Why you can’t plan (and why this may not be a bad thing)

Admit it, we’ve all been there. You’re facing a massive deadline on a project or essay but don’t really know where to start. Why is it that some people just seem better at planning?


What does science tell us about planning?

Shaggy from cartoon Scooby Doo hangs from a rope speaking about his plan

Some people like to plan

In the early 1900s top psychologist Carl Jung identified four ways that we relate to the world. These are Sensation, Intuition, Feeling and Thinking. Jung believed that one of these four functions leads our thought processes most of the time.

Sensation and Intuition are defined as “perceiving” or non-rational thinking. Feeling and Thinking are defined as “judging” or rational thinking.

So, how does this relate to whether we are planners or last-minuters?

Psychologists Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers created the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) based on the theories of Carl Jung. It identifies (among many other things) whether you favour judging or perceiving in certain situations.

According to the Myers-Briggs foundation those who favour “judging” generally like to make lists and plan to avoid running out of time prior to a deadline.

Those who favour “perceiving” prefer to stay open to new information. They are less likely to plan and are even stimulated by an approaching deadline. Nothing like working under pressure to focus the mind.

How we plan depends on our personality. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator defines personality types.

Which Myers Briggs personality are you?

So don’t judge next time your pal pulls an all-nighter at the library whilst you smugly plot your to-do list for the next week. It may be that they are more a “perceiving” type than “judging”.

However, your MBTI type is a preference. So although you may prefer to work in a certain way, this doesn’t mean you can’t change your habits. It just takes more effort!

Also, no-one is just one personality type. The MBTI explores 16 different personality combinations (see above). However each of these is on a sliding scale – meaning that there are millions of combinations in total.

These examples refer to how people express themselves in the outer world. Therefore a “judging” personality may feel inside that they are really flexible in their planning and thinking. Similarly, a “perceiving” personality may feel inside that they are organised with their plans. Humans are complex, huh?


The billion dollar question:

Is our personality defined by genetics or by the environment we grow up in?

Put simply; are some people born good at planning or does our upbringing decide how we plan?

The answer is unknown for sure although a recent study did link different structures in the brain to personality type. However even though some people like to plan, they aren’t always very good at it.


So, is making plans good or bad?

Planning Fallacy - Julianne Moore and Colin Firth discuss plans in A Single Man

You’ve managed to sort out your epic to-do list. Your diary divides up your time equally between your tasks for the week. You are the plan master. You feel epic.

Yet when it comes down to it you still end up running out of time. How is this possible?!

You could blame planning fallacy – a theory by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. It describes a phenomenon where we underestimate how long certain tasks are going to take.

Psychologists believe this is partly due to people focusing on best possible outcomes. When planning we assume everything will go right and that there will be no delays. Being an optimist is awesome, but in this case it can catch you out!

It doesn’t matter if you like plans or are a last-minuter. Both approaches are fine, and now you know a little about why you might favour one over the other. Without some planning there would be chaos. However, every now and again it’s good to shake up your routine and try something spontaneous. As writer Allen Saunders put it “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”


We love it when a plan comes together; what we learned

Planning a list of tasks is all well and good, but make sure you’re realistic about how long each task will take.

Your plan for today:

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Liam Neeson - I love it when a plan comes together, as Hannibal Smith in the A-Team

Explain It To Me Like I’m 7: Mental Health

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, and 1 in 10 children and young people will experience mental disorders. But what does this actually all mean?

Define mental health for me?

Our mental health is about our ability to cope with what life throws at us and how we feel about ourselves in this big scary world.

Giph of Kimmy Schmitt

Not all of us are unbreakable

No one has perfect mental health or feels great all of the time. That’s something we all go through. What not everybody goes through is a mental illness, or what you could also call a mental health concern or a mental health problem.

BUT more people than you might think go through a mental illness: in England, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, most often in the form of a mixture of anxiety and depression. Also, 1 in 10 children and young people have mental disorders in a given year.

So what exactly is a mental illness?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains mental illness as: “a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on  daily basis. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.”

Errmm, not too specific is it? The problem with trying to explain mental illness is that it can be so many different kinds of things.

Mental illness is a bit like fruit. There are so many different kinds, like who  decided strawberries and tomatoes are the same kind of food? Also, even within  the same kind of fruit, like bananas, you never get two that are the same kind of  bendiness or yellowness. It’s the same deal with mental illness.

We can at least break it down into different kinds of mental health problems.  There are different kinds of depression, stress, sleeping disorders, eating and  body image disorders and personality disorders, which you can get more  concrete details on here.

The symptoms of a mental illness can be things we all experience from time to time like feeling down, stressed or having trouble sleeping. The difference is that for a period of time (e.g. two weeks for depression) the same symptoms are much stronger, or won’t seem to go away, and begin to be massive barriers to the person experiencing them leading a normal life. ‘Pain in the arse’ doesn’t even cover it.

These problems can be triggered by a number of different things, from serious trauma to everyday stress. A sucky thing about mental health concerns is that often there is no clear cause or explanation. This can make things feel even worse for the person experiencing it because they can’t find a ‘legit’ reason to explain why they feel bad.

