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How to Boost Human Memory From 8GB to 300GB With a Second Brain

How to Boost Human Memory From 8GB to 300GB With a Second Brain

Human brains are overwhelmed by facts, figures and endless information. It’s no wonder that most people have problems remembering things.

Every day our brains try to process 34GB of information, and every day our brains have about 50,000 thoughts.[1] It’s enough to make your head spin. Even if you believe that you have a good memory, you’ll still be unable to remember everything you see, hear or think. It’s not humanly possible.

For the vast majority of us, our brains are unreliable for memory tasks. Just try thinking about what you did yesterday. You’ll be able to recall the major events, but what about casual conversations or the food you ate. Can you recall everything in detail? Most likely, you’ll find that your memories are vague and imprecise.

Human Minds Have Become Overwhelmed

It’s a sad fact of life, that as human civilization has advanced – the more each of us need to remember.

If you were to travel back in time to live with primitive man, you would find life was simpler. Your memory would only be needed for interactions with your small social circle, animals and nature. At that time, knowledge was all about the essentials of how to live safely and securely.

Thousands of years later, we’re now living in an information age. While this has brought many advantages, it’s also brought a requirement for individuals to remember more and more. This includes complex languages, social and legal rules, historical facts and figures.

When we were young, we were taught the importance of memorizing things. This could include learning the multiplication table at school, a musical instrument in an evening, and studying religion on a weekend. In other words, even as little children, our brains are bombarded with information that we need to store in our memories – and recall at the appropriate times. I talked about this in my other article You’ve Been Using Your Brain Wrong: Human Brains Aren’t Designed to Remember Things

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    If you’re over the age of 40, you’ll recognize the above, but you’ll also say that your brain was able to cope with all the knowledge and information that came your way. And you’d be right. However, when the internet was launched in the early ’90s, a tipping point of information overload occurred.

    Suddenly, we needed to remember and digest tons of new information in order to survive. To take just one example, how many online usernames and passwords do you have? It’s probably dozens, and if you’re like most people, you’ll struggle to remember all the combinations.

    Let’s be honest, human memories are far from perfect, and it’s impossible to remember everything in today’s age.

    Is there a savior to end our memory woes? Yes.

    Your smartphone, laptop and tablet can offer much more than just calling, texting and social media. With the right tools installed, you can free your human brain and make you life easier and more efficient.

    As the title of this article suggests, a “second brain” could be just what you need. But what exactly is this? It’s an external brain that stores all the information you need to know and remember.

    The good news is that this second brain can be utilized through your existing smart devices. Because this external brain is so handy, I’ve personally nicknamed it the “pocket brain”.

    Let the Second Brain Give Your Memory a Much-Needed Boost

    With your very own pocket brain, you can give your human brain some breathing space, while at the same time boosting your ability to store and recall information.

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    When it comes to memory, our brains are typically no better than an 8GB USB storage device. However, with a pocket brain, you’ll immediately get a 300GB memory boost. You’ll also have easy, instant access to all the stored information.

    The electronic pocket brain is much more accurate at memorizing information than our biological brains. Words, images, and sounds, no matter what kind of information you need to memorize, a pocket brain can store it accurately and efficiently. Human memories, on the other hand, tend to be blurry. You may recall the general picture of something, but you’ll usually struggle to recall all the minute details.

    When you store information in a pocket brain, you free up room in your brain to do and think other things. You may not have realized it, but it takes significant human brain energy to process information, and to think and create things. If you have to waste this valuable brain energy on memorizing things, you’ll have less energy to work on ideas and problem-solving as I talked about in my previous article How Clutter Drains Your Brain (and What You Can Do About It)

    I don’t want to overload your brain with too much information in this article, so let’s cut straight to the meat of the matter. I’d like to recommend to you three great apps that I use to remember important things.

    First up…

    Airtable: organize and store information perfectly

      For example, you can easily enter than names of books you’ve read, movies you’ve watched, trips you’ve planned or products you plan to buy. These will appear in the app as a collection of books, movies or products. This has the immediate benefit of making your lists clear and organized.

      However, there’s much more to the app than just that. For each book, movie or product, you can enter additional information such as page lengths, movie directors and product specifications. There’s also space to add your thoughts and feelings about each item.

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      As you’d expect, once your content is in the app, you can perform pinpoint searches to find it.

      Sign up for Airtable here and install Airtable on your phone here.

      Evernote: jot down notes anywhere, anytime

        You’ve probably heard of this app, but you may not have tried it out.

        Its primary selling point is it’s amazing ability to let you jot down notes anywhere, anytime. These notes may consist of hand-typed information, images, or even links to webpages.

