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Memorize ​Anything: The Secrets, Hidden Techniques and Tricks that Make You Memorize ​Like a Champ

​Memorize ​Anything: The Secrets, Hidden Techniques and Tricks that Make You Memorize ​Like a Champ

​Today's blog is a big one: MEMORY. As you and everyone else knows, we forget all kinds of things. Whether it's our keys or our grocery list, it's always freaking annoying.

So what exactly are we going to do about this? Well... to start off, I'll give you some context. Memory is something that has been studied for an incredibly long time, going back to the Old Greeks [7. Socrates and the Loci method (google it)] There are a number of extraordinary people in this world that have condensed centuries of information about memory techniques and tricks into so- called 'mnemonics'; meaning memory-techniques.

These memory athletes are SUPER impressive. To show off their skills and have a little competition, just to see who's the best, they have created memory championships.

memory-gif

In these tournaments, judges (The World Memory Sport Council) test mental athleticism with a number of exercises. To give some examples:

• Memorize the order of 10 decks of cards in 60 minutes.

• Memorize 1,000 random digits in 60 minutes.

• Memorize the order of one deck of cards in less than two minutes.

Okay, I know, right now you're thinking to yourself "There's simpy NO WAY that's possible". And that's where you're wrong buddy. Some of hese mental-athletes train full-time to pull it off, but it certainly is possible

Once they do it, they can claim the title of 'Grand Master of Memory'. A title less than 100 people have acquired so far.

Ed Cooke, founder of Memrise, first successfully completed the trifecta of tests when he was only 23! He later came to international attention when he coached journalist Joshua Foer from ground zero to U.S. Memory Champion in one year, a story  chronicled by Foer in his best-selling book 'Moonwalking with Einstein'. To win that championship, Foer had to memorize 120 random digits in five minutes, successfully commit to memory the first and last names of 156 strangers within 15 minutes, and lastly memorize a shuffled deck of cards in less than two minutes.

So why not give this a shot? You don't have to memorize a deck of cards, or a sequence of numbers. Just use the techniques these athletes use, and next time you won't have any trouble to remember the names of the people you meet, the bread and butter on the grocery list and the chinese characters for your test next week.

So let's start with the basics first, then build onwards from that.

Okay, so the way our brain is wired, there are certain things we tend to remember better or more vividly. For example, how come you can remember the score of your favorite football team's last 15 matches and name all of their players by name, without breaking a single sweat? While remembering a few names of famous philosophers for philosophy class, or recalling some groceries when you forget your grocery list, always seems to be such an impossible task...

There's science and a whole human history that can explain this. We humans have a natural tendency to remember certain things very well and others only with huge effort.

Lucky for you, all our brains are wired almost the same way. Meaning that you're not special, nor the only one with this problem. ​And the techniques I'm about to disclose, that help you improve your memory, luckily apply to all of us.

Alright, let's dive in.

Our brains all evolved to code and interpret complex stimuli. Things such as images, colors, structures, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, positions, emotions and language. We use all of these to make sophisticated models of the world we live in. And our memories normally store all of these very effectively and efficiently, to reduce energy consumption.

Unfortunately, in our daily lives there is a lot of information that we want to remember presented differently - as text printed on page. Our brains do not easily encode written information, making it quite difficult to remember. To be able to commit these kinds of stimuli to memory more effectively, I have set up the next section:

Effective Encoding

Encoding, meaning "the translation from the abstract to the concrete", is a powerful tool. We all heard the saying: "A picture is worth a thousand words", pretty cliché right? Well, it turns out there is some serious truth in this when we look at how our minds work. The key concept is that our mind can reliable code information that is presented as vivid images. Things that evoke emotion and activate our senses.

You do remember the way your favorite football team scored their last goal, right? The way it made you feel? The people you were with? The exact place you watched the game?

If your answer was four times 'yes', then you start to get where I'm going with this. To be able to effectivily recall things as effectively as that football match, there is a number of things you can do:

  • Use positive images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones.
  • Use vivid, colorful, sensory-heavy images – those are way easier to remember than drab ones.
  • Use all your senses to encode information or dress-up an image. Your mnemonics can involve sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
  • Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. More on space below.
  • Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image. E.g. Make it ridiculously huge, or super tiny.
  • Use humor! Funny, ludicrous or strange things are easier to remember than normal ones.
  • Similarly, rude rhymes are very difficult to forget! I mean c'mon, we all remember eminem's lyrics, right?
  • Symbols (e.g. a swastika, the peace sign, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and efficiently. You could draw a huge number of symbols on paper right now if you wanted to,  symbols which you unconsciously commited to memory. Odd, right?

