Yearly Archive 2016


Get More Productive and More Creative for 2017

Last week we looked at different popular New Year’s Resolutions and how to go about actually achieving them. Now 2017 is only days away so this week we are looking at some of the most popular – about productivity and creativity – and how MessageMia can help you achieve your goals.

Productivity is always high on people’s lists, for obvious reasons. Who doesn’t want to get more done, free up more time, or make more money? Being more creative can boost your career, bringing in more money, improve your brainpower and lead to new hobbies.

So how to nurture these qualities? The good news is that they can be nurtured, so if you don’t feel all that productive or creative right now you can develop the habit.

The best suggestions on productivity involve a laser focus and ruthless time management. Business mentor Michael Hyatt favours goals rather than resolutions, and painstakingly planned ones at that, to keep you focussed and on track. Schedule in time to review the goals you make as part of your resolutions, as well as to actually work on the resolutions themselves.

That focus can lead to you shedding other aspects of your life that don’t align with your new resolutions. Watching less rubbish television means more time at the gym, and vice versa. Saying no to some commitments is the sort of sacrifice – or relief – you might have to make.

Happiness Project writer Gretchen Rubin writes about making new habits and suggests tying them directly into related rewards. That can keep you motivated and on track but avoids the resolution or habit feeling like a chore that you need a reward for. If you are getting up earlier in order to get more work done you can use some of that extra time to enjoy a quiet coffee or meditate.

MessageMia can help you be more productive, turning your commute or business travel into real, usable time. Dictate emails, work on presentations, plan your day and list your to-dos all before you even get to the office. Once you do, MessageMia will have your notes transcribed and emailed to you, ready to go.

One of the keys to being more creative is to be continually flexing your creative muscles, practicing having ideas and thinking outside the box. Some powerful ways to do this are by brainstorming and using ideas such as the “and” technique – combining two random words and thinking about what that might suggest. Combining or expanding older ideas is also a rich source of creativity and experts in the field all seem to agree that a good system for capturing and then storing these ideas is important.

You can use MessageMia to quickly record all your great ideas. A hands-free notebook, MessageMia can be used even while driving. Once you have recorded your brainwave it is transcribed and emailed back to you. It’s then easy to collect all your thoughts and ideas in a file, note app or to-do list program, to review and browse and work on when you get the chance.


A new year for resolutions

What’s topping your resolutions list for next year? Losing weight? Writing a book? Learning a language? How about getting more done? Or maybe your resolution is to not have any resolutions.

It’s only natural to think about the year ahead and what you might want it to look like. Though naysayers will correctly point out that we could start a new habit any day of the year there is something about turning over a new leaf with the calendar, a blank slate of a year to put our mark on.

Of course, a lot – most – new year’s resolutions don’t last. They get swept away in the day to day hustle and bustle and become a distant memory.

So what makes a good new year’s resolution? One that is going to stick and become an everyday part of life, not just for the first few days of January.

You need to get really clear about what your motivation is and the underlying issues are.

Have a bit of creativity. Wanting to read more books doesn’t mean you have to sit down and read books. Try an audiobook instead, to see if that will fit into your life better. And like the point above, ask yourself if you really want to read more, or is it that you want to sound smart in conversations? Because that is a different resolution and will need a different approach.

Think about why this isn’t already part of your life. If you want to learn a language, what’s currently stopping you? If you can identify the obstacles and work around them you are giving your resolution the best chance to succeed.

Getting specific will help too. Do you want to fit into your favourite jeans comfortably, or slim down into a wedding outfit? Having that goal is better than a generic “lose weight”.

A year is a daunting timescale for a resolution. So break it down into smaller chunks. Want to write a novel? Work out how many words you need to write each week or day, to get a more manageable plan. Check in every so often – you can revive a resolution for a new week or month, you don’t have to wait for next year.

MessageMia can help you be more productive and remember all your great ideas, even when driving. So if your new year’s resolution involve getting more done, or being more creative, next week we will have even more ideas for you.


Distractions on the Road

The Washington Post reports on a story from American travel company AAA that shows tired drivers are as at risk of accidents as drunk drivers. That when tired you might as well be over the limit.

People who had less than four hours sleep were 11.5% more likely to have an accident than those who slept over seven hours. 21% of fatal collisions involved a sleep deprived driver – shocking figures and a sobering look at how dangerous driving without due care and attention can be.

Driving can be dangerous and has its risks. Too much alcohol and a lack of sleep dulls reaction times and causes a loss of concentration and coordination, which contributes to accidents. Another major distraction for drivers is their mobile phone and the government has responded to this by stepping up penalties for 2017. Using a mobile phone while driving now has a six point penalty and £240 fine.

