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.

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Relational Multitasking (Less Stress More Joy)

Standing in my office parking lot, breathing in cycles of warm summer air, I realized that I was stressed out! Retaining my running list of to-dos for mere moments, only to see them vanish from my mind and inconveniently return screaming AAAHHHHH, you forgot about me!!! Sound familiar? I realized that my to-dos exceeded my physical and emotional energy. As I frantically reclaimed my list from memory, typing tasks on my phone, I paused. Why am I doing all of this stuff by myself?! Then an amazing thing happened. I began to list names next to each task. Can my friend help me straighten up my office while we catch up about life? Can my husband and I plan our schedule over a nice dinner? Can someone else do this task all together? Perhaps it would even help them grow?! Suddenly, my muscles relaxed, I smiled and the cloud of anxiety lifted.

People often say that multitasking is a flawed practice, accomplishing nothing simultaneously. However, if I’m cleaning my house and catching up with a friend, I am accomplishing several things. I’m not alone doing something boring, I’m spending time with a friend, and I’m taking care of my house. A solution! Don’t hover over your to do list wishing you could retire 25 years ahead of schedule; put some names on the list! There are a lot of people who might enjoy giving you a hand.

Evernote – My New BFF

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Evernote, once a fair-weather friend is now my BFF. Perhaps it’s the effect getting older, owning a home, or having more life responsibility in general, that I find the paperless lifestyle to be sweetly appealing. In my previous going paperless post, I gave you a window into my cluttered life and strategies I used to dig myself out. At that time, I’m sad to say, Evernote was not yet a part of my inner circle. Oh, but now it IS! If you have never heard of it, or like me, have been avoiding taking the relationship to the next level, I’d like to inspire you to befriend this handy application.

What is Evernote?

Evernote is intended to act as your “external brain.” All of the important information, ideas, experiences and projects you need to access can be stored, mapped, searched, indexed, sorted and shared in Evernote.

I like to think of Evernote as the largest virtual three-ring binder ever. Information are stored in Notes, Notebooks and Stacks. A “note” is like a piece of paper in your binder, with index tabs represented by “notebooks” and the binder itself a collection of notebooks or a “stack”.

How do I use it?

I literally use Evernote EVERYWHERE. I have the desktop app on my Mac, I use the web version when at work and the iPad and iPhone versions when mobile.

I store a ton of information in Evernote including reading lists, draft blog posts, recipes, professional notes and projects such as resumes, leadership development projects and goals, business cards, health and wellness tips, sheet music, technology tips and tricks, product wish lists, research and the list is growing!!!

What are my favorite features?

I love Stacks! A stack as mentioned above, is a grouping of interrelated notebooks. As a youth ministry volunteer through the Bay Area Christian Church, I store separate notebooks for events, calendars, meeting notes, info on people I mentor, bible studies and more in my ministry stack.

I love automation! Currently, I have a filter set up in my Gmail account that forwards emails with attachments to my Evernote email address. Forwarded emails ultimately land in my default notebook…voila! Every so often, I sort my uploads into their respective notebooks and I never have to go through the hassle digging through my email.

I love Links! This is where Evernote surged ahead of Dropbox for me. Not only are all my notes and attachments stored in Evernote, but I can create links to ANY of my notes within a single note. This makes my life even easier. Right now, I am using this feature to index my bible studies, but I also use for food, natural cosmetics and green cleaning recipes. I have hundreds of bible studies I’ve collected and digitized; links make it easy for me to find the studies I want. Here is a screenshot of my bible study index (in progress). How handy is that?!

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I love Sharing! I can easily invite friends to view my notebooks. No more digging into my tangled abiss of e-files to email an attachment to someone. I can say, “here, look at my notebook and read what you want!” Sweet!

I love Shortcuts! In the newest desktop version of Evernote for Mac, I can create shortcuts to notes I want handy. This is great for current projects, which for me are Christmas gift ideas, holiday recipes and plans.

Some other products and services that I LOVE from Evernote are Web Clipper, Clearly, Skitch, Penultimate, and Food (which I now use to capture all of my recipes).

I look forward to sharing more of the fun ways I use Evernote and would love to hear how you use it!