To illustrate this, let me give you an example:

If you were told the numbers of deaths caused by smoking every year (let's say 639.208), would you remember that exact figure three months from now? Probably not. But what if you were told this figure was equal to three fully loaded Boeing 747 planes crashing into earth every day for a year, with no survivors? Leaving a huge burning wreckage, with blood and guts everywhere in its wake. That image you'd remember, for a while. Making it easier to remember.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and for good reason. This image generation has a powerful impact on emotions and physiological states and therefore a high impact on brain functions.[1. Goodale, M. A. (1995). Image and brain: The resolution of the imagery debate.] Making this easier to remember, the more vivdly you make the image.

Building a Memory Palace

To add on to that, there is a nifty trick menmonists (a.k.a. mental athletes) use to remember things even more easily. They use a so called loci method (also known as memory palace or mind palace), which makes use of the spatial memory. This can be extremely powerful, and I'll explain why.

Have you ever noticed that you can easily visualize the exact way you drive to school or work everyday? I mean just close your eyes and imagine you cycling or driving this exact route right now. Most likely, you have zero problem doing this, and that's because our brains are wired to have an impeccable spatial memory. As our ancestors used to hunt and gather to survive, they needed to know their environment in great detail. Evolution made the brain-region responsible for this very, very developed (Hippocampus region).

The Greeks were the first to figure this out. The full background of the technique can be found here. Okay, I digress... the point is that one's familiar environment can be used as a place to store information.

This is done by encoding information into an image (visualization) and then putting it into your spatial memory, by putting it in a pre-selected location in your mind (let's say, on your doorstep on route to school/work, and on the intersection you cross, on the billboard next to the highway, etc.). 
 
To further clarify this concept, let me give you two examples to show how the Pro's use it to remember insane amounts of information in no-time:

Memorize 100+ digits with ease

Memorize a deck of cards in under a minute

I understand these above two examples might not be particularly helpful in everyday life, more like at parties and stuff, but the underlying technique is. Let's say you struggle with remembering names of new people you meet (I do). Well, based on what you've learned so far, you should now be able to associate a name with some sort of image. Visualization!

Okay, so you just met John Taylor, a new colleague at work. To be able to remember his first AND last name you decide to create an image that would instantly pop-up whenever you see John. You decide to go for the image a Tailor (a guy that makes custom suits) with the appearance of your other made John (if you would have another friend named John, who you've known for a long time). Be creative! Use characters from movies or video-games if necessary, or visualize objects that remind you of names.

For text written on page, the same things apply. Let's say you have to learn 50 words from your German vocabulary book. If you use the list above to make the learning process as vivid as possible, you'll commit them to memory in no-time. (E.g. use multiple senses, so write down & read out loud, for difficult words create an image and put it in your mind palace) 

If you're not yet convinced of the power of the Loci method, here is a great Ted-talk given by Joshua Foer:

I hope I sparked your interest in the topic, as there is a LOT more to learn about it. A simple Google-search of 'mnemonics' can help you find out more about the magic that goes on in our attic full of gray matter. For now, I keep it at this before this section gets too long. Please do let me know whether you liked what you read and what your successes are with any of the techniques I mentioned (comment section)!

This is only our second post, so please show some love in the comment section or via social media if you enjoyed the read. Thanks!

Top 100 Best Free Online Courses From Top Universities Worldwide 2017 (MOOCs)

Top 100 Free Online Courses
From Top Universities Worldwide
in 2017 (MOOCs)

​More and more Ivy League and other top-ranking institutions, such Harvard, Yale, MIT, Berkeley and Stanford, are offering free online courses that anyone can participate in. These "Massive Online Open Courses" (in short MOOCs), give students worldwide the chance to obtain degrees from famous universities, free from the constraints of geography and socioeconomic status.

Normally, these schools are normally highly selective and very difficult to get into. Now YOU have the chance to get involved and freely enroll in their courses!

