TIME Business

A Historical Argument Against Uber: Taxi Regulations Are There for a Reason

Taxi Rank
Yellow cabs waiting in line at LaGuardia Airport, New York City, in March of 1974 Michael Brennan—Getty Images

The author of a cultural history of the NYC taxi — a former cabbie himself — explains why he believes oversight is necessary

New York taxis used to have a reputation for smelly cars, ripped seats and eccentric drivers. Today, New York cabs are nearly all clean and well-maintained. Drivers don’t usually say much unprompted. The cabs feel safe. In other words, they’re boring. And maybe that’s a good thing, because they’re vying against a polished new competitor.

Uber, the ride-sharing app, has grown explosively in the five years since its inception, challenging established taxi services, expanding its annual revenue to a projected $10 billion by the end of next year and attracting drivers away from its competitors. Uber drivers get 80% of a fare, and the company only takes a 20% cut. Uber’s cars are mostly slick, clean and easy to hail via the company’s app.

But a big reason Uber has grown so quickly is that it’s not regulated the same way that traditional taxi services are. Uber proponents say it’s about time for monopolistic, overregulated city cab services to be broken up. Riders deserve options, they say, and better pricing, and more nimble technology. Still, the company is no stranger to controversy, most recently over reports of executives abusing the company’s ability to track riders.

And, says one taxi expert, history shows that the larger reason to be concerned about Uber is that those regulations were established for a good reason.

Graham Hodges is the author of Taxi! A Cultural History of the New York City Cabdriver and a professor at Colgate University — and a former cabbie himself, who patrolled New York’s dangerous streets in the early 1970s for a fare. Hodges is suspicious of upstarts like Uber and says that the cab industry needs to be regulated.

Hodges’ argument? Taxis are pretty much a public utility. Like subway and bus systems, the electric grid or the sewage system, taxis provide an invaluable service to cities like New York, and the government should play an important role in regulating them. They shouldn’t be, Hodges argues, fair game for a private corporation like Uber to take over and control, any more than an inner-city bus service should be privatized.

Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty of taxi rules, what do passengers get out of cab regulation? Regular taxi maintenance, says Hodges, which taxi commissions like New York’s require. “You want to know you’re getting in a safe cab that’s been checked recently,” he explains. “They’re taking a pounding every day.” Knowing your fare is fixed to a predictable formula is important, too, says Hodges. (Uber does that, though the company’s surge pricing at peak hours can really up the cost.) And you want to know that your driver has had a background check, which established taxi services usually require, so that you can be less afraid of being attacked with a hammer, abducted or led on a high-speed chase, as has allegedly happened on some Uber trips.

Regulations have been around for a long time, Hodges says: “Taxi regulations developed out of livery and hansom-cab regulations from the 19th century. They’re a necessary part of urban transportation. They’ve been that way since the metropolitization of cities in the 1850s. And those in turn are based on a long-term precedent in Europe and other parts of the world. From hard-earned experience, those regulations ensure fairness and safety.”

In the 1970s, when Hodges drove, those regulations ensured that a driver made a decent living, and could comfortably choose his or her own hours. (“I made $75 the first night I was out,” he says. “I felt fantastic.”) The golden days of cab driving, Hodges continues, were even earlier, in the ’50s and ’60s. Think sometime before seedy New York full of troubled men like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976), and more like the omnipresent, wise-seeming driver of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

“Back then, drivers stayed on for a long time,” says Hodges. “They were beloved. They were culturally familiar. That’s where you get the classic cabbie and someone who was an encyclopedia of the city. Those are guys who dedicated their lives to the job and owned their taxis. They had a vested interest in a clean, well-managed auto that lasted a long time.”

Today, Uber drivers do enjoy some of those benefits. Though they’re hardly known for an encyclopedic knowledge of the cities they drive, or as cultural touchstones, they own their own cabs and have a lot at stake in driving. What’s more, they get a large cut of each fare and have a lot of freedom. And regulation doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to: even after the Taxi and Limousine Commission started more closely regulating taxi drivers in the 1970s, riders were often in for a surprise. Taxis were rusty tin-bins and drivers were erratic.