What’s it like to have a mental illness?

Remember the banana thing from earlier? We can’t really explain what any one person goes through when they experience mental illness.

But that’s cool because the internet is a goldmine for things to help us understand what it’s like to live with mental illnesses.

These Hyperbole and a Half posts just plain get depression: Adventures in Depression Part I, Part II.

There is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness. This is because mental illness is not always understood as being like any other illness, and mentally ill people can be accused of being lazy or attention seeking. A whopping 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience discrimination. Not cool.

The thing is, as Professor Weare of Southampton Uni told the Guardian: “You wouldn’t go to someone lying in bed with a fever and tell them they could get up if they wanted to. There is a failure to understand that mental health problems are an illness – they are not something that you can snap out of and are not anybody’s fault.”

What to do if your BFF tells you they have a mental health concern

Mental health support charity Mind have a great page of advice on this.

Giph of Joey hugging Chandler from friends


It’s all super basic BFF stuff that you probably have down already: Hear what they’re telling you and show your support. Sending postcards and letters, even if you live in the same neighbourhood can be a great way of showing you’re there for them while still giving them space.

Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are, but remember that the problem they are going through is just one part of who they are, so don’t focus too much on it. Try to keep in mind how you would treat someone with a serious disease or broken bone. Saying things like ‘you’ll get over it’ or ‘just try and cheer up’ are definite no-nos.

What do I do if I think I might have a mental health concern?

Recognising the issue for what it is is already half the battle, and getting the ball rolling on recovery by seeking professional advice is the other half. Some people go a long time feeling like the reason why they have a hard time getting through a day is because of some sort of personal failure, not because of an illness that there are many possible ways out of.

Again, Mind has some great advice pages on taking care of yourself and what kind of services and support is out there.

Talk to your friends and family, but also connect with people going through similar things. For example you can enjoy podcast Mental Health Happy Hour.

Mental Health Explained: Mental health is how we all cope with the world. Mental illnesses are disorders which make that much more difficult. Imagine that you’ve got a problem with your heart or your liver, but instead it’s a problem with your brain – mental illness is just that, an illness.

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Armpit Hair: To Shave Or Not To Shave?

Why do we have armpit hair?

armpit hair to shave or not to shave, if your eating stop, disgusting, woman eats weird looking soup and spits it out

Hair is basically made up of dead skin… sorry if your mid mouthful!

Let’s get back to basics. Armpit hair occurs naturally on our bodies.

If you’re eating you may want to stop now. Hair is basically dead skin. Part of our skin is called the follicle. Hair cells are constantly growing. When they die they are compacted in the follicle and make a protein called Keratin. This is then pushed out of the body and you get hair.

Armpit hair starts growing around puberty. It’s unclear why we still get it; after all the days where our ancestors were covered in hair were long, long ago. It may be to keep us warm. Or to stop friction when the arm is used. Another theory is that it’s there to soak up our underarm sweat. Lovely stuff.

Armpit hair helps to transmit pheromones. These are substances released when you sweat into the atmosphere. They send signals to other members of the species. Pheromones cause alarm, tell you to back off and even make you horny.

When did women start shaving their underarms?

This is not a modern thing. As far back as 4000 BC women were using stuff like arsenic to keep smooth. Just like an ancient version of Veet. By 500 BC the Romans used pumice stone to shave. They even created a prototype razor. But apart from that what did the Romans ever do for us?

Myth: Shaving your armpits is more hygienic.
Actually armpit hair means less smelly bacteria.

But it was around 1915 when the modern obsession with shaved underarms became all the rage. Before that point, fashion meant that women were covered from head to toe. New fashion trends meant that a woman’s whole arm was on show for the first time. Believe it or not, this was revolutionary.

armpit hair to shave or not to shave, ginger armpit hair, sleeveless fashion, girl strokes her armpit hair

In 1915 sleeveless fashion became all the rage…and armpit hair was out!

A 1915 Harper’s Bazaar advertising campaign stated that sleeveless fashion and “modern dancing” meant “objectionable” underarm hair had to go. Why Harper’s Bazaar decided a shaved underarm was the definition of femininity is unclear. It may be linked to renaissance art where women are portrayed as completely hairless. Maybe that’s taking artistic license too far?

Myth: French women don’t shave their armpit hair.
This myth apparently started just after World War II. It’s untrue.

Whatever the reason, over the years it has become a societal norm that women shave their armpits and men don’t. Chest and armpit hair have traditionally been related to masculinity. However some men are breaking the trend. A lot of male athletes prefer a smooth cut and 16% of young British males shave their armpits.

Why are we talking about this?

Thousands of girls in China are taking part in an armpit hair competition. They are posting images of their underarms on a social media website.

Activist Xiao Meili started the competition to combat the view that you must have shaved armpits to be attractive. Shaving armpits has only become the norm in China in the past decade.

And before you take sides in this debate why not check out other famous examples of women who let it grow.

Learnings; it doesn’t matter if you’re a feminist – armpit hair is a natural occurrence.

Girls – Would you ever consider not shaving your armpits? Lads – Would you give it a try?