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Achieve Faster Flow States: Swap your iPad for a Notepad

Achieve Faster Flow States: Swap your iPad for a Notepad


    Modern technology really is a wonderful thing. It gives us all manner of affordable gizmos and gadgets to help us manage every element of our lives and get more stuff done.

    Yet when it comes to getting more stuff done effectively and to the best standard possible, there’s one set of tools we often over-look; the humble pen and paper.

    In praise of paper

    It goes without saying that paper is much cheaper, doesn’t suffer too much damage should you drop it on the concrete and doesn’t require batteries or chargers, but they present less obvious advantages too:

    Sure, technology provides us with lots of useful, productive tools, but it also provides e-mail, social networks, oh-so-hilarious videos of piano-playing felines and a host of other distractions that otherwise keep us from creating our best work.

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    The only thing a notepad ever gave us was a blank canvas on which to store thoughts, make notes and create masterpieces.

    Distraction free

    This very article began life as a basic idea scrawled in a pocket-sized notebook en route home from dinner one evening before being expanded, tweaked and crafted into two rough drafts on a legal pad back at the dining table.

    Eventually, when all thoughts were nearly organised and I had an article I was happy with, I typed it up and here it sits before you.

    Saving time

    Was that more work than heading straight to the computer and hacking at the keyboard until I had something close to a competent piece?

    Yes and no.

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    Okay, so my drafts took me longer to write than if I’d typed them, fully-formed and almost perfect into a word processor, but the honest truth is that had I been at the computer during first-draft, I would have spent just as much time browsing through blogs, tweeting and generally wasting time on unproductive things as I would actual writing.

    In the long run then, I saved myself some time and found it easier to enter a state where I was completely focussed on producing the best possible work I could.

    “Sometimes I would rather hang upside down in a bucket than write.” – Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    No matter how much we try to tell ourselves that we’re 100% motivated and productive 100% of the time, we all have those days when, just like Douglas Adams, the last thing in the whole world that we feel like doing is the task at hand.

    No matter how disciplined we may think ourselves, technology offers such an abundance of distractions that it’s sometimes too much to resist temptation and indulge in those distractions.

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    Even when we’re motivated enough to get on with the job, sometimes the very process of working at a computer, nothing more than hitting a buttons and inputting data, can thwart the creative process.

    Because of this, ideas don’t come as freely, and that completely productive state of working takes a little while longer to reach.

    Before we go any further, it’s probably worth pointing out that what you’re reading isn’t the inane ramblings of an out-of-touch old man with a gripe against ‘all this newfangled cyberspace stuff’ just because he doesn’t understand it.

    I adore technology. I adore it because it’s portable, convinient, accessible. I adore it because it lets me work from anywhere in the world, and I adore it for all the many wonderful things I can’t do without it.

    Though the one thing I can’t do with technology, is think, brainstorm and create half as well as I can when faced with a blank sheet of paper.

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    Flow states

    There’s something about that blank canvas, devoid of distractions and ready to be filled with ideas, that enables a faster entry into what psychologists call the Flow state; that feeling of being fully absorbed in your work, completely energized and so focused on the task at hand that nothing can take you from what you’re doing until you’ve achieved what you set out to do.

    You may not call it Flow, you may call it ‘being in the zone’ or use some other term entirely, but the point is that you’re likely to reach that most productive and satisfying state much faster as you feed off the energy created by dragging your pen across a blank sheet of paper than you are simply inputting data into a machine.

    You don’t even have to be doing anything particularly creative either.

    Having experimented with both technology and paper-based products for all areas of my life, including creating to-do lists, planning projects, personal finance work and just about anything that requires me to get stuff out of my head and onto some form of page, I’ve found that the ideas I have come quicker, and are more inspired and defined than I ever had bashing buttons on a keyboard.

    Of course, it would be quite absurd to encourage you to replace your Ipad with a notepad forever more; we wouldn’t be talking right now were it not for technology. Though if you want to create your best work in an environment free from distractions that allows you to quickly and effortlessly reach your Flow state, laying the laptop aside and picking up a sheet of paper may just be what you need.