These elite institutions currently offer a few hundred courses online, divided over a number of online course platforms. The former exclusivity of these programmes is slowly dissolving, now that today you can freely enroll in any of the courses (listed below). As long as you have a proper internet connection.

Let's say you complete a course. Then you can often choose to get an official certificate (for a relatively low price), which can be used as visual proof of completion (for a future employer for example). Whether you completed it with or without a diploma, you have the knowledge either way. And putting the words "Harvard" or "Yale" on your CV after completion definitely makes you stand out from all other job-applicants. Which further increases your odds to get that dream job you always wanted.

Now, I have assembled the list below through a number of dedicated search engines[1. These include: www.class-central.com. , www.coursera.org , www.edx.org ] Naturally, all of the Universities cover a wide range of different subjects in their online courses. So to make it easy for you, I have taken the liberty to divide them into different categories[2. We ranked all courses on number of reviews received (with an overall average of over 4 starts)]. This, while filtering out courses that have very similar content, to prevent overlap. So for example, there is only 1 HTML course, not 4, while they all might have many positive reviews.

For the most popular course on edX (from Harvard) click HERE. For the most popular course on Coursera (Rated by over 21.000 people!) click HERE.

Course Categories

You can click on each category, which will take you to the designated subject on the page. Saves you some scrolling. Furthermore, clicking on any of the course-titles below will take you directly to the webpage where you can enroll in it. If you find our list useful, please don't forget to share it. This helps other people find it too!

Business & Management Courses

Marketing in a Digital World

University of Illinois via Coursera

(Rated by: 2512 )

Business Metrics for Data-Driven Companies

Duke University via Coursera

(Rated by: 2466 )

Strategic Management

Copenhagen Business School via Coursera

(Rated by: 1162 )

Design Thinking for Innovation

University of Virginia via Coursera

(Rated by: 849 )

Managing Data Analysis

John Hopkins University via Coursera

(Rated by: 719 )

Foundations of Everyday Leadership

University of Illinois via Coursera

(Rated by: 425 )

Internet Giants: The Law and Economics of Media Platforms

The University of Chicago via Coursera

(Rated by: 326 )

Construction Project Management

Columbia University via Coursera

(Rated by: 238)

Leadership Through Social Influence

Northwestern University via Coursera

(Rated by: 222 )

Innovation Management

Erasmus University Rotterdam via Coursera

(Rated by: 163 )

Entrepreneurship in Emerging Countries

Harvard University via edX

(Rated by: 111 )

Arts & Humanities Courses

A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment

Indian School of Business via Coursera

(Rated by: 2397 )

Introduction to Philosophy

The University of Edinburgh via Coursera

(Rated by: 1905)

Buddhism and Modern Psychology

Princeton University via Coursera

(Rated by: 1902 )

Moral Foundations of Politics

Yale University via Coursera

(Rated by: 738)

Model Thinking

University of Michigan via Coursera

(Rated by: 708 )

Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World: Lesser Vehicle

University of Virginia via Coursera

(Rated by: 458)

Global Diplomacy - Diplomacy in the Modern World

University of London via Coursera

(Rated by: 321)

Moralities of Everyday Life

Yale University via Coursera

(Rated by: 198 )

Effective Altruism

Princeton University via Coursera

(Rated by: 173)

De-Mystifying Mindfulness

University of Leiden via Coursera

(Rated by: 168 )

Modern & Contemporary American Poetry

University of Pennsylvania via Coursera

(Rated by: 130 )

Computer Science Courses

Software Processes and Agile Practices

University of Alberta via Coursera

(Rated by: 1229)

Algorithms, Part 1

Princeton University via Coursera

(Rated by: 1168)

Introduction to Typography

California Institute of Arts via Coursera

(Rated by: 1040)

Cryptography 1

Stanford University via Coursera

(Rated by: 800)

Cybersecurity and Its Ten Domains

University System of Georgia via Coursera

(Rated by: 726)

Machine Learning

Stanford University via Coursera

(Rated by: 284)

Google Cloud Platform Fundamentals

Google Cloud via Coursera

(Rated by: 266)

Introduction to User Experience Design

Georgia Institute of Technology via Coursera

(Rated by: 243)

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies

Princeton University via Coursera

(Rated by: 216)

Introduction to Computer Science

Harvard University via edX (Most popular course on edX!)

