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You’ve Been Using Your Brain Wrong: Human Brains Aren’t Designed to Remember Things

You’ve Been Using Your Brain Wrong: Human Brains Aren’t Designed to Remember Things

If you think that the secret to effective brainpower is to stuff it with as much information as possible using your memory, think again.

Look at this.

This is what will appear in your mind when I ask you to recall the night view in the city.

    When it comes to memory, our brains are typically no better than an 8GB USB storage device.

    In the modern world, information bombards us constantly. And if we rely on our 8GB capacity to memorize as much as possible, the only way to make it fit is to store it at a low resolution. When we come to review what we’ve learned, we’re dismayed to find only ‘blurred’ information and vague approximations of what was so clear when we experienced it.

    In the past the top priority for human brains was survival

    Let’s leave the modern world of computers behind for a moment, and travel back in time to when the informational landscape was very different.

    Put yourself in the prehistoric shoes of one of your early ancestors.

    The prehistoric environment was challenging and harsh. So for much of your time you’d have been motivated by basic survival – how to sustain your life (food, shelter, relationships); and how to deal with threats (predatory animals, weather conditions).

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    In other words, ‘prehistoric-you’ would not have elevated memorization to be a primary goal, but would have prioritized processing information like thinking ‘this is a dangerous area’, ‘this is edible’.

    The more civilized we got, the more we needed to remember

    As civilization advanced – with the development of spoken and written language – the memorization of information that didn’t have immediate survival benefits became useful. It allowed people to communicate with others and learn how to act based on the experiences of others, without having to deal with mistakes and risks first-hand. Nevertheless, the amount of information available to an individual was still relatively limited compared to today’s standards, and could therefore be savoured and reflected upon.

    But here in the modern world we have unparalleled access to information – books, TV, radio, game consoles, mobile phones, and of course the Internet – which has resulted in an explosion of information consumption. Both a blessing and a curse, we’re now able to exchange masses of knowledge at a faster rate than ever before. But now we need to learn how to handle too much information.

      Photo credit: Source

      If we still rely on our brains we’ll be overwhelmed

      Every day we consume a whopping 34GB of information[1]. Add to that the 50,000 thoughts we generate each day [2], and it becomes clear that we’re not up to the task of managing information from memory alone – we need to find a way of outsourcing this task.

      Now try this.

      Look at the following string of numbers for 5 seconds and store them in your memory in the correct order:

      92748109382301832

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      Now calculate:

      9 x 23 = ?

      14 x 13 = ?

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      (The answers: 207 and 182)

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      Now try to recall the long chain of numbers. How many can you recall? I tried this with several of my colleagues and, not surprisingly, none of them could remember the whole chain.

      Had you been given just one of the tasks, no doubt you would have done a better job. But because you were trying to both memorize and process at the same time, your brain was under greater strain. This is what your brain has to contend with all the time.

      Our brains are not designed to record information accurately and objectively. Trying to take in too much information results in us becoming overloaded and overwhelmed. What’s more, we interfere with what our brains are truly great at – processing information and being inventive and creative.

        Photo credit: Source

        How to free up the space in your brain

        Just because information is now at our fingertips, it doesn’t mean we should become slaves to it.

        We should be more like our prehistoric selves, and instead of being dominated by information, we should know how and when to access information to fulfil our needs.

        We need to free up any space that is used for pointless memorization so that the brain can do what it does best – process information. We’d like to introduce two great ways that you can achieve this –

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          Photo credit: Source

          Develop Your ‘Pocket Brain’

          Outsource the job of memorization by designing a system to organize and store potentially useful information. A computer is of course a great tool for accurate storage and reliable retrieval.

          The important idea here is to become a skilled information handler rather than trying to stuff your brain with information.

          Keep an eye open for future articles where we show you exactly how you can create and use your pocket brain for all kinds of information.

          Meaningful Learning

          As well as your pocket brain, you also need to know how to make the most of the memory that you do have to achieve meaningful learning.

