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The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It

The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It

This is the seventh and final article describing The New Lifehacking. In this series, I described the need for you, a Lifehacker, to focus on making fundamental changes to your habitual methods, rather than chasing the latest gadget or tip. The best way to accomplish this change is to gain an understanding of your current systematic methods, and to use this knowledge to set new targets.

However, using this approach by itself, as logical as it sounds, could close the door to future improvements.

If you only focus on your own methods and keep your head down, you could miss opportunities to improve. The fact is, inspiration to change often arises from the stories, examples and insights of other people, and in order to keep things fresh, you need to be open to these new, possibly contrarian, concepts.

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How Do You Look for New Ideas and Gadgets?

If you are a new Lifehacker, you search cautiously. There are new books, blog posts, lists and gadgets coming out all the time, and there’s no way to cover every possible improvement–you simply can’t keep up. You can trust, however, that there are others on the Internet who will curate these concepts for you and continuously share them until they start to resonate.

After an idea or shortcut gets mentioned a few times in an intelligent way by people that you respect, it’s probably time to pay attention and add the new resource to a list of items to research. This is one way to crowdsource the job of sifting through new ideas in a way that saves you a lot of time and effort.

How Do You Evaluate New Ideas and Gadgets?

While you need to be open to new suggestions for possible improvement, you need to adopt an entirely different process in order to evaluate them. A healthy dose of skepticism is required if you are to escape the trap of grabbing the latest-greatest-hottest “thingy,” only to see it fail. The fact is, a particular improvement may help one person and at the same time hinder others. You need to look at your current habits and practices, plus your own evaluation and ask yourself if the investment in time, energy and focus is worth the payoff at the end.

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For example, I had to make some cost/benefit decisions when I considered switching over from a Palm T PDA to a Blackberry a few years ago. I tried my best to make the change slowly, aware that some of my habits needed to change in order to accommodate the new device.

Here are a few that I had to alter:

New Habit #1.

Recharging the device became a nightly requirement, versus a bi-weekly option. This meant plugging in the device each night. Therefore, I always needed to be near a charger and a power source.

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New Habit #2.

I switched from carrying around a paper pad to capture new tasks, to typing them into my Blackberry with its small keyboard. This meant I had less to take with me from place to place, but it also meant that ideas took longer to record. Also, when I’m on a call and need to record an appointment or phone number, the process of switching over from one function to another is fraught with danger. I still drop the occasional call.

New Habit #3.

Replacing a feature phone with a smartphone means switching from an inexpensive, robust device to one that’s expensive and more fragile. This requires me to be more careful, learning how to protect against theft, physical and adverse physical elements. I had to learn to treat my phone as if it were a precious device that simply couldn’t be just left anywhere.

New Habit #4.

As a Palm user, I was never tempted to use the device while driving. Today’s smartphone user is afflicted with the temptation to break state laws and commonsense rules of thumb by attempting to multitask in moving vehicles. Fortunately, I never developed this particular habit but that’s only because I try hard to be vigilant against all forms of distractions, especially when I’m driving. It takes mental effort to be that vigilant; it’s an entirely new habit.

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How Do You Implement New Ideas and Gadgets?

Once the decision has been made to adopt a new improvement, it’s important to make the switch consciously, with a high degree of awareness. There are likely to be a few surprises that require extra attention, and some new habits that turn out to be harder to learn than you thought. For example, I had a hard time learning to plug in my smartphone each night.

The point is maintain as many old, productive habits as possible while implementing the handful of new ones that you believe will make a difference. Unfortunately, it’s devilishly easy to make things worse, and even *much* worse. People who jump from one technology to another can attest to this fact–witness those who fail to switch to large screen smartphones that don’t comfortably fit in a holster. The size of the device forces them to abandon a trusted old habit, in search of a new one. Some simply switch back to their old devices because the “improvement” makes things worse for them.

The New Lifehacking is all about executing intelligent, individual change management. This transformation might not happen at a pace that the author of a book or an inventor of a gadget might want, but at the end of the day we, the new lifehackers, answer only to ourselves, deciding whether or not an improvement makes the deep difference that we want.

More by this author

Francis Wade

Author, Management Consultant

How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

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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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