(Rated by: 146)

The Analytics Edge

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) via edX

(Rated by: 69)

Engineering Courses

The Age of Sustainable Development

Columbia University via Coursera

(Rated by: 1006)

Introduction to Engineering Mechanics

Georgia Institute of Technology via Coursera

(Rated by: 607)

Wind Energy

Technical University of Denmark via Coursera

(Rated by: 521)

Organic Solar Cells - Theory and Practice

Technical University of Denmark via Coursera

(Rated by: 426)

Greening The Economy: Sustainable Cities

Lund University via Coursera

(Rated by: 348)

Introduction to Physical Chemistry

University of Manchester via Coursera

(Rated by: 168)

General Chemistry: Concept Development and Application

Rice University via Coursera

(Rated by: 155)

Health & Medicine Courses

Stanford Introduction to Food and Health

Stanford University via Coursera

(Rated by: 3009)

Introductory Human Physiology

Duke University via Coursera

(Rated by: 1152)

The Addicted Brain

Emory University via Coursera

(Rated by: 841)

Epidemiology: The Basic Science of Public Health

The University of North Carolina via Coursera

(Rated by: 711)

Psychological First Aid

John Hopkins University via Coursera

(Rated by: 674)

Introduction to the Biology of Cancer

John Hopkins University via Coursera

(Rated by: 628 )

Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions

Higher School of Economics via Coursera

(Rated by: 476 )

Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials

John Hopkins University via Coursera

(Rated by: 410 )

Medical Neuroscience

Duke University via Coursera

(Rated by: 384 )

Epidemics - The Dynamics of Infectious Diseases

The Pennsylvania State University via Coursera

(Rated by: 376 )

Bioinformatics

University of Toronto via Coursera

(Rated by: 367 )

Social Sciences Courses

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

University of California, San Diego via Coursera

(Rated by: 21.974)

Buddhism and Modern Psychology

Princeton University via Coursera

(Rated by: 1902)

Positive Psychology

University of North Carolina via Coursera

(Rated by: 1312)

The Science of Everyday Thinking

University of Queensland via edX

(Rated by: 1163)

The Global Financial Crisis

Yale University via Coursera

(Rated by: 857)

Moral Foundations of Politics

Yale University via Coursera

(Rated by: 739)

Municipal Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne via Coursera

(Rated by: 619)

Introduction to International Criminal Law

Case Western Reserve University via Coursera

(Rated by: 500)

A Law Student's Toolkit

Yale University via Coursera

(Rated by: 283)

Roman Art and Archaeology

University of Arizona via Coursera

(Rated by: 174)

Justice

Harvard University via edX

(Rated by: 66)

Programming Courses

HTML, CSS and JavaScript

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology via Coursera

(Rated by: 5254)

An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python (Part 1)

Rice University via Coursera

(Rated by: 2935 )

Object Oriented Programming in Java

University of California, San Diego via Coursera

(Rated by: 2241 )

Introduction to Programming with MATLAB

Vanderbilt University via Coursera

(Rated by: 996)

Database Management Essentials

University of Colorado Sytem via Coursera

(Rated by: 907)

Principles of Game Design

Michigan State University via Coursera

(Rated by: 684)

Control of Mobile Robots

Georgia Institute of Technology via Coursera

(Rated by: 405)

Learn to Program: The Fundamentals

University of Toronto via Coursera

(Rated by: 342)

Beginning Game Programming using C#

Uiniversity of Colorado System via Coursera

(Rated by: 267)

Build Your First Android App

CentraleSupélec via Coursera

(Rated by: 260)

Education, Language & Teaching Courses

Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects

University of California, San Diego via Coursera

(Rated by: 21.974)

Chinese for Beginners

Peking University via Coursera

(Rated by: 2284)

Teach English Now! Foundational Principles

Arizona State University via Coursera

(Rated by: 1880)

First Step Korean

Yonsei University via Coursera

(Rated by: 1304)

English for Journalism

University of Pennsylvania via Coursera

(Rated by: 424)

Magic in the Middle Ages

Universitat de Barcelona via Coursera

(Rated by: 259)

Supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing

University of London via Coursera

(Rated by: 232)

How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper (Project-Centered Course)

École Polytechnique via Coursera

(Rated by: 164)

TOEFL Test Preparation: The Insider's Guide

Educational Testing Service (ETS) via edX

(Rated by: 132)

Work Faster Starting Today: Learn The Secrets That Triple Your Productivity

​Work Faster Starting Today: Learn The Secrets That Triple Your Productivity

Work Faster Starting Today: Learn The Secrets That Triple Your Productivity
Featured-Image

It doesn't matter whether you're still in school or you're crushing it in a career. An increase in productivity or improvement in overall memory would result in a game-changing improvement in our daily lives.

