagues and friends with your incredible document-hunting powers.
Create folders that make sense for your work. I have an extensive series of folders in both my work and personal email accounts. For my work, my folders correspond to projects I’m working on. Continue reading The Art of Organizing Your Email: Declutter Your Inbox and Your Life
One of my many weird qualities is that I actually enjoy public speaking. It’s taken me a while to get here. I remember the very first time I presented professionally in front of an audience. It was at a conference in New Orleans early in my grad school career. I had lost a contact on Bourbon Street a few nights before and was stuck wearing my glasses over a red and watering eye. I was presenting on the last day of the conference, and had given myself a lot of negative self-talk about what this implied for the quality of my presentation. The situation was not ideal. Even though there were only a handful of people in the audience, I was incredibly nervous. My hands visibly shook throughout my talk, and my voice wavered like it’s never done before or since.
It was awful.
However, I’m the type of person who is fueled by failure, so I decided I would become a better public speaker. Over the last decade plus, I’ve made an effort to speak in public as often as I can, and to improve with each go-around. Here are three of my favorite tips for becoming a more compelling and engaging speaker, and having more fun at the podium. Continue reading Three Tips to Be A Better Public Speaker
I really like what I do, so I don’t spend a lot of time regretting my educational and professional choices. That said, there are two major things I wish I’d done earlier in my career that I think would make me more successful (read: effective) today:
- Spent a semester or summer abroad. I’ve always loved languages, and have dabbled in several. For a while in graduate school, I even neared fluency in Spanish, being able to read full-on novels in a reasonable time span. But because I never spent an extended period of time relying on and experimenting with a language, I didn’t cement my knowledge. Not only does being multilingual open direct opportunities to work in other cultures, it also makes your cognitive structure more flexible and enhances creativity.
- Learned to program a website or a mobile app. Computer science was still a bit outside of the mainstream when I was in college so I never ventured into a class. I did teach myself some basic HTML (so I could have a rockin’ homepage with pics of my cats and my ear piercings), and that small skill is actually still useful today. I feel like I’d be a much more effective program designer if I were able to do at least some of the coding myself, if only to experiment with possibilities and communicate with software developers in more informed terms. I’m not even sure the programming language matters as much as developing some basic proficiency with technology.
Fortunately it’s not too late to pursue these skills, although it’s harder now than it would have been when I was a full-time student. I’m not sure I’ll ever have an opportunity to spend an extended period of time in another country speaking the language, given my full-time job and my full-time employed spouse. That doesn’t mean I can’t consume media in other languages, talk to native speakers, and travel. I’ve also really enjoyed using Duolingo to refresh basic grammar and vocabulary knowledge and to begin working on new languages.
Ditto on learning to program–given that I don’t seem to have natural talents in the area, it would be great if I could just add a class to my courseload, but nowadays I don’t have a courseload. I’ve been flirting with online educational tools to try to bridge the gap, although I haven’t found quite the right one for me yet. I tend to get frustrated when I’m not good at something and so most of my autodidactic attempts at programming end with frustration. Any suggestions of tools I could use to learn more programming would be much appreciated.