Musings + Essays

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 120: The One on Completion Bias.

By: Jen Shoop

My Latest Snag: The $28 SZ Blockprints Caftan Dupe.

I mentioned this on Insta and in yesterday’s post, but this $28 caftan is pretty darn good. For those who have asked me — I’d say it runs true to size, maybe a little big (though aren’t all caftans by nature voluminous?), and the front plaquet runs just low enough to make it possible to breastfeed in it, though that could be because I’m short (5’0). (Unfortunately, my go-to SZ Blockprints caftans are not nursing-friendly.)

You’re Sooooo Popular: The Table Lamp.

The most popular items on the blog this week:

+This ultra-stylish table lamp.

+This chic toile shirtdress.

+One of my favorite everyday china patterns. Would love to refresh my cabinet with a set of these one day.

+A surprisingly sexy dress from J. Crew.

+Love the hydrangea blue stripes on this easy-to-wear dress (under $100!).

+Still dreaming of these beauties

+A few of these left in all sizes!

#Turbothot: On Completion Bias as a Parent.

I wrote recently about making time to read, and how I’ve had to gradually overcome the powerful appeal of completion desire in order to set aside books that quagmire me. An exchange on that post with one of my loyal readers (heiii MK) left me thinking about the fact that I grapple with completion desire in other areas of my life, too — and that maybe I should figure out how to loosen the reins elsewhere.

For context, completion desire is a phrase I picked up while overseeing the design of a smartphone app intended to drive healthy financial habits among low-income teens through gamification. (This now feels like another life. More on my squiggly career path here.) Some of the game design experts with which I consulted introduced me to fascinating concepts like “leveling up,” “completion desire,” and various forms of reward and enemy design. It was startling to see how deeply game designers think about human psychology and the dynamics of risk, reward, progress — and how much these considerations revealed to me about how I tick. Accordingly, I’ve pocketed a lot of these phrases and applied them elsewhere in my life as usefully illustrative constructs. Completion desire or completion bias is one of them; HBR defined it well here:

“Human brains are wired to seek completion and the pleasure it brings — a tendency we term completion bias…finishing immediate, mundane tasks actually improves your ability to tackle tougher, important things. Your brain releases dopamine when you achieve goals. And since dopamine improves attention, memory, and motivation, even achieving a small goal can result in a positive feedback loop that makes you more motivated to work harder going forward.”

Parenting — especially the nurturing of a newborn — flies in the face of completion desire, as everyday tasks and activities are often interrupted by the wants and needs of my little ones, and interrupting a chore is often the safest, best path forward for them (and thus for us all). This has been a constant source of frustration for me, to be honest. I have found myself bizarrely obsessed by the state of our bed, for example. I compulsively make our bed every morning; it marks the official start of the day and leaving it un-made feels something like leaving my front door wide open. I’m uncomfortable — exposed? — until it’s done. But these days, I often need to wait until well after the day is underway to get it done, often because I necessarily prioritize washing my face and brushing my teeth over making the bed in the small pockets of time I find to myself. And then, once the bed is made, I am constantly re-making it throughout the day, as it’s my usual nesting spot for nursing Hill, and I’ve made it clear that Emory is always welcome to join me in the bed with her little bundle of activities while I’m doing so. This often means that she flings our pillows on the ground and musses the sheets, and it drives my Type A self crazy. And then I chastise myself for dwelling on such a ridiculous inanity. Who cares if the bed is mussed?! I’m here with my little family, figuring things out, and all is happy and healthy! The entire tumble of emotions here has made me pause and ponder how I can detach myself from my completion bias in the home.

Any other Magpies out there finding that completion bias is getting in the way? How did you overcome it?

Blast from the Past: Are You a Thought Leader or a Thought Follower?

From this post on thought followership:

“I listened to an otherwise unremarkable podcast the other day (#savage) in which the interviewee commented: “I am not a thought leader.  But I am a very good thought follower.”

How honest and how lovely, I thought — first, to know oneself well enough to make such a pronouncement, and second, to perceive that thought followership can be a skill, too.  It implies receptivity, an aptitude for listening.  Open ears, a willing mind: beautiful things.

Am I thought follower or a thought leader, I wonder?  Thought leader feels too grand for self-appointment, and I don’t see myself as a person of extreme conviction anyway.  Yes, I have strongly held values and beliefs and opinions, but I am also impressionable and can change my mind over time.  Further, I’m not the type to proselytize.  (Except for when it comes to the glen plaid blazer you need RN.  HA.)  I’m far more comfortable moderating a conversation than I am standing on a dais.

