Brainscape – Get Smart Fast

I recently discovered Brainscape, an app that allows you to study a whole manner of things in a strategic way based on brain science. Don’t get me wrong, the app does not boast an overly fancy interface, but it does a great job of presenting a lot of information in a short period of time while keeping your attention: I have the attention span of a gnat. Currently, I am having fun using the vocabulary builder and keyboard shortcut modules!

You start by downloading a set of flashcards in the subject of your choice. Then you are prompted to start studying. In the vocabulary building module, a word will appear, then once you think of a definition, you can opt to show the answer. But here’s the cool part, you rate how closely you come to the actual definition on a scale of 1-5. 1 being “I have no idea what that means” and five being “I know the definition word for word.” You know how it is, sometimes you have a general idea of what a word means in context but cant really explain it. Brainscape allows you to master your words. The words will reappear sometimes word first or definition first in a particular sequence based on the “brain science” of efficient learning. I learned about four new words after a few minutes and they are still in my head.

Brainscape offers flashcards covering languages, history, standardized test prep, people you should know (love that!), geography and more. Some modules are free some are not. Considering they’ve done the hard part of preparing the material for me, its worth the money. I plan on purchasing the full vocabulary building deck for $4.99. Either way, you can demo all modules for free.

I think this is an essential app for a student or lifelong learner. I plan to keep an eye on this app as it develops in the future.

Paperless Office!

Lets say that useless redundant paper products prey on the likes of business offices throughout America. It’s an epidemic I think. It hit me recently, well it’s hit me before but it REALLY hit me recently, that most of the reference material and records I keep in paper form are duplicated elsewhere. Policies, phone lists, general reference material, meeting notes, etc., are usually available online or can be stored digitally. So what’s with the 8,000 binders, file folders, notepads (a new one for each meeting), and post-its (of all sizes)?! I realized that the only paper I REALLY need to keep in hard copy form are files with ink signatures and/or originals, NOT STORED ELSEWHERE. The list of documents that fit this criteria are few.

So, what does one do? Digitize! I have zero binders, that’s right, zero in my office. Over 60% of the paper stored in my binder collection came from online sources and was subject to constant updating. So, basically most of my binders were out of date. Can you relate? I can’t tell you the amount of freedom and inspiration that came from shredding (and recycling) three garbage bags full of paper. So enough of my preaching, if my paperless plight appeals to you at all, here are some things you can do to reclaim your freedom:

  1. Scan business cards. I store them in Evernote using Evernote Hello
  2. Scan reference material not stored online (E.G. your personal notes). And use an iPad or laptop for future notes.
  3. Use your iPad or tablet to review commonly accessed reference info. I use iAnnotate PDF. If you don’t own an iPad or tablet, consider using desktop shortcuts. This way your phone list is one click away instead of embedded three levels down in a forgotten folder. Plus with a shortcut, your horribly embedded original is still safe in your backed-up network drive in case your computer crashes (heaven forbid)!
  4. Lose the post-its! Start using your email calendar for goodness sake! You can track appointments, to-do’s, etc, and if you train yourself to check your calendar (which I almost never did!) you will find it is a handy paperless tool!
  5. Use a White Board. There are those times I need to jot down some quick info, a phone number, etc. So I mounted a foam-backed whiteboard to my desk. I can easily write down ideas and quick notes and when it gets full, I snap a photo and sync with Evernote. Sometimes my ideas need to marinate for a while. This is a way to archive my ideas minus the paper!
  6. Create a decent e-filing system. I love this post from How To Geek, Zen and the Art of File Folder Organization. It’s very in depth and took a bit of work to implement but I can access computer files far more easily now! It may take a few sittings to digest but for those of you determined to go paperless, I highly suggest it.

OK, this is probably enough information for now. I hope I didn’t overwhelm you! Going paperless is a process, sometimes it takes a paradigm shift. You may have to examine what you truly value in order to rid yourself of the fluff and clutter. Maybe that notepad isn’t as valuable as you once thought? Perhaps that live-or-die binder offers more dust than useful information? Just think about it.

Minimalist Experiment 1 – The Nightstand

I hate having stuff on my nightstand but it’s such a vortex! I defeated it by being merciless and removing ALL junk from my bedroom. My bedside necessities are water, tea and tissue. Dental floss, my retainer, etc., stays in a plastic bag in the drawer along with pajamas. I still have my coffee shop garb in a little canvas cube below, but its super handy when I need to throw on sweats and a T-shirt. I’ve been able to maintain the simple “after” look for at least a couple of weeks now. I think my radical approach helped; nothing is allowed. Simple! How does your nightstand look? If it doesn’t calm you down, I recommend being radical and sticking to the necessities.

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