        Once you start to fill Evernote with data, you’ll be able to categorize and tag the information according to their purposes.

        For instance, if you’ve created several notes on possible hotels to stay at, you could categorize these under vacations, hotels or travel. You get to decide the categories and tags, making Evernote a very personal tool. The categories and tags make the retrieval of information super fast and super easy.

        Install Evernote in your phone here.

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        Fantastical Calendar: never forget important events any more

          I’ve talked a lot about information, but of course a major memory stress for many of us is remembering important birthdays, events and meetings. A paper calendar can certainly help with this, but it can be lost, damaged or left behind.

          Fantastical Calendar is an app and website that you can access from your smartphone, computer or tablet. Just like a paper calendar, you can write down important dates for the coming week, month, year, etc. However, Fantastical Calendar is way more powerful than its paper equivalent. You can use it to set reminders and alarms for important things, as well as setting up recurring events.

          For example, I often struggle to remember to pay some of the monthly or annual fees. With Fantastical Calendar, I cannot only have all the days correctly marked, but I can also set up reminders that tell me a few days in advance that I need to settle the payments.

          Fantastical Calendar has simplified my life, and I’m sure it can do the same for you.

          Install Fantastical Calendar here.

          Make Using the Pocket Brain Become Your Second Nature

          While a pocket brain can be an indispensable tool, you may find it hard to break your lifelong habit of trying to remember everything with your human brain. As you probably know – building a habit is no walk in the park.

          If you need help with habit building, take a look at our recently-published article How to Program Your Mind to Kick the Bad Habit and start to build a habit of storing information in your second brain. I also recommend this useful app Productive to help you adopt the new habit.

          Your human brain energy is too precious to be wasted on information overload. Instead, let the pocket brain sweat the small stuff and free your mind for greater things.

          Featured photo credit: Free Photo via pixabay.com

          Reference

          [1] SUBLIMINAL PRO: 50,000 Thoughts a Day

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          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on January 21, 2020

          Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus

          Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus

          Are you reading this article because you’re currently searching for a solution or method to help improve your focus? Trying to find a way to concentrate better so that you can get more done in your day? Or, do you feel like you spend a lot of time easily distracted on things other than what you’re meant to really be focusing on?

          Don’t worry, you’re not alone! As our society becomes more and more advanced, there is much more information for us to digest and more opportunities to experience. This can definitely be overwhelming and distracting! Whether it’s a work proposal that you’re trying to focus on writing, or a goal in life that you’re striving for, distractions do get in the way of your focus towards those important things in your life. And, the distractions come in a wide variety!

          For example, many of us are easily distracted by our mobile phones. Whether it’s the constant notifications popping up, or the need to scroll through your social media news feeds, these are all distractions that cost us time. There are also bigger distractions like wanting to go to a game on a beautiful day, or taking a weekend holiday even though you have a deadline due on Monday.

          What are Distractions?

          Let’s go deeper to break down and understand how distractions happen in the first place. Distractions are things that divert away your attention from the action that you’re trying to do. They make you lose focus and put you off track. The problem with distractions is that they not only cost time, they dilute your energy, too. Repeated interruptions of this sort can lead to demotivation, because you’ll feel like you’re overwhelmed… yet not getting anything done!

          Contrary to popular belief, our brains perform best when we’re focused on one objective at a time. We’re generally not good at constantly switching our attention between different tasks. Multiple studies have shown that when we do this, the performance of each task suffers compared to if we focused on them one by one. So multitasking isn’t the best option when it comes to wanting to get more done quickly.

          How Much Do Distractions Cost?

          As I mentioned previously, in today’s society, we’re faced with so much information that it’s easy to be bombarded by distractions.

          If you’re a typical working American, you’ll be distracted every 11 minutes; and, it will take you 25 minutes to settle down again to your task. Additionally, the more complicated your project, the longer it will take to regain your focus. This happens because your brain has to put in considerable effort when switching between complex objectives.

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          Distractions have a huge cost on our focus and productivity. If you want to improve or increase your focus, you need to learn to deal with the distractions in your life.

          Learn About Your Internal Distractions

          When it comes to distractions, we tend to think of them as external occurrences: your phone starts ringing, someone talks to you and interrupts your train of thought when you were immersed in something important, or the sudden onset of construction noise when you’re in an important meeting.

          It’s very easy to blame external distractions as the cause when you can’t focus. But, there’s actually a hidden type of distraction beneath the surface that is just as, if not more, responsible for taking away your focus. These are Internal Distractions.

