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What Google Needs

What Google Needs

    Google has some insanely useful applications, the top of their field in many cases — and by mastering these tools, you can become a productivity ninja. But these apps — Gmail, Gcal, Google Reader, Google Docs, et al — they aren’t perfect.

    Don’t get me wrong — I love these apps. They are awesome, and I couldn’t bring myself to use anything else. But although they’ve come out with some minor upgrades recently, Google has been a little slow in upgrading their great apps with much-needed features. Perhaps they just need a little nudge.

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    Well here it is. Google, here are just a few of the features you need to add, pronto.

    Gmail

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    1. Sort features. You should be able to sort your inbox (or any folder/label) by date, sender, etc.
    2. Two panes. When you open an email, you shouldn’t have to leave the inbox view if you don’t want to.
    3. Dragging. You should be able to drag emails if you want, to re-arrange them, pop them in a label.
    4. Drag-n-drop and batch uploads. Why should we have to manually select each individual file attachment? Allow us to select a bunch of files, and drag them into an email.
    5. Progress bar. Speaking of uploads, if you’ve got some big files attached, and it takes awhile for Gmail to upload, Gmail should show you a progress bar so you know it’s working.
    6. Better integration with Gcal. This has been improving, but as of right now, you need to add third-party extensions to allow you to schedule stuff from an email into your Google Calendar, or to see your agenda for the day in Gmail. With two great tools like this, integration really should be complete.
    7. Unthread. I love the threaded conversations. It’s ingenius. It took me a couple of days to get used to this, back when Gmail first came out, but now it’s indispensable. Except when you don’t want emails to be threaded (if you email something to 50 people, for example). Give us a choice.
    8. Notification. I’m actually not a big fan of email notification, as they’re horribly distracting. But I know that others want it. You could use a third-party extension for this, but you shouldn’t need to.
    9. Open emails in new tab. Self explanatory. Firefox made me addicted to tabs. Why can’t I use them in Gmail?
    10. Read receipt. I wouldn’t use this much, but I think a lot of people find it useful.
    11. Message size. I should be able to see how big a message is, and sort by size. Would make deleting emails easier.
    12. Off-line reading. I love Gmail being online all the time, but what if my Internet connection is down, or I’m away from a wi-fi spot? How will I get my Gmail fix?

    Gcal

    Gcal
      1. To-do list. C’mon. This is pretty basic.
      2. Pop-up notifications. Yes, they have this already, except when Gcal isn’t open. I’d like to be notified at all times.
      3. Quick-add. There’s an extension for this, but it should be built in. Do a simple key combination, and enter an event. Voila.
      4. Off-line usage. Same complaint as Gmail — you should be able to save stuff and view your calendar even when you’re not connected to the Internet. I’m sure this is coming, but it should come sooner.
      5. Drag an event to another week. I love being able to drag an event to another day when I’m in “week” view … but what if it’s next week, or the next month? What then, Google?
      6. Icons. OK, this isn’t that necessary. But darn it, I’d like a little birthday cake next to the birthdays, and a little Christmas tree …

      Google Reader

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      1. Nothing much. This feed reader is pretty much perfect.
      2. Except. Off-line reading.
      3. And search! How is it that the king of search companies doesn’t have search in Reader?
      4. Also: someday/maybe list. If I unsubscribe to a feed, I might want to save it on a list to check out at a later date.

      Google Docs & Spreadsheets

      Google Docs
      1. Sharing with non-Google users. As far as I know, if you want to share a Google doc with someone, they’ll need to log in with a Google account to access it. Well, they shouldn’t have to.
      2. Drag-n-drop. When I’m looking at my list of docs, I should be able to re-sort them, put them into folders, drag them to my desktop, and drag documents from the desktop to Google Docs.
      3. Selecting text. I should be able to use the keyboard to select a paragraph of text, like you can in other word processors. Control-Shift-Up Arrow. It’s frustrating not to be able to do that.
      4. Spreadsheets. This app needs a lot of work. It’s so behind other spreadsheet programs it’s almost not usable. I can make some very basic spreadsheets, but it’s a lot more time consuming. Simple things, like being able to quickly do a Sum formula without having to click on the Formulas tab first. Keyboard shortcuts. Things like that.
      5. Off-line working. Same as above. This would be killer.

      Other apps Google needs

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      1. Glist. Instead of just adding a to-do list into Gcal, Google should come up with a really cool to-do list program, with multiple lists, project view, drag-n-drop, reminders, etc. Basically a Google GTD program, integrated tightly with Gmail, Gcal, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
      2. GMoney. There are a lot of personal finance programs out there, but Google needs one, integrated with its other features. I’m sure it will do this one day.
      3. GDrive. This has been discussed, but really, Google should put your hard drive online. Drag and drop files, sort them, put them in folders.
      4. GContacts. I like how Gmail automatically adds email address to your contact list. I barely even think about my contacts anymore. Until I want to look up a phone number. Then I have to go to Contacts, do a search, click on the contact … using the contact manager is one of the worst features in Gmail. Google should have a separate Contact manager, integrated with Gmail and Gcal. And make it really cool, kay?

      What features or apps would you like to see Google add? Let us know in the comments.

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      Leo Babauta

      Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

      The Gentle Art of Saying No How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life Simple Productivity: 10 Ways to Do More by Focusing on the Essentials How to Pare Your To-do List Down to the Essentials A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

      More About Goals Setting

      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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