Aspects of Task Completion

What are the aspects of a task that make it more likely to be completed?

  • Effort involved: An easy task is more likely to be completed. Make tasks as easy as possible.
  • Uncertainty: Tasks whose progress is predictable are more likely to be completed, than those that have unknown components in them.
  • Benefit gained: This is a complicated aspect. The benefit may be long or short term. In general, tasks with higher benefits, and in particular, those with short-term benefits, are more likely to be completed.
  • Habit: If a task becomes a habit, it is completed more often. Else, it is liable to be forgotten.
  • Sessions required: Tasks which require only a single session, as opposed to those spread across multiple sessions. One tends to lose focus over time, forget the task, etc.
  • Cost of non-completion: This is a very important aspect. If there is an immediate cost of non-completion, it is more likely to be completed. However, if the cost of non-completion is gradual, then it is likely to get postponed immediately.
  • Uniqueness: If a task is unique, then it is more likely to get completed than one which is repeated. A friend’s marriage happens only once, but visiting his home for lunch can be done anytime.
  • Novelty: If a task is boring, you may want to skip it.

These aspects can be used to design mechanisms to make tasks more complete-friendly. For example, a one time task, such as fixing the cupboard door does not have an immediate cost of non-completion. Hence this will be postponed indefinitely. Reduce the uncertainty involved by gathering information and the tools required, schedule a single sitting to complete it, and associate a reward with it.


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Search Autocomplete Analysis

When people want to know about something, they often turn to web search engines. These engines have an “autocomplete” feature, which attempts to complete a partial query. Using this, we can get some insight into what people are searching and thinking about at the current time.

The method is to enter a partial query in the search box, and see what suggestions turn up. Below are results of several such searches. First the partial query is given, followed by the autocomplete suggestions. Since I made these searches from Bangalore, the results will be biased towards India, and sometimes, Bangalore.




how to get visa for

  • dubai
  • usa
  • australia
  • germany from india


how to immigrate from india to

  • canada
  • usa
  • australia
  • uk


how to travel from mumbai to

  • goa
  • pune
  • pondicherry
  • manali


how to go to

  • coorg from bangalore
  • safe mode
  • next line in excel
  • nandi hills


how to make

  • christmas tree
  • fried rice
  • pizza
  • cake


where is

  • my location
  • india
  • my phone
  • mauritius


who is

  • santa claus
  • the president of india
  • the prime minister of india
  • sonam gupta


how to speak to

  • a girl
  • god
  • your crush
  • snapdeal customer care


how to convert black

  • money into white money
  • and white photo to color
  • money into white in hindi
  • skin to white skin

In the wake of demonetisation, converting black money into white takes precedence over whitening skin.


What trailers are people watching?

trailer of

  • dangal
  • raees
  • pink
  • force 2


What do people find it difficult to talk to other people about?


how to tell your classmate

  • you love her
  • that you love him
  • you like her
  • you like him


how to tell your colleague

  • they smell
  • you love her
  • likes you
  • you like him


how to tell your boss

  • you’re resigning
  • you are unhappy with your job
  • you are getting married
  • you don’t feel valued


how to tell your spouse

  • you’re pregnant
  • they’re fat
  • you are depressed
  • you want a trial separation


how to tell your child

  • you’re getting remarried
  • they are adopted
  • he has autism
  • santa isn’t real


Some more miscellaneous searches:


what to do while waiting for

  • joining letter
  • a love spell to work
  • baby
  • labor


how to get into

  • iim
  • google
  • iisc
  • mit


how to fix

  • blue screen error
  • parse error
  • damaged sd card
  • earphones


how to prepare for

  • exams
  • gre
  • cat
  • gate


how to apply for

  • passport
  • jio sim
  • pan card
  • aadhaar card


how to read

  • minds
  • a file in java
  • palm
  • ecg


As mentioned, search results are location specific. By changing the search url, we can get results for other locations as well. For example, provides results primarily for the USA, is for India, and is for the UK. Using this behaviour, we can contrast the searches in different countries.