In 1976, TIME offered a sardonic view of the New York cab ride:

A taxi ride is the chief means by which New York City tests the mettle of its people. A driver, for example, is chosen for his ability to abuse the passenger in extremely colorful language, the absence of any impulse to help little crippled old ladies into the cab, ignorance of any landmark destination, an uncanny facility for shooting headlong into the most heavily trafficked streets in the city, a foot whose weight on the accelerator is exceeded only by its spine-snapping authority in applying the brakes. Extra marks are awarded the driver who traverses the most potholes in any trip; these are charted for him by the New York City Department of Craters, whose job it is to perforate perfectly good roadways into moonscapes.

The taxi machines are selected with equally rigorous care. Most are not acceptable until they have been driven for 200,000 miles in Morocco. After that, dealer preparation calls for denting the body, littering the passenger compartment with refuse, removing the shock absorbers, sliding the front seat back as far as it will go, and installing a claustrophobic bulletproof shield between driver and passenger—whose single aperture is cunningly contrived to pass only money forward and cigar smoke back. All this is designed to induce in the customer a paralytic yoga position: fists clenched into the white-knuckles mode, knees to the chin, eyes glazed or glued shut, bones a-rattle, teeth a-grit. To a lesser extent, the same conditions prevail in other taxi-ridden U.S. communities.

In the end, Hodges says, cabbies and passengers have always wanted the same things — “We don’t want to have hyper competition, we don’t want reckless driving, we don’t want drivers about whom we don’t know very much,” he says — and, whether or not it always works perfectly, he believes that history has shown that regulation is the best way to get there.

TIME Media

Nielsen Ratings Could Become a Major Headache for Netflix

Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Samira Wiley, Vicky Jeudy, Adrienne C. Moore
(L-R) Danielle Brooks, Vicky Jeudy, Uzo Aduba, Adrienne C. Moore, and Samira Wiley in a scene from Netflix's Orange is the New Black Season 2. Jessica Miglio—Netflix

Streaming service may lose leverage if viewership data is widely known

House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black are wildly popular hits that prove Netflix can make shows that compete with the best of cable programming…right? That’s been the narrative around the streaming service over the last year, but hard proof has been harder to come by. Netflix has never provided concrete data validating that its shows are watched by large numbers of viewers.

Soon Nielsen, the standard-bearer for TV ratings, may change that. The TV ratings company revealed to the Wall Street Journal that it’s planning to begin tracking viewership of online video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video in December by analyzing the audio of shows that are being streamed. The new ratings will come with a lot of caveats—they won’t track mobile devices and won’t take into account Netflix’s large global reach—but they will provide a sense for the first time which Netflix shows are the most popular. And if the rest of the media world latches onto these new ratings as a standard, Netflix won’t be able to ignore them.

Ratings are important on traditional television because they help networks attract advertising. Netflix doesn’t sell ads and has argued that it therefore shouldn’t have to disclose its ratings. “It creates a benchmark that is irrelevant to the business but sexy and exciting to write about and puts a lot of performance pressure on shows that otherwise will be great shows over time,” chief content officer Ted Sarandos said at a conference in 2012. A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment.

But TV ratings are about a lot more than selling ads. Netflix viewership data would give traditional TV networks a better sense of how popular their shows are on the platform and, perhaps more importantly, how essential they are to the overall Netflix experience. This could affect negotiations for licensing programming, especially as more content companies such as CBS and Comcast launch their own streaming services. Networks already regularly leverage the popularity of their programming to extract higher fees from cable operators in very public spats, so they’d likely have no problem pulling Netflix into a similar scrum.

Ratings also help attract talent in the traditional TV world. HBO has risen to the top of the premium cable heap by continually serving up shows that are both critically acclaimed and extremely popular. If Netflix’s original shows are revealed to be watched less than those on TV, it might be harder to attract a David Fincher or a Kevin Spacey to the streaming service (even Fincher and Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan don’t know how popular their Netflix shows are).

Finally, regular ratings could introduce further volatility to Netflix’s already bumpy stock. The company’s share price tumbled more than 25% after it missed its own subscriber growth forecast in October. Investors might be further scared scared off if there were signs that the company’s growing stable of expensive original shows were not as popular as they believed.