    (Photo credit: Notebooks via Shutterstock)

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    Chris Skoyles

    Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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    Published on November 9, 2018

    How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

    How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

    Technology has taken the business world by storm. People and businesses are progressively reliant on technology world these days. As a result, the people with impressive knowledge and experience with a computer are in demand.

    Considering this growing market trend, if you too wish to bag a profitable job, this article is apt for you. Here, we will dig deeper into the business and technology world to look into what are the best computer skills one should invest in and what resources to get help from.

    So, are you ready? Here we begin.

    6 Most-In Demand Computer Skills This Year (and Beyond)

    When talking about computer skills, following are the 6 computer skills that can fill your mailbox with endless job opportunities (besides, having an English and Hindi typing speed of 40+ WPM):-

    1. Spreadsheets and Databases

    Considering the treasure trove of data companies are handling these days, Spreadsheet and Database management skill tops the list. It is considered the most wanted job skill in the market, with a salary of around $53,129/yr for an entry-level position. However, the spreadsheet skill does not confine to auditing data from cells.

    To get hired based on this computer skill, you need to become a Spreadsheet ninja. From storing data to organizing them, applying complex mathematics formulas, and creating complex macros, you need to be an expert at all.

    In other words, you need to have an expertise at working with:

    • Microsoft Excel
    • Microsoft Access
    • Statistics
    • Data Analytics
    • Adobe Campaign
    • Quickbooks
    • XML Database management system
    • Filemaker Pro
    • MATLAB
    • Hive
    • FORTRAN
    • RDBMS (Relational Database Management System)
    • SAS

    2. Social Media, Email, and Blogging

    Though people are socially active, not everyone knows how to use the social media tools on the professional front. In such a scenario, having an expertise at writing engaging yet professional emails, writing blogs, and managing social media activities is a ticket to entry in reputed organizations.

    Some of the skills related to social media, email and blogging that will have a leg up in the hiring process are:

    • Content Management System (CMS)
    • Google Analytics
    • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
    • Email Marketing
    • Web Page Design
    • WordPress
    • Digital Media
    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    • Campaign Management Software

    3. Graphic Design and Word Processing

    A solid grasp of skills to present the gained information in the much readable form is another market need. When considering this computer skill category, you need to enhance your skills at:

    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Adobe InDesign
    • Adobe Illustrator
    • AutoCAD
    • CorelDRAW
    • Microsoft Visual Studio
    • Maya
    • Microsoft Word
    • Microsoft Publisher
    • Operating Digital Cameras

    4. Software and Hardware Design and Development

    The Software and Hardware development, in simpler language, means designing, implementing, and testing the computer software/hardware applications. It is the most profitable computer skill, with a different job opening, including Software Architect, Software Analyst, Software programmer, Hardware configuration, etc.

    To be capable of developing and testing the software and hardware, you need to peruse your users’ needs and build an application that hits their pain points. You need to work with different web and mobile app coding languages for gaining the attention of your audience, some of which are:

    • HTML
    • C/C++
    • Java
    • Python
    • XML
    • UI/UX
    • LINUX
    • CISC and RISC architecture
    • Embedded Processor Hardware Design
    • Memory Management
    • PCB Layout
    • SQL

    5. IT Troubleshooting

    Working on computers is one thing and having a knack of looking into the associated issues and resolving them in real-time is another. There are various employees and graduates who work with computer systems in their daily lives, but get confused when it comes to dealing with frozen programs and performing routine maintenance.

    So, if you are familiar with the basic anatomy of computers and machines and know the tricks to perform such tasks to streamline the working process, enter the IT support arena. The prime IT troubleshooting skills one needs to work upon are:

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    • Backup management
    • Diagnostics
    • End User support
    • Client-Server management
    • Installation and configuration
    • Issue tracking system (ITS)
    • System administration
    • Tech support

    6. Enterprise Systems

    Many Enterprises have their own enterprise solutions like PeopleSoft for managing their data and operations.