First, lets establish that the results are indeed specific to location:

what is the weather in
  • bangalore
  • delhi
  • mumbai
  • hyderabad
  • chicago
  • las vegas
  • new york
  • new york city
  • london
  • london today
  • benidorm
  • new york

That looks about right. Now we are ready to do some location-specific searches.


how to get a
  • jio sim
  • job
  • job in google
  • passport
  • passport
  • bigger butt
  • boyfriend
  • job
  • mortgage
  • boyfriend
  • divorce
  • six pack


how to reduce
  • weight
  • tummy
  • breast size
  • body heat
  • fever
  • stress
  • swelling
  • anxiety
  • body fat
  • blood pressure
  • stress
  • bloating


how to become a
  • pilot
  • hacker
  • data scientist
  • model
  • notary
  • pilot
  • lawyer
  • model
  • pilot
  • midwife
  • teacher
  • social worker


how to find a good
  • husband
  • job
  • friend
  • girl
  • therapist
  • man
  • doctor
  • realtor
  • builder
  • dentist
  • man
  • solicitor


how to contact
  • narendra modi
  • amazon
  • google
  • jio customer care
  • amazon
  • facebook
  • uber
  • google
  • amazon
  • amazon uk
  • facebook
  • ebay


ideas for
  • business
  • startups
  • projects
  • india
  • dinner
  • halloween
  • christmas
  • christmas gifts
  • christmas
  • dinner
  • halloween
  • tea


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Quotes on Life


  • The real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him.  – Václav Havel
  • As I grow to understand life less and less, I learn to live it more and more. -Jules Renard
  • One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night. – Margaret Mead
  • Just as a cautious businessman avoids tying up all his capital in one concern, so, perhaps, worldly wisdom will advise us not to look for the whole of our satisfaction from a single aspiration. – Sigmund Freud
  • Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. – Carl Sandburg
  • Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it, but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance. – Charles A. Lindbergh
  • Every increased possession loads us with new weariness. – John Ruskin
  • It is impossible to live pleasurably without living prudently, honorably, and justly; or to live prudently, honorably, and justly, without living pleasurably. – Epicurus
  • Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing. – Jerome K. Jerome
  • Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. – Joseph Addison








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Choosing a Route for Commuting

Let’s say you travel to office by a flexible means of transport, that lets you choose the route on a daily basis. The simplest example is you drive your own car. Assume there are three routes for you to take:

  • Route A has a fixed travel time of 1 hour.
  • Route B has a variable travel time. 90% of the time the route is free, and you reach in 40 minutes. But 10% of the time, the route gets congested, and it takes 90 minutes. This has an expected travel time of 45 minutes.
  • Route C has an unknown travel time.

Which route do you take?

Well, it depends on the situation. If you simply want to minimize your expected travel time, pick route B. On the other hand, if you have a meeting to attend that’s starting in 75 minutes, you want to reach on time, so pick route A. This shows that we may not always want to maximize expected gain (or in this case, minimize expected cost), as measured directly by the variable under consideration, here travel time.

What about route C? We don’t know anything about it, so why pick it? The idea is that once in a while, you should try out new routes. It might turn out better than one or both of A and B. But you can’t pick route C when you have a meeting. At other times, with a small probability (say 5%), you should pick route C (or any route you haven’t tried before), and the rest of the time (95%), you should pick the best route you know. This is a good example of the explore-exploit tradeoff.

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Gains and Losses

Let’s say that on a particular day, you are in a calm state of mind. Neither too happy, nor sad. Suddenly you are notified that you have been selected for an award of Rs. 10,000. The award is genuine, there are no hidden costs, and you didn’t have to pay anything for this. At once you are elated. The prospect of this cash makes you happy, and your state of mind is lifted.