          The desired outcome is to make information so relevant to you that it becomes effortless to activate it when you need it. For example, think about how effortlessly you speak your mother tongue – it’s knowledge that’s become a part of who you are.

          Watch this space – we’re going to be showing you how to practice meaningful learning in future articles.

          Reference

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on July 29, 2020

          19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

          19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

          Whether you use your Mac for work or just for your personal projects, you’ve likely found yourself wondering how to improve your productivity. There are only so many hours in a day, and so much mental stamina you can muster before you run out.

          There are dozens of tricks you can use to improve your own productivity and outlook, but if you’re looking for a more objective, comprehensive fix, the best thing to do is equip your Mac with productivity apps designed to help you do more in less time.

          This Lifehack-exclusive list has some of the best productivity apps to help you feel less tired, improve your energy, and ultimately help you get more done every day:

          1. Todoist

            Available for all iOS devices, Todoist is a note-taking and organization app that can keep you on top of all your projects—both personal and professional.

            Its best features are all free to use, including browser extensions, task creation, and interactive boards you can use to organize all your notes.

            If you want to pay the optional $29 yearly fee, you can get even more advanced features like backups and automatic reminders. Even with the free version, you’ll stay far more organized.

            Download: Todoist

            2. 1Password

              You may not realize it, but you probably spend a ton of time recalling your passwords, especially if and when you forget one to an app you use on a regular basis.

              1Password is an app for Mac that saves and remembers all your passwords for you in one place, so you can access all your favorite sites with a single click.

              You’ll save time and keep all your accounts secure simultaneously. A personal plan is $2.99 per month.

              Download: 1Password

              3. Bear

                Bear is a unique kind of note-taking app designed to make it easier for Mac users to jot down notes on the go. With it, you can create to-do lists, give yourself reminders, and outline concepts for future brainstorming sessions.

                It comes with many different inline styles so you can customize your notes to your personal preferences, and remember the context in which you wrote them. The core version is free, with a $14.99 per year version available as well.

                Download: Bear

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                4. Hazel

                  Hazel by noodlesoft is an automated organization tool designed for Mac that will help you automatically organize your files based on any custom rules you want to create.

                  For example, you can set it to move untouched items from one folder into another folder labeled “action items” if they haven’t been addressed within a week. It can save you hours of organization over the course of a few weeks. A single license is a flat $32.

                  Download: noodlesoft

                  5. Alfred

                    Alfred is an all-in-one app designed to save you time with Mac shortcuts and convenient custom actions. You can use it in a variety of ways.

                    For example, you can access Alfred’s clipboard memory so you don’t copy and paste the same material over and over, or set up custom workflows to automate some of your most repetitive tasks.

                    It’s a paid app, with multiple price points based on the features you desire.

                    Download: Alfred

                    6. TextExpander

                      TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to type a short snippet of text, and expand that text automatically.

                      For example, you can create a custom expansion that allows you to conjure a full paragraph you type repeatedly by simply typing a unique abbreviation. Once you get used to your custom combinations, you’ll spare your fingers from typing thousands of words.

                      An individual account is $3.33 per month.

                      Download: TextExpander

                      7. Backblaze

                        If you’ve ever experienced a crash, or theft of your Mac, you know how much time a system restore can cost you. You’ll spend hours replacing the files you lost, and lose thousands of files that are irreplaceable.

                        Backblaze is an automated, inexpensive way to back up your entire Mac for just $5 a month.

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                        Download: Backblaze

                        8. Keyboard Maestro

                          Keyboard Maestro is an older app that still has the power to make your life easier. With it, you can automate any number of tasks based on a certain trigger (such as a hotkey combination, or an event like connecting to a wireless network). A single license only costs $36.

