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Minimal vs. Maximal Productivity Tools

Minimal vs. Maximal Productivity Tools

If you aren’t new to productivity blogs, web productivity tools, and other things that have a productive spin or “GTD” in them, then you have certainly heard of the concept of being “minimalist”. The idea is using the absolute least amount of stuff to get something done or live life. Basically, all the extra stuff that you “don’t need” is just clogging up your productive nature and needs to be removed.

But, what if you want all the bells and whistles of productivity tools and the minimalist way feels somewhat restricted? This is where the idea of “maximal” productivity tools come in; tools that provide the user with a ton of functionality and settings that allows them to customize the tool in any way they see fit.

    The case for minimalist tools

    One of the largest complaints about complicated productivity tools is that they tend to get in your way rather than help you get things done. This is definitely the case with some tools that throw in every feature that comes to mind and don’t have a clear way to just “jump in” and start using the tool.

    For example, the web app Toodledo is an extremely powerful task management application (not to mention one of my favorites), but can be somewhat daunting to look at and use at first. This is because of Toodledo’s mass of user options, filters, search, etc. Contrast this with a “simpler” tool like Remember the Milk. It is obvious how to add tasks with RTM and the user interface is clean and easy on the eyes. This isn’t to say that RTM isn’t powerful, it definitely is with the addition of Smart Lists and Locations; it is saying that sometimes when giving a user too many options can confuse and distract them from actually using the tool to get things done.

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    Minimal productivity tools have been extremely popular in the recent years because of the want of users to have something simple that gets out of the way. Some of the tools that come to mind are Simplenote, Ta-da List, SimpleGTD, pen and paper, and Remember the Milk.

    The case for “maximalist” tools

    On the opposite side of the coin, the largest complaints about simple and minimal productivity tools is that they aren’t customizable enough and they lack needed features like tagging, saved searches, different lists styles, cross-platform support, etc. Some users feel that without these enhanced set features that the productivity tools aren’t good enough.

    When Mr. Allen, the GTD guy himself, speaks of systems and productivity tools, he steals a good quote from Albert Einstein:

    “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

    This could of course back up the idea of minimalist tools, but it makes me think that it takes somewhat complicated tools to work with and help control complicated things like project planning, email handling, etc. As mentioned before, Toodledo is quite the task management application and it has a ton of functionality that you may never use. But, the idea of providing the user with extra features is appealing in that you can “grow into” a tool.

      Toodledo's complicated filters and Views

      For instance, I am currently using OmniFocus (even though it is pricey as hell) and there is a sweet feature that allows you to relate a location with a context. When you are out and about and check your iPhone for actions you could complete, you can check the location listing and OmniFocus uses your GPS to give you actions that can be finished in your vicinity. At first I thought this feature was nifty, but sort of overkill, that is until I found that I travel quite a bit during a day and can utilize my location to find tasks that can be completed around me. Try to do that with Ta-da List.

      Some of the more popular maximal productivity tools include OmniFocus, Evernote, Toodledo, Outlook, and OneNote.

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      Minimal vs. Maximal: Fight!

      The last thing that I want to do is take one side or the other when it comes to feature-rich tools vs. simple tools. What I can do however, is make some recommendations to those out there that don’t know exactly which camp to settle down in: minimal or maximal?

      1. The best advice that I can ever give is to love the tools you use. What does it matter if there are a million settings or ten settings if you don’t love the tool that you are using?

      2. No tools will make you more productive. Just because you can make a list of actions and relate them to a project and have the system tell you what your next actions are doesn’t mean that you will actually do them. Tools don’t make you productive; you make you productive.

      3. There is no perfect tool. Trust me, I have been down the road and it is long and arduous. There is no perfect GTD tool; never will be. So stop Googling now.

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      4. Make a list of features you need and a list of features you want in a productivity tool. Then when you are looking for a new or better tool, compare your list to the tool’s feature set. If it’s close, then you may not totally hate it.

      5. Once you find a tool that works, stick with it. If your tools are hitting the sweet spot and helping you become more productive, consider adopting them for a year so you don’t fall into the trap of changing task-managers every time you hear of a shiny new one.

      Which side of the camp do you choose when it comes to productivity tools? Do you want to keep things simple or provide yourself with a powerful set of features that are at your disposal?

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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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