Of course, there are ways Nielsen ratings could work in Netflix’s favor. If the company’s shows really are huge hits, that just lends more credence to its narrative as a television disruptor and could help convince more Hollywood stars to work with the streaming service. It’s also possible that Nielsen’s methodology, which is rather vague at the moment, won’t be considered accurate enough to be taken seriously. The company just recently acknowledged that it was reporting inaccurate ratings for the broadcast networks for seven months this year. And Viacom’s CEO has said he wants to adopt different ratings standards because he thinks Nielsen has been too slow to adapt to shifting consumer habits.

Either way, Netflix will probably have to contend with questions about the Nielsen figures from media executives, analysts, and reporters for a quite a while. It’s an unknown variable in their growth story that they’d likely rather not deal with. As the calculating Frank Underwood once said, “There’s a value in having secrets.”

TIME Gadgets

Apple Just Revealed Lots More Info About the Apple Watch

Apple Watch SDK New Features
View of the Apple watch displayed in a shop on September 30, 2014. Loic Venance—AFP/Getty Images

We can learn a lot from the Apple Watch's developer guidelines

Apple opened the floodgates for Apple Watch developers Tuesday when it made the smartwatch’s Software Development Kit available for the first time. But the SDK isn’t just for coders — it also has lots of hints about what using the Apple Watch will be like for consumers when it hits store shelves sometime next year.

Here are some new discoveries about the Apple Watch:

The Apple Watch isn’t a standalone device

The iPhone is pretty much a requirement if you want to use what will be the Apple Watch’s most advanced apps. In Apple’s own words, “a Watch app complements your iOS app; it does not replace it.” Apple Watch apps will essentially run on your iPhone, and the smartwatch will be an extension of your smartphone.

The Apple Watch probably has the most hi-res screen of any smartwatch

We already knew the Apple Watch’s two sizes (just their heights, not widths). But now we know their display resolutions, too. The 38mm watch is 272×340 pixels, while the 42mm watch is 312×390 pixels. Apple says those are good enough resolutions to be labeled as Retina displays, which Apple has said is a feature of the watch.

Still, it’s unclear exactly how sharp the displays will be. Some estimates have put the Apple Watch screen clarity on the level of the iPhone 5, which has a more hi-res display than iPads and MacBook Pros. If that’s the case, the Apple Watch could boast a better display than the current smartwatch market leader, Samsung Gear S.

The Apple Watch could come in more sizes

The way Apple has set up the Apple Watch’s interface is more like a website than a smartphone, which should make it easier for developers to adapt their apps to work on larger or smaller watches sometime down the road. While our wrists are only so wide, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Apple is considering new ways to build all sorts of screens.

There’s a brand new font

The new font, called San Francisco, was “designed specifically for legibility on Apple Watch,” according to Apple’s developers’ site. The sans serif font looks a bit like Arial and is meant to take up less horizontal space.

There are two types of notifications

Apple gave users a preview of how notifications work during the Apple Watch unveiling, but we know a bit more now. There are two types of “looks:” the Short Look, which briefly provides a “discreet, minimal amount of information” when you raise your wrist, and the Long Look, which gives you more info if you tap on a Short Look notification or keep your wrist held up.

TIME Aviation

JetBlue Is Cutting Legroom From Its Planes

JetBlue Airways Corp. planes sit docked at the gates of Terminal 5 as another of the company's jets lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Jan. 28, 2014.
JetBlue Airways Corp. planes sit docked at the gates of Terminal 5 as another of the company's jets lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Jan. 28, 2014. Craig Warga—Bloomberg/Getty Images

And the base fare will not include a checked bag

Jetblue said Wednesday it will reduce leg room and add bag fees for fliers who buy tickets on base fares.

The traditionally low-cost airline, under pressure from investors to boost profits, announced in a call with analysts that it is adding fare levels next year. The new base fare will not include a checked bag.

The airline also said it will reduce average legroom from 34.7 inches to 33.1 inches—still, it says, an industry leader—to allow it to add 15 seats to its standard A320 aircraft beginning in 2016.