For drivers who have only passed their test in the last two years a six point penalty will result in their licence being rescinded – indicating the level of seriousness.

Fumbling around with a mobile phone, holding it, being distracted by ringing or alerts, or trying to text, all massively take attention away from where it needs to be. Reflexes are slower, eyes may not even be on the road and hands aren’t both available to actively drive.

Of course, we spend a lot of time in our cars and it can feel like a waste of time not to be able to multitask a bit, or that we are out of the loop on messages and information. Pulling over is the obvious solution, or ignore the phone completely for complete safety.

MessageMia is an alternative. A hands-free note taking service it is safe and legal and can help you make the most of you driving time. Never forget another great idea while driving or item for your to do list. MessageMia records your message, then transcribes and emails it back to you.

So no driving drunk, tired, or on your mobile phone, and if you want a safe way to take notes on the road try MessageMia.


How to come up with less-stress gift ideas

That time of year is upon us, the time to pull out your credit card and rack your brains coming up with gift ideas… then storming round the shops around the 22nd in a panic.

So MessageMia has some tips and tricks for less stress this holiday season.

Get in the gift-giving zone, browse websites and wander round the shops – then think of ideas for people. Trying to come up with ideas in isolation is hard and doesn’t work, so surround yourself with potential ideas first.

Avoid clutter and environmental mayhem with gifts of experiences. Tickets for a show, vouchers for a meal, or something a bit more extreme like paintballing, rally car driving and the like. There are companies catering to gift experiences or you can plan your own. It may seem simple but it’s the sort of thing a lot of people want but never quite get round to organising for themselves – even if it’s just the cinema.

It’s a bit late now but put this on your new year’s resolution list: be on alert for gift ideas all year round. Have a page in the back of your diary, or a note in an app and collect little hints or mentions of interests from people. Bonus, works for birthdays too.

When you have that blinding flash of inspiration… make a note of it! There’s nothing more frustrating than having thought of the perfect gift idea only to forget it. Sometimes ideas come in the unlikeliest of places so you have to be ready. This can cause a problem if you are driving but that’s somewhere we actually get a lot of great ideas.

You can’t jot a note in that case, but MessageMia is your hands-free note-taking service here to help. Use your normal hands-free kit to call up Mia and leave your recording. Then the voice file and a transcription are emailed back to you. So you never have to forget another great idea while driving again.


Steer clear of Christmas driving hazards

Winter time and Christmas can make driving a bit trickier than usual. Bad conditions on the roads, distractions and extra socialising create hazards. Steer clear of the issues for a safe Christmas period.

Road conditions can be bad but also very changeable during the winter. Watch out for hazards like black ice, make sure to check the weather forecast before travelling. With the constant rain leave extra room for breaking and check your tyres regularly. A low winter sun on wet roads can be a real headache for visibility – sunglasses aren’t just for summer. An emergency pack in the boot with maintenance gear, spare screen wash, light bulbs and blanket will come in handy if you are unlucky enough to break down.

December is a peak month for drink driving offences and many forces put on extra patrols and checks. It’s also a peak month for socialising with family, friends and work parties to celebrate the holidays. Organise a designated driver or book a taxi and don’t take the risk.

Everything can be an extra rush during the holidays with lots of errands and commitments to juggle. No matter how busy you get, stick to the speed limit and don’t take your hands off the wheel to use your mobile phone. In 2017 the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving will be increased to a six point penalty and £200 fine. And it’s dangerous anytime.

Get a hands-free kit for your car so you can safely call to say you are running late or make arrangements. If you think of an urgent to-do or have a great gift idea don’t try to type up a note on your phone. You don’t need to wait and risk forgetting though, with MessageMia you can record your note hands-free and have it transcribed and emailed back to you. Never forget another great idea while driving and stay safe over Christmas with MessageMia.


Pen and paper vs digital

Using pen and paper to jot down notes, organise to dos and brainstorm ideas might seem old fashioned to some but others prefer the manual ways. Doing things digitally offers lots of advantages but might seem detached and impersonal.

Each has their advantages and disadvantages. So whether you are a fan of fancy pens and trendy notebooks, keep all your thoughts in the Cloud or like to mix and match let’s have a look at how the options stack up.

Pen and paper doesn’t have to mean a hastily borrowed biro and the back of a napkin. Some people elevate the form to an art with distinguished fountain pens and designer notebooks. Others stick with a solid reporters pad and trusty ballpoint. The key is that everything is in one place and you know exactly where to turn to for reference or later use.

Some systems come about as a reaction to perhaps over complicated digital solutions. The Bullet Journal is a simple and effective strategy that has really caught on. DIY planners and templates are all over Pinterest. Of course there’s always the long-serving Filofax to fall back on.