    Becoming a master at using the enterprise solutions mentioned in their ‘Requirements’ area can also lessen the barrier to get a job.

    The Roadmap to Excel Your Computer Skills

    Now that you know the 6 most popular computer skills in the market, the first decision, you need to take is which computer skill you want to work upon. All the skills are equally considerable for making a career ahead. So, choose one as per your interest.

    Once done, look forward to the following resources for boosting your computer skills and getting a reputed, handsome job.

    Depending on the computer skill you opt, here are the online courses you can turn to for elevating your career opportunities:

    1. Become a Spreadsheet and Database Ninja

    a. Microsoft Excel Training Online Course – Basic & Advanced

    Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or expert at working with spreadsheets, this online course has something new for everyone to become excel efficient users.

    Divided into 48 interesting lessons, the course empowers you to learn the technique of using mathematical, statistical, logical and text functions, sorting and filtering the data, creating Pivot Tables, building macros, finding a value with VLOOKUp, and much more.

    b. Excel- Online Courses, Classes, Training, Tutorials on Lynda

    This is another impressive course to unlock the power of Excel. Designed for people from all walks of life and familiarity with Excel tools. This course helps you gain in-depth knowledge from the experts about this data-analyzing tool and make the magic in spreadsheet creation and management process.

    c. SQL & Database Design A-Z™: Learn MS SQL Server + PostgreSQL

    Build a successful career in the data analytics world with this online course.

    Revolving around the two top databases, MS SQL and PostgreSQL, this course will give you a comprehensive knowledge of the working of the databases and understanding of all the related elements, including how to create, update, organize, and safeguard the data.

    2. Rule the Social Media World

    a. Free Social Media Course by HubSpot

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    Introduced by the top experienced inbound professors from Hubspot, here you will get a comprehensive knowledge of Social media marketing.

    From understanding how to build relationships on different social media platforms to creating a perfect strategy to engage them, leveraging the benefits of social advertising, and analyzing your social media ROI, this course will bring out the best out of you.

    b. Write Professional Emails in English by Coursera

    This online course will be the right weapon to look into the differences and similarities between different email styles, improve your English writing skills, write effective subject lines, maintain the formality tone in emails, and more to make a powerful impact on the receivers with your email.

    c. Ninja Writing: The Four Levels of Writing Mastery

    Founded by Udemy, this online course will excel your skills to build a masterpiece everytime you write.

    Here, you will get the guidance from the editors of the top newspapers and websites, and understand what kind of words and tone to use for leaving a spellbinding impact on the readers.

    3. Launch Your Own Software or Hardware Equipment

    a. Hardware and Software Courses by Coursera

    From Big Data to IoT, Sensor Circuit Design, Embedded Software and Hardware Architecture, and Motor Control Circuit, this course will give you a glimpse of all the hardware devices, equipment, and programming languages to build wonders.

    b. Free Software and Web Development Certifications Online by Alison

    Become the software developer market demands with Alison’s Java, C#, Python, R, PHP, or MySQL database course. From backend to frontend development and software testing.

    The course helps you to learn how to design, develop and test software and working in a team while contributing to the team success.

    c. Free Online Software Development and MOOCs Course by Class Central

    The Class Central online course will make you a master of software development. Here, you will learn the basic concepts of development like Agile, Design Patterns, and Version Control with Git, along with gaining experience of working with the top programming languages.

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    4. Live and Breathe Creativity

    a. Udemy: Introduction to Graphic Design

    It is a top-rated program for the new learners and designers to explore the Graphic Design world.

