I’m Jennifer Tackett, Associate Professor of Psychology, and This is How I Work


I am an Associate Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University (NU) in the Clinical Science and Personality and Health programs. I am also the Director of Clinical Training, Faculty Associate in the Institute for Policy Research, and an Associate Editor at Perspectives on Psychological Science and Journal of Personality. I direct the Personality Across Development lab (PADlab) at NU, where we study the development of personality in children and adolescents and behavioral outcomes of personality traits related to self-control and social dominance. Major themes in our work include assessment and measurement, hormonal and genetic mechanisms underlying youth personality and behavior, racial/ethnic and gender differences in these areas, and environmental factors such as socioeconomic status, parenting, and peer relationships.

Location: Evanston, IL
Current Gig: Associate Professor of Psychology
One word/phrase that describes your work style: Ebullient
Current computer/mobile device: iMac, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, iPhone

What apps/tools/software can you not live without? 

Google suite anything, Dropbox, Wunderlist, MS-DOS, IRC and its modern-day incarnations (i.e., Twitter and Facebook)

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

I live by the “Sunday Night Stratagem” wherein I spend some time each Sunday evening planning out the workweek ahead. In particular, I try to get somewhat caught up with emails and chart out my to-do list and calendar for the week to help prioritize my tasks and also make sure I have time scheduled for anything that has to get done. As tempting as it is to relax and savor the final hours of the weekend, this planning period makes my life go much more smoothly.

What’s your workspace set up like?



How do you keep track of things you need to do (any to-do-list apps)?

I was a hard-core yellow legal pad addict until recently. My grad and undergrad students always inspire me to become more technologically savvy (and are incredibly patient with me as I struggle through it). These days, I’ve mostly gone electronic and do pretty well with a combination of Google Calendar, Wunderlist, “gmail as inbox”, and “if it’s important they’ll track you down eventually”. Also, really talented, patient, and compassionate students who don’t let things fall off my radar. I implemented the original “Inbox Zero” plan some time back and found it very helpful – now I regularly try to reset the system to keep my inbox as low as possible.

Besides your phone or computer, what gadget can’t you live without, and why?

I’m pretty into my FitBit Charge 2. Without that and my standing desk, I would be substantially deficient in my daily activity level. I also find the data really useful. For example, knowing that my average resting heart rate tends to go up approximately 3-5 beats per minute in the week before I have a conference is very… useful.

What do you listen to while you work?

Data analysis: Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Atmosphere, Common

Writing or editorial work: Keith Jarrett, Jason Moran, the Bad Plus, Thelonius Monk

Catching up on e-mail: Beyoncé, Kanye, Patty Griffin, Willie Nelson, Bruce Robison

What are you currently reading?

Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise” for One Book One Northwestern (http://www.northwestern.edu/onebook/) and Rebecca Solnit’s “The Faraway Nearby”, which was a gift from my friend Kate McLean who always knows what I want to read.

How do you recharge?

I try to keep recharges built into daily (or maybe weekly) life. Sometimes I need social recharging, and I have wonderful friends and colleagues to help with that, other times I need solitary recharging, so I play the piano, walk, think, or cross-stitch (really, it’s a thing).

How do you balance your work life and your home/family life?

As best I can? As a working mom, I choose my battles, because you can’t win them all. I think it helps to prioritize certain things (for me, it’s family dinner time during the week and one-on-one time with my kiddos during the weekends) and accept that you can’t accomplish All Things In The Perfect Life. I also draw great strength from some amazing communities of academic mamas, near and far, who are incredibly supportive and help to normalize, console, support, and inspire through it all.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I would function best on 8 hours sleep, but that’s not always realistic. My kids are early risers and high activity level, but there’s always more work to do after they’re in bed. So I balance it best I can, but generally try to be in bed by 10:00-10:30pm.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

That’s too hard to answer. I receive good advice all the time. I do strongly believe that good advice is all around us, but we often have to ask for it, dig for it, look for it. Take everything people have to offer, even if it doesn’t feel like it fits. Some things end up fitting after you think on them, or try them, or even months or years later when your life changes and things suddenly work for you that didn’t before. Some good nuggets I picked up in grad school include “You can’t turn down an offer you don’t have”, “You should never write anything you can’t publish” and “Always bet the base rates” (a la Bayes theorem).


Jennifer Tackett



One comment

  1. […] use the Mac OS Calendar and Reminders apps.  I think they are great.  Based on recommendations in this blog, I have also tried Wunderlist; I like it and its great for sharing task assignments, but for […]


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