If you're like me, don't you often hear "I can't create any more hours in a day" or "I can't remember everything"? Or if you're one of those people, stop complaining. As we're here to shine a new light on the story.

Why is this important? Alright look, if taught to use effectively, a more efficient and  effective mind makes a world of difference. Just knowing how our minds work, you can remember stuff WAY quicker and get more done throughout the day.

So that's our goal for the day. Teach you more about your big hump of gray matter.
This makes you better equiped to achieve your goals (sooner), feel more relaxed and create more time off for possible passion projects (like this blog is for us!).

So please, relax for a moment, and imagine a world where you finish tasks early, your memory is razor-sharp and clear, and you never have trouble remembering names again. Sounds too good to be true, right? Think again.

After you finish reading this, you will notice some immediate changes if you start applying some of our tips throughout your day. And as you practice, these changes will become more and more evident, and in the long-term quite possibly even life-changing.

Are you ready? It's quite a read, so buckle up, get comfy and don't forget to bring some snacks!

PRO TIP! (Click Here!)

"It always seems impossible, until it's done." - Nelson Mandela

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Productivity Decoded

productivity-photo

The reason most people trying to learn how to be more productive at work start at working harder, is that it’s the most visible form of productivity.

It’s extremely difficult to correlate input with output. Were the three hours I spent writing that report this morning productive? Did the 15 e-mails I just sent really add value?

In most cases, it’s hard to know. Especially if you work in a large organization, it’s effectively impossible to know who is generating the results and who isn’t. Even in small organizations or one-man shops, it’s difficult to know which activities lead to real results.

And so, we assume the solution is to simply put in more hours. And that’s true, up to a point:

productivity-graph

After two to four hours a day or 10 to 20 hours per week, you cross a threshold where you can’t do any more high-level creative work but perhaps still have the energy to do managerial and administrative tasks. As these tasks require less focus and energy.

It usually is quite a struggle already to even get to a peak productivity state. This process is usually hindered by task switching. 'Task switching' is the correct term for the faulty term 'multi-tasking'.

Since there has been a lot of research in this field it is shown time and time again that everytime you get distracted by your phone, or simply switch to do something else, there is a cost.[1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/the-true-cost-multi-tasking ]

We fool ourselves. We are pretty good at switching back and forth quickly, so we THINK we are actually multi-tasking, but in reality we are not.

While task switch costs can be minimized by strategies like batching (doing related tasks at the same time) and deep work (blocking out long period of time for important tasks requiring deep thinking), it cannot be totally eliminated.

This is why it’s extremely difficult to achieve high levels of productivity when you are, for example, travelling all the time. As you then don’t have enough time to really ramp up to the peak of your productivity and focus.

Now you might be wondering "what about the negative productivity part? Is that even possible?". Yes it is. If you look at writers for example, they often work long hours in a day, especially right before a deadline. When they overwork themselves, they will start to descend into the negative part of the curve. Meaning that the work they do will be of such reduced quality, that they will have to go over it the next day to edit and remove the sections that are inadequate. This gulps up unnecessary time, hence negative productivity.

Based on research from Stanford [2. https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs181/projects/crunchmode/econ-hours-productivity.html ] it is proven that workers who worked sixty hour weeks were actually less productive than those who worked forty hour weeks. Constantly working more than 30-50 hours per week will harm your productivity. However, an occasional 50-60 hour week can't do much harm, but it's not sustainable. So negative productivity is a thing.

Working Smarter

Now we know how to max out on working harder, it's time to learn how to work smarter . Working smarter can be split into two parts, study and hacking. Both highly relevant in their own way, as you'll see.

work-smarter

Study

Study is the process of learning new things. To effectively study, you should not limit yourself to only consuming explicit knowledge. This being the 'dry' knowledge received from books. This kind of knowledge can be quite easily articulated and verbalized.

