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The Hidden Pattern of Everyday Life

Afternoons and Coffee spoons

Starting Right, Starting Again, and Starting Together

Midpoints: What Hanukkah Candles and Midlife Malaise Can Teach Us About Motivation

Endings: Marathons, Chocolates, and the Power of Poignancy

Synching Fast and Slow: The Secrets of Group Timings

Thinking in Tenses: A Few Finals Words

The Five Big Ideas


Our cognitive abilities fluctuate over the course of a day.

Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms. This is known as, “The Inspiration Paradox.”

Between 60 percent and 80 percent of people are “third birds”—neither larks or owls.

Lunch, not breakfast, is the most important meal of the day.

If you’re feeling stuck in the middle of a project, picture one person who’ll benefit from your efforts. Dedicating your work to that person will deepen your dedication to your task.

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There are four situations when you should go first:

 • If you’re on a ballot (county commissioner, prom queen, the Oscars), being listed first gives you an edge.

 • If you’re not the default choice—for example, if you’re pitching against a firm that already has the account you’re seeking—going first can help you get a fresh look from the decision-makers.

 • If there are relatively few competitors (say, five or fewer), going first can help you take advantage of the “primacy effect,” the tendency people have to remember the first thing in a series better than those that come later.

 • If you’re interviewing for a job and you’re up against several strong candidates, you might gain an edge from being first.