After a while, you are notified that there was some error, and you will not be given the Rs 10,000 after all.  (Does this scenario seem too hypothetical?) What happens now? You will become unhappy. Will you return to your previous state of mind? Probably not. You will become less happier than you were before you came to know of the cash. You somehow feel the cash belonged to you, and you lost it.

What’s happening here? Why should you feel less happier than before, given that you have ended up in the same spot that you were? One explanation is that we give more importance to losses than to gains. Losses of a given magnitude affect us more negatively than gains of the same magnitude affect us positively. We are more tuned to losses. Probably from an evolutionary point of view, preventing losses was more important than securing gains. To this end, we are wired in favour of losses than gains. We remember negative events more than positive events. We focus more on the negative aspects of anything, as compared to the positive. As the popular saying goes, bad news travels faster than good news.

To mitigate this to some extent, it is better to take a longer term view of things. Take the stock market for example. The stocks and the overall index are bound to rise and fall several times in a day and in a week. A person who watches the market everyday is bound to worry about it more, and be more adversely affected by it, than say one who watches it only once a month, or once a year. Let’s say in a given year the stock market rises and falls sharply several times, returning to the same value at the end of the year. The everyday watcher will by now have had several sleepless nights, and corresponding rises and falls in personal happiness and stress levels, in tune with the market. (Now compare this with the hypothetical scenario above.) The effects of the rise is prices will not be sufficient to offset those of the fall though. Only one who comes back after a year to look at the market again can calmly say – “Nothing much happened this year.”

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Meteor Strikes the Earth



Meteor strikes the Earth

Meteor strikes the Earth

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Key Events in the History of the Universe and Man


From the Big Bang to the Birth of Civilization


  • 13.8 Billion Years Ago (BYA) –  Big Bang, and birth of the Universe.
  • 4.5 BYA – Birth of the Sun, Earth and Moon
  • 3.8 BYA – Life begins on Earth; the first single-celled organisms appear in the oceans.
  • 3.5 to 3 BYA – Multi-cellular organisms appear
  • 600 Million Years Ago (MYA) – Small, complex organisms appear in the oceans (Ediacaran Period)
  • 500 MYA – Diversity of life increases enormously in the Cambrian explosion; the first vertebrates and creatures with eyes appear
  • 475 MYA – Plants appear on land for the first time
  • 350 MYA – First flying insects appear
  • 300 MYA – Reptiles arrive on land
  • 200 MYA – Dinosaurs appear on Earth for the first time, and dominate life on land for the next 130 Million years
  • 150 MYA – Birds evolve from a subgroup of dinosaurs
  • 65 MYA – A huge comet crashes into the Gulf of Mexico, causing massive forest fires, throwing dust into the skies, and blocking the sun, leading to the extinction of three-fourths of the species on Earth at the time, the most famous among them being the dinosaurs.
  • 60 MYA – Primates appear on land
  • 50 MYA – Whales, dolphins and porpoises evolve from land animals
  • 20-15 MYA – Ancestors of Humans diverge from the Gibbon
  • 14 MYA – Ancestors of Humans diverge from the Orangutan
  • 7 MYA – First primates to walk on two legs appear
  • 7-6 MYA – Ancestors of Humans diverge from the Gorilla
  • 6-4 MYA – Ancestors of Humans diverge from the Chimpanzee
  • 2.3 MYA – The species Homo habilis starts using stone tools; brain size increases over the next 1 Million years.
  • 1.5 MYA – Human ancestors harness fire and make complex tools.
  • 100,000 Years Ago (YA) – Anatomically modern humans emerge out of Africa and displace other similar species.
  • 100,000 YA – Humans learn to talk
  • 50,000 YA – Humans enter Eurasia and South-East Asia
  • 40,000 YA – Humans enter Australia
  • 15,000 YA – Humans enter the Americas through the Bering land bridge between Russia and Alaska
  • 10,000 YA – Man begins to farm, and settles down in larger communities, giving up his hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
  • 6000 YA – The first civilizations rise in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley.


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