JetBlue and Southwest Airlines have until now been the only large U.S. airlines that provide a free checked bag for all fliers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

TIME productivity

For a Better Life, Do This Simple Thing Every Week

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A better you isn't that hard to achieve

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

In recent years, walking has gone from a generally healthful mode of transport to a public health crusade. Why? Lately, science has shown sitting all day to be the newest public health menace, right behind Big Macs and cigarettes on the list of things that will shorten your life and damage your body. The silver lining to this evolving line of research is that fighting back seems to be as simple as getting up and wandering around for a few minutes every hour or so (standing desks are another option).

An occasional stroll, therefore, has become akin to a morning vitamin or regular cancer screening–something you know you really ought to do. There’s no denying the truth of the necessity of adding a bare minimum of movement to our days, but there’s another side to walking that may be getting lost in the rush to remind people of its salutary effects.

Walking might save your life, but that’s far from all a good wander has to offer.

Traveling by foot isn’t just medicinal. It’s also a meditative pursuit with a long and storied pedigree that can lift your mood, improve your creativity, and give you the space you need for life-changing self-reflection.

Less Anxious, More Creative

The first couple of items on this list are the simplest to prove. Again we can turn to recent studies that reveal being outside in natural settings is powerful anti-anxiety medicine. Blog Wise Bread summed up the new findings this way: “The sounds of birds chirping, rain falling, and bees buzzing are proven to lower stress and evoke a feeling of calm.”

Similarly, science attests that getting out for a walk can spur creative thinking. Stanford News, for example, reports on studies out of the university showing that “the overwhelming majority of the participants in these three experiments were more creative while walking than sitting … creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when the person was walking.”

Walking to Find Yourself

It’s clear, then, that walking has short-term utilitarian uses–if you need an idea to finish that work project, a spin around your local park might help shake one loose. But there’s also lots of anecdotal evidence that longer walks can yield a deeper sort of creativity. The mental space created by long rambles offers the stressed and scattered the time and brain real estate needed not only to solve specific problems, but also to gain perspective on their own lives and rebalance out-of-whack lifestyles.

When blogger David Roberts decided to fight his profound burnout with a year-long digital detox, for example, he soon settled into a daily rhythm of long hikes. “Reliably, after about a half-hour of walking, ideas start bubbling up,” he reports in a fascinating writeup of the experience for Outdoor magazine. The wandering had other effects, too. “I spent hours at a time absorbed in a single activity. My mind felt quieter, less jumpy,” he says.

Roberts is far from the only thinker to notice these deeper effects of longer walks. On Medium recently, writer Craig Mod composed an ode to long walks, unearthing a treasure trove of historical figures and great thinkers who celebrated and dissected the benefits of walking. The common thread running through these accounts isn’t just that experiencing a place on foot offers a unique perspective and plenty of unexpected details to delight the walker, but also that “walking moves or settles the mind–allowing for self discovery.”

If you’ve lost touch with the art of the long ramble, it’s a must-read piece. And it begs the question:

Will you take time for a long walk this week?

TIME Careers & Workplace

Revealed: 5 Secrets Recruiters Won’t Normally Tell You

job search
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Learn behind-the-scenes info direct from the source that will help you get a job

startupcollective

This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

As a talent strategy consultant and career coach, I tell clients all the time: “I get the other side of the equation.” Companies like that I coach job seekers, and job seekers like that I consult with talent acquisition teams at companies.

Having a foot in both worlds means I don’t forget what it’s like on both sides of the aisle. It’s like recruiting bipartisanship. But every once in awhile, I take sides. And job seekers, this is for you.

There are a million nuances to being a recruiter — like many jobs, to an outsider it may seem straightforward. But there are multiple stakeholders, laws and budgets vying for attention that make it really difficult sometimes. And the more you know and understand, the more effective you’ll be. Recruiters may not want you to know their secrets, but here are five tips to help you get both feet in the door and the attention of a recruiter. You’ll thank me now. They’ll thank me later.

1. An important part of a recruiter’s job is inside sales.

Like any job, recruiters are measured, evaluated and lauded (or not) based on how well they perform. But it’s often with strange (to you) metrics like time to fill, or percentage of job postings (called requisitions) that have closed. More rarely are they measured on quality of hire (i.e., how well you’re performing a year after you’re hired). This means recruiters are biased towards selling candidates to the hiring manager. Hard. They want that job to close fast. So make it easy on them to sell you.