    From the history of communication to the design principles, the course will help the students to learn everything specifically and implement in the real world.

    b. Canva Design School

    From a beginner to advanced level, this course will provide you with an elaborated and comprehensive knowledge of graphic design. In the form of 4 modules, this course will help the interested graphic designers to try out their skills at Graphics, ranging from fonts to colors, backgrounds, images, shapes, and layouts.

    c. Microsoft Word – Basic & Advanced

    62 personalized lessons, premium video tutorials, and unlimited tests and quizzes – this certified course has everything that will make your entry to the business world easier.

    d. Microsoft Office: Word, Excel and Access Productivity Bundle

    The course will make you productive in Word, Excel, and Access through video lectures, articles, and various other supplemental resources.

    Besides, it will offer you exclusive tips and tricks to enhance your skills at using Microsoft office.

    5. Raise Your Reflexes to IT Troubleshooting

    a. IT Troubleshooting Skill Training by Udemy

    IT Troubleshooting Skill Training will upgrade your logical concepts over technical components to find and repair faults.

    It will provide you with a methodological approach to learn the basics of troubleshooting, practice them via exercises and drills, and enhance your IT troubleshooting intelligence.

    b. IT Help Desk Online Course on Lynda

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    The Lynda’s IT troubleshooting online course will train you how to respond to the issues related to Windows 10, Office 365, JIRA software, and more, from a local as well as a remote location.

    Mobile Apps and Websites to Enhance Computer Skills

    The aforementioned online courses will undoubtedly train you for a successful career ahead. But, in case you want a long-term support, turn towards the following websites and mobile apps:

    • Duolingo – Duolingo app will improve your spoken and written communication skills in different languages. With the magic of gamification added to the study, the app will make learning a fun and addictive task.
    • Hemingway – Hemingway app defines the length, complexity, and common errors associated with the sentences. In this way, it helps you to write effectively and go ahead in the career.
    • Udemy – The Udemy, with its 2000+ courses, is a great platform to master new skills, advance your career and explore the newer technologies and programming languages. Enrol a course as per your budget and make a brighter future.
    • eDX – eDX is yet another commendable platform you can look forward to. The platform offers you the best of the tutorials prepared by the business professionals and technology experts, ensuring a great boost in your computer skills.
    • Excel Easy – Excel Easy, as the name depicts, will make working with Excel easier for you via their detailed tutorials and 300+ real-life examples.
    • GCF LearnFree.org – It is a one-stop platform for accelerating your future in the computer world. From graphic design to Microsoft Office, resume writing, enhancing adaptability, and much more, the top experts will guide you with everything on this platform.
    • QuarkXPress – The QuarkXPress will aid you to add soul to your design with its unparalleled collection of font style, size, and typography. The best part is that it is avails all the options in different languages, including English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian to name a few.

    Bonus: Tips to Accelerate Your Approach For a Better Career Ahead

    Though these resources will make you stand out from the crowd and get hired at once, you need to focus on various other things, such as:

    1. Practice, Practice, Practice

    It is common to forget what we learn. To ensure that you do not miss any opportunity just because you forgot, keep practising.

    Make it your routine. Polish your computer skills and you will surely end up getting an offer letter from a recognized firm.

    2. Work on Your Efficiency

    Remembering what you learned is not enough; practice to enhance those skills to do better.

    For example, if you take around 50 minutes to create a design, target for 40 minutes.

    3. Look for Shortcuts

    Smart work rules over hard work more often. So, look forward to learning shortcuts to do any task. This will increase your chances to crack an interview and get selected.

    4. Apply for an Internship

    Last but not the least, apply for an internship to see what’s trending in the market and how much you are ready for it. While doing an internship, pay attention to your weak points and work on them. This will ensure a success when you apply for your dream job.

    By the late, it’s never too late to be an intern or grab whatever opportunity to learn something new! Here’s how:

    How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

    The Bottom Line

    Seeing the current market scenario, it is evident that having computer skills is a boon for a better career ahead.

    So, rather than struggling with thousands of other things and trying to crack interviews, focus on the computer skills mentioned in this article. Utilize the resources and experts’ tips shared and look forward to having a successful and prosperous future.

    Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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