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A Time for Paper?

A Time for Paper?

The folks over at DIYPlanner.com are really into paper, and because I wrote a piece for them, it caused me to really analyze what I do in my life with paper, and what I do electronically. I’ve come to realize that in my case, there’s a time for paper and a time for a more electronic means.

MindMapping

I am a fiend for the process of using mind maps for visual thinking. I draw out little mind maps on paper when making a decision, such as whether or not to purchase a new piece of computer gear. I use mind maps to help understand the process flow of things in my group, which helps because I can often see things through these drawings that I don’t catch when starting with a linear, list-based mode.

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And in this case, I use paper for the right-brained part of mind-mapping, but then I use MindManager6 by MindJet to get the map into something more useful and something I can pass on to others.

Lists

I have two flavors of lists: things I might need to remember for a short shelf-life, like a few days, and then things I might want as reference for a period of time, such as library books and movies that people recommend to me in the course of a week. For the short-term lists, I use paper, because it’s so much faster and easier to whip out my handy pad of paper and write a note than it is to struggle with the current state of PDA technology out there. Sure, I can use the Graffiti language, and yes, I’ve heard of Tablet PCs, but I can sit on my notepad, bend it, mangle it, and it still willingly accepts and instantly recognizes my writing.

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In the case of Getting Things Done, I use 37 Signals’ Backpack software. I use this because it gives me a stronger, more permanent record of the things I’ve got left to do, and the things I’ve completed. Having this available in electronic format lets me move around tasks and priorities without muddying up a paper list.

Project Management

I’m not sure who’s doing this with paper formats, but more power to you. I use strictly digital means to manage projects, because paper dies about as soon as you print it, and managing projects (with more than one person involved) is a very fluid endeavor. I need something electronic and updatable.

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Drawing

I love drawing and illustrating, and I’ve got a graphics tablet attached to my Mac, but I’ve recently come to accept that I get much better art out of my efforts if I start with paper, scan the illustration into a program, and then do the finishing work online. No matter how sensitive my graphics tablet is, there’s something much more controlled in my ability to put lines to paper. All my painting on the other hand, is 100% digital. I can’t stand cleaning brushes, getting charcoal out of my clothes, etc. I much prefer electronic formats for the messier media.

In Review

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So in the short examples above, you start to see a theme. When it involves something a little more right brain or creative, I tend to use the paper format of a process first, but then convert eventually to digital. If it’s something more left-brain or project/GTD oriented, I prefer to use digital tools. There’s a hybrid ground in there, as well, and in that way, I imagine it’s like lots of things in life. Sometimes it’s easier to do one, and other times, the other.

What are your preferences? How do you use paper in your day? Or do you?

–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com].

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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