Bottom line: Don’t assume they’ll figure out your skills are transferable. Apply for jobs where you’re clearly a fit and supplement any networking, cover letters and phone screens with clear examples they can turn around and use. One time a candidate had a unique technical skill so he called to explain it and tell me why it mattered in our business. I loved that.

2. Weird behavior makes recruiters nervous.

Being on the phone all day can make a recruiter crazy. That means in between interviews, sourcing calls and offer deliveries, they’re sharing tales of insanity — odd calls, strange answers to interview questions and tales of incredulity (such as: “Why did this guy apply to three different jobs? Does he not know I can see all of them?”) There’s nothing wrong with getting a recruiter’s attention, but if you cross a line, they’re just going to ignore you. It’s just like dating. Say “I love you” too soon, call too many times in a row or try too hard and you’re out.

Bottom line: Make an effort to get noticed but don’t border on pathetic. Follow up and check on your candidacy but don’t call every day or start sending LinkedIn invitations to the entire team. If it feels strange, don’t do it. Making the recruiter nervous is a reason for them to focus on someone else. I once had a candidate email me every day. Stalker — you’re out.

3. Sometimes it’s a crapshoot.

A recruiter typically has a collection of requisitions she is responsible for. In most companies, it’s usually an unmanageable number (at least to the recruiter). So in the morning, she may come in and open her ATS (applicant tracking system) and start looking at what resumes came in for what position (requisition) overnight. She’s human, so while scanning resumes, she might be distracted by her boss popping by, a tweet or a phone call. That means some resumes get the six-second glance, some get 30. There’s no guarantee of fairness — it’s absolutely impossible. And if she already has enough candidates interviewing, she might barely glance, if at all, at new resumes.

Bottom line: Sometimes it’s a crapshoot. You might feel like you’re a perfect fit for the job, but the timing of when you apply or simply how busy the recruiter is that day could determine your fate. That’s where networking comes in. Never apply for a job cold. Make a connection in the organization first that can check up on your candidacy with the recruiter. Depending on where she is in the process you might not get a fair shake, but at least you’ll be in the know. As a recruiter, I could ignore resumes in my ATS queue but I couldn’t ignore a colleague at my door asking about a referral.

4. They influence but rarely, if ever, decide…

A hiring decision usually comes from the hiring manager. It may even have to be approved by his boss. The recruiter doesn’t decide. She will contribute to the discussion and provide opinions on interactions with candidates. She’ll provide context like salary ranges or market analyses, but she won’t decide.

Bottom line: Don’t rely on the recruiter throughout the entire process. Figure out who else is important in the decision-making process and build relationships. Send follow-up emails that show you did your research and take them up on the offer to ask additional questions. Just don’t go overboard. Weird behavior makes hiring managers nervous too. (See #2).

5. …but they have a tremendous amount of insider information.

Recruiters know what the hiring managers are like, what matters most to them and what interview strategies succeed. So don’t ignore them. It’s really important to have the recruiter on your side. You want to make their job easier and set them up for success. In turn, the recruiter can share that valuable insider information if you just ask: “As I prepare for the interview later this week, any suggestions you have on what matters to the hiring manager are greatly appreciated — I really value your advice.” The worst they can say is no.

Bottom line: A strong relationship with the recruiter is part of the equation. Recognize that she’s busy and may have a million priorities (while the job you want is your only one right now). Respect her time and help her help you. In return, she may be able to help you prepare, understand and strengthen your candidacy over others who don’t even bother to ask or care. As a recruiter I often felt under-appreciated. Thanks from a candidate and recognition that I played an important role in the process went a long way.

TIME food and drink

Brits to Get Cheaper Beer! (If They Can Still Find a Pub to Sell It)

A pint of beer stands on a bar in a pub in Liverpool northern England, Nov. 19 , 2014.
A pint of beer stands on a bar in a pub in Liverpool northern England, Nov. 19 , 2014. Phil Noble—Reuters

New law would break the chains that tie pub landlords to big parent companies

It’s always been the most reliable vote-winner in British politics, even ahead of bashing foreigners and flinging money at the National Health Service.