                          Download: Keyboard Maestro

                          9. Snagit

                            There are many applications for a good screen-capture app, whether you’re trying to illustrate a tech problem you have or just want to make an interesting meme. Snagit makes it easy, with built-in editing for both still images and video. A single license covers two machines, and costs $49.95.

                            Download: TechSmith/Snagit

                            10. Bartender

                              Bartender is the cleverly-named app that helps you clean up and organize all your menu bar icons. You can also access them quickly with keyboard shortcuts.

                              If you’re like most Mac users, those icons get cluttered quickly and stop you from working efficiently. It’s free to try for 4 weeks, after which you’ll need a $15 license.

                              Download: Bartender

                              11. Otter

                              Otter is the Mac app for the note taker who hates typing. It’s an intelligent voice-recognition system and note-taking app that will help you transcribe your conversations, keep notes during meetings, and even take contextual notes to yourself in your own time.

                              Best of all, it’s free to get started!

                              Download: Otter

                              12. Flux

                                Do you often find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, or feeling unable to get to sleep after a day of staring at your computer? That could be because of the unnatural blue light that radiates from your Mac.

                                Flux naturally adapts your display to emit light that matches the time of day, so you can sleep better and feel less tired. It’s also free!

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                                Download: Flux

                                13. PDFpen

                                If you deal with PDFs on a regular basis, you probably find yourself wishing for some kind of tool that can let you mark up those PDFs however you want. Without a dedicated app like PDFpen, this can be difficult.

                                PDFpen lets you edit PDFs in almost any conceivable way, giving you more power and saving you time. A single license is $74.95.

                                Download: Smile Software/PDFpen

                                14. OmniFocus

                                  OmniFocus is all about task management. It has a clean interface that allows you to tag your tasks, schedule events, and even automate certain features.

                                  It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it.

                                  A standard license is $39.99, while the pro version is $79.99.

                                  Download: OmniFocus

                                  15. Franz

                                    It’s tiring to switch between dozens of different chat programs like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, whenever you want to have a conversation with a different contact.

                                    Franz’s solution is simple; offer access to all these apps in one convenient package. And best of all, it’s completely open source.

                                    Download: Franz

                                    16. MindNode

                                      If you’re the brainstorming type, you need an app like MindNode to help you efficiently organize your thoughts. There are dozens of tools you can use to connect ideas in a mind map, or simply jot down notes for future reference.

                                      The core app is free, with in-app purchases available.

                                      Download: MindNode

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                                      17. Focus

                                        The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be awfully distracting. And if you’re like the majority of us, you’ve interrupted work on a project because of some attention-grabbing site or bad online habit. That’s where Focus comes in.

                                        This app allows you to block the worst offenders with custom time limits and other constraints, so you can focus on the task at hand. A single license is $19.99.

                                        Download: Focus

                                        18. CleanMyMac

                                          Chances are, your Mac isn’t working as fast as it could, thanks to gigabytes of clutter and unnecessary files on your system. CleanMyMac helps you scan your Mac, monitor its health, and ultimately clean it up—so you can handle all your tasks that extra bit faster. A single license is $39.95.

                                          Download: CleanMyMac

                                          19. Grammarly

                                            A spelling error or grammatical mistake can cost you big time. It could be the source of a worse grade on a big paper, or compromise your credibility in the workplace. Thankfully, Grammarly can help you.

                                            This Mac-integrated writing assistant monitors all your writing and makes live corrections, so you’re alerted to your potential mistakes before they become permanent.

                                            A free version exists, but the premium version will cost you between $11 and $30 a month, depending on how you pay.

                                            Download: Grammarly

                                            The Bottom Line

                                            These productivity apps should help you squeeze more productive hours out of every day, but they aren’t the only tools you’ll have to help you find success.

                                            Make the time to learn about and experiment with all the life hacks that can make you more productive. By improving your devices as well as your outlook and focus, you’ll be able to get far more done in a day, and feel better doing it.

                                            More to Boost Productivity

                                            Featured photo credit: Patrick Ward via unsplash.com

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