Have you ever driven a car across a bridge or along a cliff side road and been struck by a strange impulse to go over the edge? You don’t want to, of course, but you can’t stop thinking about how you could? Maybe you haven’t had that experience, but you’ve found yourself sitting in a quiet meeting thinking about what would happen if you suddenly started cursing at people or dancing on the table.

It’s an unsettling feeling, to be overcome by an impulse to do something dramatically bad or perverse. And if you’ve never talked about it with anyone, you might assume you’re the only one who has had this experience. In fact, this phenomenon is so common that it’s been dubbed “the imp of the perverse,” after an Edgar Allen Poe short story about a self-destructive man.

I think this phenomenon is so interesting because it demonstrates something about the way our brains are wired. You would never actually drive off a cliff, so it probably feels bizarre or even embarrassing to have that thought. If you raised the subject with a group of 10 friends, though, you would probably find that at least a few of them have experienced the same thing.

Now imagine you asked those same 10 friends to help you create a work presentation. Say you give each person a list of the same 10 tasks to complete for the presentation.

  • One friend might go down the list in order and keep detailed notes about his progress. (Maybe he was raised by disorganized parents and learned early on that being methodical gave him a sense of control.)
  • Another friend might start with the easiest tasks first. (Maybe she’s anxious about big projects and has learned to ease into them by starting with the simplest things first.)
  • Another friend might randomly jump from task to task, never completing one before moving to the next. (Maybe he has ADHD and works best when he has lots of variety.)

Not only will each person approach the job in a different way, but you’ll probably end up with 10 slightly different versions of the presentation.

Each person brings a different set of experiences and preferences to the job.

You’ve heard me say that we’re all wired differently, and I mean it literally.  Scientists say that the human brain includes at least 100 trillion synapses, or connections between neurons. (For context, that’s about 1,000 times greater than the number of stars in our galaxy.) Those connections form the pathways that determine how we think, move and behave. Both genes and life experiences affect the formation of synapses.

Of course, all of our brains function in roughly the same way. Almost all of us feel fear and joy, pain and anger. We even share some of the same strange brain quirks, like experiencing the “imp of the perverse” phenomenon.

But each of our brains are unique because each of us has a unique life experience.

That’s why I don’t want you to copy the time management strategies that work for other people. Your coworker has different genes, different parents and a different life history than you – so why would her time management strategies work for you? You can’t step into someone else’s family and understand the dynamics and history right away, and you can’t become your most productive self using someone else’s idea of an effective time management plan.

Building a customized time management system, designed exactly for you, and you alone, is one of the major things I’ll help you do during my upcoming in-person boot camp. My three-day workshop, Time Matters Boot Camp LIVE! is designed to help you build new habits, defeat the things that are holding you back and learn time management strategies that you can actually use. If you’ve tried everything else to finally take control of your time and nothing’s worked, this boot camp is for you.

Join me May 16th-18th, outside of Boston, for this life-changing program! Learn more by clicking here.

Until next time, I wish you (and your unique brain!) peace and productivity.



Sarah Reiff-Hekking