But a late-night vote in Westminster last night may have actually paved the way for cheaper beer in pubs, as members of parliament voted to end the so-called ‘beer tie’ system, which forces landlords to buy beer from their parent companies at above-market prices, and stops them from offering competing brews.

That’s the headline-grabbing part, of course. The reality of the situation is, sadly, much less clear. The Beer Tie is only one half of an arrangement under which the parent groups (which have mainly grown out of Britain’s big breweries) offer low property rents, cheap insurance and other centralized services in return.

Under an amendment to the existing law, landlords will now have the right to ask for a rent-only deal, under which they would have the freedom to buy beer from whoever they choose at the best price they can find.

The pub companies were up in arms over the vote Wednesday, saying it would threaten the existence of thousands of pubs up and down the country

Punch Taverns Plc, whose shares fell 12.3% in early trading, warned the amended bill “would have significant adverse consequences for Britain’s community pubs” if it becomes law.

“The government’s own research indicated that breaking the tie would…result in between 700 and 1,400 more pubs closing with 3,700 to 7,000 job losses,” Punch said. It added that it would also lead to reduced investment in pubs, less consumer choice and “higher fixed rents, reduced levels of support and greater risk of failure” for tenants.

Enterprise Inns, Punch’s biggest rival, called the amendment “disproportionate” and said it would have “serious unintended consequences.” Its shares lost 15% on the news.

By contrast there was rejoicing at the U.K.’s Federation of Small Businesses, which has led a nationwide campaign against the Beer Tie.

FSB chairman John Allan said the vote marked “a historic day for tied publicans who look forward to a more open and competitive marketplace.”

Greg Mulholland, a Liberal Democrat MP who championed the amendment, called the vote “a victory for people power, for commonsense and for fairness and a victory a huge hard pressed publicans and their customers.”

Thousands of pubs closed in the recession that followed the financial crisis, many of them in rural communities where they were the hub of social activity. The Campaign for Real Ale, which supported the motion, says closures were still running at around 30 a week in the first half of this year.

The amendment still needs to go through the House of Lords to become law. The government, which had opposed the amendment and which only lost the vote because dozens of its own MPs revolted, may use the Lords to block the amendment and force another reading in the House of Commons.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Retail

Most People Won’t Like Their Holiday Gifts, Survey Says

People carry shopping bags in New York, Nov. 14, 2014.
People carry shopping bags in New York, Nov. 14, 2014. Justin Lange—EPA

But Americans are still expected to spend some 14 hours picking them out

When struggling to feign interest in that unwanted gift this holiday season, take solace in knowing that most Americans are in the exact same position.

Almost three-quarters of Americans probably won’t like the gift they receive this holiday season, according to a survey from the Japan-based online retailer Rakuten. More than a third of respondents said they will regift unwanted gifts, another 27% will donate it to charity, and 14% will sell it.

And yet Americans are still stressing over what to buy (in fact, 45% of respondents said they find the holiday season stressful). According to the survey, they will spend an average of 14 hours shopping for gifts.

“The holiday season is a time to spend with family and loved ones,” George Chang, senior vice president at Rakuten.com, said in a statement. “Yet, we all spend too much time worrying whether we have bought the perfect gifts.”

Shopping Secrets Rakuten

TIME Saving & Spending

The Disastrous Black Friday Mistake You Must Avoid

Money in jeans pocket
Image Source—Getty Images

Shop smarter—or else pay for the consequences

Going into the holiday season with a budget is a good start, but it might not be good enough. A new study shows that misestimating how much of a deal they’ll get on Black Friday and underestimating how long it will take them to pay off their holiday splurges will cost American shoppers.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average holiday shopper spent a little less than $770 last year. It predicts a total increase in Americans’ holiday spending of just over 4% for this year.

But shoppers could find themselves with sticker shock, a new study from NerdWallet.com warns. And middle-class shoppers could bear the brunt of it. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll for NerdWallet, families in the $50,000 to $75,000 income bracket won’t pay off their debts for an average of nearly three months. Poorer families will pay off their debts a little more quickly, in an average of two months.

