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Productivity

Goodhart’s Law: Be Careful What You Measure

There’s an old economic adage from around 1975 that says, “Any observed statistical regularity tends to break down as soon as pressure is applied to it for control purposes.” This statement came from the Bank of England’s chief economic adviser, Charles Goodhart, in an article on monetary policy in the United Kingdom. Goodhart was making […]

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Daily Routines

Routine: Karl Marx

His mode of living consisted of daily visits to the British Museum reading-room, where he normally remained from nine in the morning until it closed at seven; this was followed by long hours of work at night, accompanied by ceaseless smoking, which from a luxury had become an indispensable anodyne; this affected his health permanently […]

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Daily Routines

Routine: Immanuel Kant

His daily schedule then looked something like this. He got up at 5:00 A.M. His servant Martin Lampe, who worked for him from at least 1762 until 1802, would wake him. The old soldier was under orders to be persistent, so that Kant would not sleep longer. Kant was proud that he never got up […]

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Daily Routines

Routine: Isaac Newton

One of Newton’s employees took note of the physicist’s habits in the 1680s, observing that Newton rarely went to bed before 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and sometimes not until 5:00 or 6:00 a.m.—and yet, “In a Morning he seem’d to be as much refresh’d with his few hours Sleep, as though he had […]

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Daily Routines

Routine: Leonardo da Vinci

In the 1490s, the Italian monk and writer Matteo Bandello observed Leonardo at work on The Last Supper: He would arrive early, climb up on to the scaffolding, and set to work. Sometimes he stayed there from dawn to sunset, never once laying down his brush, forgetting to eat and drink, painting without pause. At other […]

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Daily Routines

Routine: Barack Obama

Although his presidency is barely a week old, some of Mr. Obama’s work habits are already becoming clear. He shows up at the Oval Office shortly before 9 in the morning, roughly two hours later than his early-to-bed, early-to-rise predecessor. Mr. Obama likes to have his workout — weights and cardio — first thing in […]