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10 Productive Tools I Wish I’d Known About Before

10 Productive Tools I Wish I’d Known About Before

It’s amazing what a huge effect a few apps can have on your productivity. Since I started testing out software like mad two years ago, I’ve discovered more and more ways to get things done more efficiently and more effectively. With the help of just these ten productive tools I have dramatically increased the quantity and quality of my output. Read about each of them below.

1. 2Do ($9.99)

There are a lot of free to-do list applications out there, and some of them are pretty great. Wunderlist is one that immediately springs to mind. Why, then, did I choose a $10 app? Because 2Do has every feature you could ever think of while still offering a very streamlined experience. For people with even the most hectic and complicated schedules, 2Do will fulfill all your needs. For those with less to organize, it’s an easy-to-use application that has everything you might ever want. It’s available for iOS and Android at the price listed above.

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2. Mint (Free)

Money plays a big role in all our lives, so it makes sense that you would have productive tools that help you manage it. Mint is among the best ways to manage your money from multiple sources, organizing your various accounts in one place. For everything from your bank accounts to your credit cards to loans to even your PayPal account, Mint has you covered.c

3. Scrivener ($45)

I’ll come out and say it: Microsoft Word sucks. It’s cluttered, it’s clunky and it’s nowhere near intuitive. Word is one of those productive tools that we’ve been forced to use for years due to its dominance in the marketplace, but Scrivener is becoming a more and more viable contender for your word processor. Scrivener treats every page of your document as a separate file, which sounds like a small feature but will revolutionize how you work on long projects. Between that and its intuitive design, Scrivener (available for Windows and Mac) is highly recommended.

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4. Google Drive (Free)

A cloud storage service is an absolute must on a list of productive tools. There are a number to choose from. While Dropbox was a major contender for this spot, Google Drive wins out for more people’s needs. Whereas you have to go through extra steps to add storage to your Dropbox account, Google Drive automatically comes with a respectable 15 GB to store emails, photos and other data. If you want more space, Google has it for the very affordable prices of just $2/month for 100 GB or $10/month for 1TB. This is in addition to Google’s brilliantly simple apps connected to Google Drive, productive tools that are great for collaboration and serve as great free alternatives for Microsoft Office software. Google Drive is available on any platform.

5. Mailbox (Free)

A lot of us use our email inboxes as de facto to-do lists, even if we already have an app like 2Do or Wunderlist for that purpose. That was a bad idea until productive tools like Mailbox arrived on the scene. Mailbox, available for iOS, Android and Mac, allows you to store emails for later viewing without having to archive them. It also has the innovative ability to “snooze” emails until the date and time of your choice, so that they’ll pop back up in your inbox right when you need them. This is especially great if you have to follow up with people who don’t always reply to the first email you send.

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6. GoodReader ($4.99)

iBooks and other default applications are completely satisfactory ways to read PDFs, but who wants to settle for satisfactory? Productive tools like GoodReader make reading on a tablet or a phone the best experience out there and also give you the power to edit documents. GoodReader itself is only available for iOS but you can find some alternatives for Android here.

7. Feedly (Free)

Even most internet users are getting their news in an antiquated way. Instead of browsing dozens of sites to get updates from all your favorite sources, you can use a service like Feedly to compile articles and blog posts in one place where you get to read them ad-free. The experience becomes even better when you get a third-party app like Reeder to read the content you’ve compiled on your computer, tablet, or phone.

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8. Pocket (Free)

An app that goes hand-in-hand with Feedly, Pocket lets you save things you find on the internet for later reading. For example, if you come across an awesome article that you don’t have time to read right away, save it to Pocket with either the browser extension on a PC or a share function on a mobile device so that you can enjoy it at a time of your convenience.

9. Skitch (Free)

There are some really fancy options for annotating images and documents, but those options are rarely necessary. Most of the time when you’re marking something you’re doing it in a hurry. Skitch is an expert at the rush job, making it painless to annotate and mark up images and documents sent to you to review.

10. Evernote (Free)

Evernote is one of the most beloved and powerful tools for productivity out there. The developers describe it as your external brain, and the description is accurate. Your account is made up of notes you write, notebooks to contain your notes, and stacks to organize your notebooks. Almost any kind of information, whether it be reminders, facts or ideas, can be stored in Evernote in the form of either text, pictures or audio. Its uses are almost infinite, and everyone can take advantage of it in a different way. For some, it’s a simple note-taking app in which they can jot down to-dos, musings and reminders. Others store pretty much their entire lives in their Evernote account. The magic of that is that the more you put into Evernote, the more you get out of it. The browser extension that allows you to “clip” articles from the web directly into your notebooks and Evernote’s wide-ranging syncing abilities with all kinds of digital services only make it stronger. Evernote has a $5/month premium service, but all its key features are absolutely free of price.

Featured photo credit: Evernote Trunk Conference Entrance/Brooks Duncan via flickr.com

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Matt OKeefe

Freelance Writer, Marketer

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Last Updated on October 17, 2018

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

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Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

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Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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