Odds are, even these estimations are optimistic. Other studies show that people tend to take longer to pay off their holiday bills than they anticipate. And, odds are, many of these shoppers aren’t starting from scratch but adding onto an existing balance — one that averages nearly $16,000, based on NerdWallet’s look at household credit card debt.

And the cost of servicing that debt keeps going up. The average APR on a general-use credit card is a tick under 16%, according to Bankrate.com. For store cards — you know, the kind many of us open over the holidays to get the one-day discount on purchases — it’s even higher. They have an average APR of over 23%, higher if you have marginal credit.

New data from Experian shows that more of us are signing up for those store cards and the higher rates they charge; both the amount we borrow and the number of cards we have has risen over the past year.

“Middle-class households can fall into a costly situation this holiday season, where they’ve been extended ample credit but have incomes too thin to comfortably pay the bills later,” warns NerdWallet senior retail analyst Matthew Ong. “Many are still struggling to reconcile a typically middle-class standard of living with stagnant incomes,” he says.

Adding insult to injury, NerdWallet also finds that those Black Friday deals many of us think we’re going to score might not be so hot after all.

In an analysis of 27 major retailers’ ads, more than 90% of them listed “sale” prices identical to last year’s Black Friday prices. This isn’t always apparent at a quick glance; the site found that retailers use tricks like misleading original prices and make shoppers jump through hoops like requiring mail-in rebates.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Most Important 20 Minutes of the Day

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Want to have a better life? Do this for 20 minutes—or less

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

What are the most important moments of the day? The 20 minutes you commit to planning.

You’re thinking, Planning? Yuck.

I know for some people it’s a dreaded word, but don’t worry. I’m not talking about writing a business plan or setting annual goals. I’m simply talking about dedicating 20 minutes to prioritizing and organizing your day.

The 20 minutes you spend today can save hours tomorrow and turn a good day into a great day.

Related: Be Strategic. Set Aside Time to Select Daily and Weekly Goals.

Everyone knows that the most valuable resource entrepreneurs have is time. So stop giving it away to people and spending it on activities you don’t care about. People say if only there were more hours in the day, they could get everything done. But what about those two hours spent watching The Bachelor? Or that hour-long meeting with a vendor trying to sell you something that you know you aren’t going to buy? Been there? I know I have.

It’s crucial that entrepreneurs protect their time like the Night’s Watch guards the wall in the Game of Thrones. This means declining interesting opportunities. This means choosing one person over another to schedule that long meeting with. This means saying no without worrying about hurting someone’s feelings. This means realizing that saying no today allows you to say yes tomorrow to something that means more.

Related: How to Not Waste Your Windfall of Time

My daily plan.

Today I completed my morning planning for the 504th time. It’s a daily routine of mine that is now a programmed habit. I started this habit on Dec. 4, 2012, and I call it my “8 for the Day.” The process is simple:

1. I write down the eight goals I want to accomplish that day. I figure if I can’t get eight things done in an eight-hour day, then I’m doing the wrong things.

2. Six of those goals are professional and two are personal. Personal goals include things like going for a run or having a date night with my wife.

3. The next morning, I check off the goals I accomplished, see how I did, reassess and then create a new list for the day.

4. On Saturdays, I flip the ratio and set six personal goals and two professional goals, which may be as simple as paying the bills. This is an effort to encourage weekend fun and discourage weekend work.

On Sundays, there is no list making. I need time to rest and a day free of lists.

Related: 2 Habits Most Entrepreneurs Don’t Develop But Should

Committing 20 minutes a day (sometimes less) to setting daily goals and organizing priorities has been so beneficial to my work, personal life, and overall health and well-being. The “8 for the Day” exercise is something I created that works for me, but there are other great tactics for planning your day.

Tim Ferriss suggests writing three to five things down and then choosing one task to commit time to completing. Gina Trapani chooses her most important thing or MIT. Choose or create a system that works for you.

The point is not when you plan your day, just that you do it. I love to start my day with dedicated time to focus on and visualize how my day will unfold, and what I can do to make it successful. Others like to spend the last 20 minutes before they go to bed thinking about tomorrow and making a game plan.

You choose your most important 20 minutes of your day. The question is, How will you spend them?

Related: How Fortune 500 Leaders Spend Every Minute of the Day (Infographic)

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