          The problem with internal distractions is, if you’re not acutely aware of them, you can be wasting both time and energy without even knowing it. So, before tackling external distractions effectively, you first have to take care of your internal distractions.

          1. Priority Chaos

          There are a few types of internal distractions, but let’s start with probably the most common one: the concept of Priority Chaos.

          One of the most common distractions we encounter is that we have too many options on hand. This can cause priority chaos.

          For example, some people may find it hard to focus at home because there are too many options to choose from. You can choose to feed your dog, read a book, watch TV, have a snack or take a nap.

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          Besides the costs of distraction mentioned before, priority chaos is a big demotivator. When there are too many potentially attractive options, it’s hard to focus your energy and choose one of them – ideally the one you should be doing.

          Priority chaos is also a demotivator because it makes you feel guilty. When you let your internal distractions overtake your focus, you’re the one who chooses to divert your own attention and energy away from your task. So when the task you wanted to complete doesn’t get done, you can’t blame an external factor. Whether you do it consciously or not, you’ll end up blaming yourself!

          Why does priority chaos happen? Well, your brain subconsciously prioritizes tasks based on three factors:

          1. To fulfil an existing need. For example, you need to go to the bathroom urgently, so your brain is guaranteed to prioritize it.
          2. To achieve a certain feeling of satisfaction, such as the satisfaction of eating a delicious chocolate fudge cake.
          3. The perceived cost of achieving the benefit. What is the effort, energy or time required to complete this action?

          The brain automatically take these 3 factors into account even when you’re not thinking about it.  

          Unfortunately, unless you’re consciously making an effort, your brain is not always the best at making accurate judgement calls. It tends to have a bias towards short term benefits and short term costs.

          As there are often many more options our brains link to short term benefits, when you’re trying to focus on a task that gives you a long term benefit, that task usually becomes low priority. This is the essence of Priority Chaos.

          2. Long and Short Term Benefits

          As explained earlier, our brains are not good at evaluating and comparing short term and long term benefits.

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          Short term benefits usually have a relatively low cost and are concrete, allowing our brains to easily grasp them. We usually associate long term benefits with high cost, and these perceived costs are usually not as clear cut. The longer term it is, the more effort it takes to imagine the benefits. This automatically creates a mental barrier and resistance in our brains. As a result, we tend to trade long term gain for short term gains.

          This is the reason why you might know that something is good for you in the long term, such as losing weight and exercising, but for some reason, you can’t force yourself to feel excited about it. On the other hand, you might know that something is bad for you, such as binge eating junk food. But, the anticipation of short term satisfaction overwhelms your conscious ability to resist it.

          This is the next type of internal distraction that we face, and it is called Short & Long Term Mismatch. Thankfully, this can be tackled, too.

          How to Overcome Internal Distraction

          The good news is that it’s not so difficult to overcome these common internal distractions.

          The first step that you can take is to identify what task needs the most focus to get accomplished. Once you have that figured out, simply break down the that task into smaller, bite-sized tasks. Each bite-sized task should have a very clear short term benefit (something that you can easily describe in one sentence), and a very clear short term cost (something that you can quantify, such as time spent).

          For example, let’s say you have a grant proposal to write for an upcoming project at work. The first bite-sized task that you can accomplish is to outline the grant proposal and split it into 4 different categories. This will ensure that you cover everything that is needed, and allows you to focus on each section one at a time.

          Also, set a time limit or duration for each bite sized task. The time limit should be short enough so that it’s a no-brainer to want to check it off. Remember, the brain has a bias towards short term benefits, so it’s likely you’ll find it hard to resist checking off a bite-sized task!

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          The next step would be to evaluate your other options. Besides focusing on your grant proposal, what are all the possible things that you could be doing that would divert your attention away? Be realistic about what they are! Write them all down, and list out the benefits and the costs associated. You don’t have to write them down in detail, just a general description will do.

          For instance, instead of writing your proposal, you could spend 20 minutes watching a comedy series on Netflix. The benefit is that you get entertained and have a good laugh. The cost is that you’ve just lost 20 minutes of your time, and that comedy series did nothing to help you with the grant proposal.

          Once you have your list completed, start prioritizing them. You have a time limit, so you need to order your tasks by priority, starting with the focus task as your top priority. Then fit the others around it.

          For any remaining tasks on the list that won’t fit within your allocated time, don’t worry. You don’t have to give them up. Just schedule them for another time.

          If you want to improve your focus, check out our course Laser Focus with Purpose. Or you can take a look at these articles:

          Featured photo credit: Erik Lucatero via unsplash.com

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