So while reading books is one of the best ways to develop yourself and learn more about what interests you, it can be hard to make all that knowledge 'stick'.

To fix this, while actually develop long-lasting knowledge, you should apply the knowledge to a situation. Doing this gives you tacit knowledge, the type of knowledge that can't really be written down or verbalized.

While you can read books about playing the guitar to get explicit knowledge, you will never learn how to be a productive guitar player until you develop the tacit knowledge through actually practicing guitar.

The same is true of every area of expertise. As Stephen King wrote about writers:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

While we're at it, here's another quote out of a book I implore you to read:
“Information is useless if it is not applied to something important, otherwise you will forget it before you have a chance to apply it.” -Timothy Ferris, The 4-hour Workweek

Hacking your Productivity

The other component of working smart is using so-called “productivity hacks.” Within the time you are doing projects to gain tacit knowledge, there are certain things you can do to increase your effectiveness.

hackin-gif

Let's say 99% of everything written ever about productivity falls into this category, simply because it is the most marketable. It usually requires very little time to implement and yields immediate rewards, exactly what consumers love to buy. This is not to say they aren’t useful, they really are, but that if you start from the premise of “I want to be more productive,” productivity hacks are a relatively small piece of the formula.

That being said, here are some I personally found quite useful:

  • Create a morning ritual to standardize the first thirty minutes to an hour of your day. Meditate as a part of it.
  • Use jumpcut to save a list of things you have copied. So you have a list for later reference.
  • Speed up your cursor speed in your settings. Simple, but often overlooked.
  • Use a text expander to save commonly used phrases (such as your address or commonly typed URLs).
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique to work in chunks. This technique truly saves copious amounts of time.
  • Use Freedom.to to block yourself from distracting websites during your creative/grinding time.
  • At the end of the day or week, make a list of your least valuable tasks and ask: “Is it profitable?” If not, stop doing it. If yes, can you delegate it?
  • Make a “Not To Do List” which lists all the things you frequently waste time on. (answering unknown numbers, responding to emails that should be archived, saying yes to meetings without a clearly defined purpose and agenda).
  • Use platforms like Upwork and Fancy Hands to outsource tasks which can be done for less than your hourly rate.
  • Use Calendly or similar services to schedule meetings. Saves you a lot of back and forth hassle.
  • Use Lastpass to store all your saved passwords.
  • Use The Email Game to process your email quicker and less often.
  • Plan your days and weeks around your natural rhythms. If you’re a morning person, don’t leave the most important work for the afternoon or evenings, and if you’re a night owl, don’t feel guilty about sleeping later.
  • Save articles to the Pocket and read them on your phone instead of leaving twenty tabs open.
  • Use Clippings.io to sync your kindle highlights with Evernote so you can easily search through all your book notes.
  • Read and implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done system for task management (Check out the book!).
  • Batch similar tasks into one chunk. E.g. Cook everything for the week on Sunday afternoon and save it for reheating or pay all your bills on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. Efficiency bitch!

Credits for this list go to: Taylor Pearson.

While all these tips and tools can really help you be more productive, you have to use them carefully. What I mean with this is that you might think using these tools more and more often, but that in the end they start to be a distraction to you, making you lose focus of the real task at hand.

productive-effective-image

Building Resilience

Another part of productivity is often referred to as resilience. For our non-native English readers, we'll define this. Resilience can be thought of as mental toughness when faced with uncertainty and/or stress. If you are resilient, you can stay productive and will easily adapt to, and cope well with distracting and uncertain situations. Please keep in mind that there are many kinds of resilience, thus this definition is not all-encompassing.

In this example, you should see resilience more as a skill to keep your productivity levels high throughout your day by minimizing distractions. Hereby optimizing productivity by getting into deep work easier and staying in this flow state longer.