But there is something else.  I find that my way of understanding the world is by way of pastiche.  My thoughts often dance around from input to input: a tidbit from a movie, an image from an Instastory, the purple-gray quiet of Central Park at night, a turn of phrase from a book, that mohair sweater on Jenny Walton during Fashion Week.  I collect these breadcrumbs throughout the day and then spread them out in front of me and find the path between them.

Maybe I am neither follower nor leader, but a kind of wayfinder between the two.

What about you?  Thought follower?  Thought leader?  Or neither?”

Post-Scripts: More Blockprint Magic.

+Ever since my post on blockprints, I’ve been seeing this motif everywhere. Love these Gap shorts for sleep/poolside lounging in the pink or green, pretty much everything from J. Crew’s recently-launched “blockprint party” collection, these bloomers from Neve + Noor, and this pretty Banjanan.

+Found the sweetest Paris-based Etsy shop that specializes in the most gorgeous bonnets and bloomers for little ones.

+Would love a few of these for Hill’s nursery, whenever we move.

+Currently eyeing one of these 9Seed cover-up dresses for putzing around the house — it looks sufficiently loose for a postpartum, nursing-dominated me. Should I spring for the striped one? It’s so me…

+D. Porthault’s white sale is raging! Chop chop!

+A lovely Polo sale raging right now — extra 30% off! I am eyeing these relaxed-fit pants for Mr. Magpie. He owns nothing like them and is borderline allergic to athleisure (he actually did yardwork in polo shirts — I’m not kidding), but I think might come in handy as a father-to-two hitting up the playground circuit most weekend mornings. Also love this iconic button-down in the chili pepper red.

+Why are there so many darling children’s suits out right now?! Ahh! Love this two-piece set from Marysia. Could this be mini’s first bikini?

+Looking for some lawn toys and sprinklers for mini in the Hamptons. We must take full advantage! Any recs? Eyeing this one.

+Drooling over this

+Loving the latest release from my girl Pam.

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12 thoughts on “Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 120: The One on Completion Bias.

  1. Omg you are speaking to my heart with completion bias! I notoriously turn everything into a project or routine where I can check things off, monitor metrics, obsessively optimize getting things done. I love this side of me (I do get a lot done!) but I’ve noticed how it also prevents me from being able to enjoy my present, because I’m already thinking about the next thing I need to complete. I’m totally like you with the bed-the minute it gets mussed I’m thinking about making it again. I’ve been trying to CHILL OUT and take a deep breath when my thoughts spin towards my check list and actually say to myself “That is important but it can wait. I’m going to be in this moment instead.” It works sometimes… hehe 🙂

    1. Love that quick “check-in” with yourself and going to channel you when I feel that compulsion to tidy/make the bed/unpack the groceries and I should just plop myself onto the floor with my babies. It’s SO hard to change about myself, though!!


  2. I bought that caftan in the peacock print- baby’s first caftan! It’s definitely tight in the chest, but I leave the top tie undone which helps a bit. It’s a funny combo of cleavage-y and also really conservative because of the length and the looseness. Cant’ wait to lounge in it with a cocktail!

  3. Oh heyyyy! Completion bias in other areas of life … this really has me thinking. I’ll have to figure out if I have any tips to share, but at the moment I just am thinking about how I struggle with this as well. I think it comes with the territory of being a type A (and, in my cases, anxious/neurotic) person. Trying to let go a little bit every day, and remember that some things are just not that important in the scheme of things, as long as everyone is healthy & happy.

    I feel like those men’s Polo pants are a nice hybrid of preppy style and athletic wear. They don’t scream “athleisure!” to me! P.S. I totally chuckled at your description of Mr Magpie doing yardwork in his polos … that is totally my Dad, 100%. I can’t remember the last time I saw him in an uncollared shirt — from work to dinners out to weeding, cutting the lawn, whatever! Haha!

    Love the tips about the Amazon caftan — I have a couple of colors in my cart and will probably jump on it later this week. Looks like such a good find!


    1. YES! Love the caftan! Strongly endorse.

      And yes to being Type A — that’s the whole other part of the story, how a lot of completion bias relates to some sort of inborn drive to do things to completion / to excel / to control / etc. So it’s not as simple as it sounds to “shake off” a half-made bed or an untidy kitchen.


  4. Re: lawn toys. Buy an inflatable pool! We bought a $10 one at Target a few summers ago and still use it constantly. It packs up small, you can throw in cups or measuring tools that come with your home rental, and ta da! Perfect outdoor fun for your 2 year old! Did I mention they are TEN DOLLARS?!

    1. THAT IS EPIC! It’s enormous! I also saw a dinosaur one…I think mini would flip out with excitement! xx

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