If you’re trying to build resilience at school or work, you need adequate internal and external recovery periods. While adequate amounts of sleep is obviously the most straightforward advice, there is much more to it.

resilience-quote

As researchers Zijlstra, Cropley and Rydstedt write in their 2014 paper[2. Zijlstra, F. R. H., Cropley, M., & Rydstedt, L. W. (2014). From recovery to regulation: An attempt to reconceptualize ‘recovery from work’. Stress and Health, 30(3), 244-252.] : “Internal recovery refers to the shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, by shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for the initial task are temporarily depleted or exhausted. External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of work—e.g. in the free time between the workdays, and during weekends, holidays or vacations. Where you go "off-the-grid" and recharge more fully.”

If you really want to build resilience, you can start by strategically stopping work or study. Give yourself the resources to be tough by creating internal and external recovery periods. This can be done by using recent technology/tools to control overworking.
I really suggest downloading the Instant or Moment apps to see the amount of times you turn on your phone each day. The average person turns on their phone 150 times per day.[3. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2013/05/cellphone-users-check-phones-150xday-and-other-internet-fun-facts/ .] If every distraction took only 1 minute (which would be seriously optimistic), that would account for 2.5 hours of every day.

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If all the above doesn't suffice, you can use apps like Offtime or Unplugged to create tech free zones by strategically scheduling automatic airplane modes, if you're really having trouble staying off your phone. Additionally, you can take a cognitive break every 90 minutes to recharge your batteries.

Lastly, try to not have lunch at your desk, but instead spend time outside or with your friends — not talking about work. Take all of your paid time off, which not only gives you recovery periods, but is proven to raise productivity overall and heightens your chances of promotion [4. https://hbr.org/2015/06/are-the-people-who-take-vacations-the-ones-who-get-promoted.]

The 80/20 Principle

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You probably heard of it already from Mr. Tim Ferris, if not, oh boy! you got some reading to do! So for you guys that don't know, the 80/20 principle, often refered to as 'Pareto's Principle', is a way of optimizing your time to be more efficient (and effective).

I will not go into the background of this theory, for that you should go and read 'The Four Hour Workweek'. Which is a book you should definitely read regardless of what I say (you can check it out here (US) and here (EU)). So no background, but what I will do is give you a quick explanation of the theory and a framework to do a 80/20 analysis of your life.

The 80/20 principle works like this: "20% of your actions, inputs, products or services will create 80% of what you want - whatever you want that to be."

Harvard Business Review has proven that practically everything is unimportant. Pareto's Principle has been applied to almost every human endeavor, from software development to investing. (Two examples: 90% of Warren Buffet's wealth is from only ten investments and, in sales, typically more than 80% of revenue comes from only 20% of the sales teams.)

When looking at our own productivity from this perspective, we can cut the 80% of our tasks or projects that are unimportant or don't contribute to our end goals and still achieve 80% of the desired effect (can be money, productivity, etc.). We can remove the fluff, the clutter, the unnecessary, to save time (and often money).

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So how would you do this? Do an 80/20 Analysis:

Step 1: Ask the following questions and write the answers down, preferably by hand.

IN BUSINESS

  • What 20% of sources are creating 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
  • What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% or my desired outcomes & happiness?

IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE

  • What 20% of sources are creating 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
  • What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% or my desired outcomes & happiness?

Step 2: The follow-up questions.

  • If I was completely incapacitated and had to work max. two hours per day – what would I focus on?
  • If I was even more incapacitated and had to work two hours per WEEK – what would I focus and prioritize to get done?
  • What are the top three activities I use to fill time and feel as though I’ve been productive (e-mail)? What are my CRUTCH activities?
  • When do I feel STARVED FOR TIME? What commitments, thoughts, and people can I eliminate to fix this problem?

Step 3: Most Important! Take some goddamn action!

  • 20% biggest impact positive things -> Defines TO DO LIST
  • 20% most negative things -> Defines NOT TO DO LIST
  • What is the financial impact (or other relevant impact) of each of these activities?
  • Can the activities in the unnecessary 80% be eliminated? How?
  • Or can these activities be delegated? How?
  • Perhaps these activities be automated? How?
  • Do your research! To give you some pointers, think about virtual assistants (google it!) for delegation / automation. Read books on the topic (like The Four Hour Workweek!) . Be creative!
  • Define CONCRETE steps (especially next steps) for how to do each of the above. Lay out the possible losses from eliminating and rank your activities in this way. Lay out a roadmap of steps to take for overcoming possible mistakes in elimating.
  • Focus on eliminating as much as possible FIRST.
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