Certain professions and hobbies will be more suited to a manual approach. Creatives, designers, artists and those who like total control over the page will always be attracted to the complete flexibility of a notebook. Some of those will deliberately disavow the digital but for many it is a creative choice.

Of course there is always a risk when you entrust your precious thoughts and ideas to one single place. There’s no fallback position if you lose the physical object.

The other big camp is the digital enthusiasts who revel in being completely mobile, connected and ready to go. They have the convenience of the cloud and making copies or backing up their work is not something they worry about – although disasters still occur. Losing the device is enough of a pain as it is without having to worry about all the work you’ve lost as well.

Using cloud based applications and accounts means you can the switch format seamlessly from your phone to your computer to your tablet and back again using whatever is on hand but having everything end up in the same place. Not only that but our notes can be sorted, organised and input automatically to the right places, catalogued and archived. There’s the risk of distraction though, when jotting down a quick note turns into checking notifications and then a full-on internet binge.

Straddling the middle ground is perhaps most of us. Different areas of our lives might inhabit different apps, planners or diaries. We use whatever is most convenient at the time and like having a choice. Different scenarios call for different tools – the most important thing is that your system works well for you.

Whichever you prefer, or a mix of both, you can’t write in a notebook or on your phone while you are driving. For that you need MessageMia. A hands-free note taking service that will record your ideas or to-do list, transcribe and then send it back to you for productivity and safety on the go.


Eyewitness testimony and the fallible mind

A fascinating area for those researching memory is eyewitness testimonies. Witnesses giving evidence are notoriously problematic, given the great fallibility of the human mind. But eyewitness accounts are also very persuasive and we place a lot of emphasis on them. Why does our memory get things so wrong so often?

While our brain is constantly monitoring and recording goings on only a tiny fraction of that is consciously registered. In order to prevent overload, our senses are selectively filtered. Only the important observations are passed through whereas others we acclimatise to – like new parents sleeping oblivious to alarms or car horns but wide awake at the slightest whimper of their baby.

So we notice the big things but don’t sweat the smaller – we would notice if someone we passed on the street didn’t have a shirt on, but not what colour it was. We are more likely to remember things that relate directly to us – such as if they were wearing the exact same shirt as us. In most cases, slightly misremembering an event has little or no consequences. Whether that person had a blue or red shirt doesn’t matter.

Until the fate of an accused suspect hangs on whether the shirt was blue or red. At the time it didn’t matter so you didn’t make any sort of mental note of it. Under pressure and after the fact people are susceptible to suggestion or simply make the best guess they can.

Under stress memories can be distorted and input from different senses can be muddled. Hearing a gunshot can make people think they saw the gun being fired. A gun being pulled focusses the attention and other details about the scene aren’t noticed or remembered.

The research being done has helped make sense of all the ways eyewitness testimony can be flawed. Witness interviews have new techniques to help people recall events with as much accuracy as possible.

MessageMia can’t help you with your eyewitness testimony but can help you remember your great ideas.


Hands-free Productivity

Productivity is the buzzword and the ideal but do you ever feel like it remains a distant goal? It can take a lot of time, energy and, yes, productivity, to get productive.

So here’s some ideas on how to achieve hands-free productivity. Work smarter and be more productive.

With MessageMia even your commute can be productive time. For hands-free note-taking on the go just call Mia and leave your message. It is then transcribed and sent back to you by email along with the original voice file. Simple, quick hands-free productivity.

Don’t risk an accident or points on your licence by trying to use your phone or notebook to jot something down. And don’t resign yourself to forgetting your great ideas or your to-dos just because you are driving. Using your normal hands-free equipment you can call MessageMia and never forget a great idea while driving.

IFTTT just got a revamp. Standing for IF This Then That, it offers to “do more with the services you love”. Link up all your logins and you can use applets to take care of so much business behind the scenes. Use your phone’s location services to send a text home when you leave the office. Get a push notification if rain is forecast. Sync your profile pics for all your social media. Just set it up once and save time every day.

It’s good for your phone and its memory too – you don’t need a bunch of different apps doing all these things. Just one app to co-ordinate all your existing services and bring them together in the way that best suits you.

Don’t rely on your own willpower or waste time fussing with your wifi when there are lots of services you can use to block websites and apps for better productivity. TinyFilter, SelfControl, Cold Turkey and StayFocused all let you block certain websites and even email, completely, after a certain amount of time or for certain periods of the day. Other programs like RescueTime will monitor your usage to help you identify time-sinks and distractions.

So get more productive today with these hands-free productivity helpers.


Boost your learning with these tips

Get some tips on how to learn new information with a professor of cognitive psychology. Writing in Fortune magazine, Nate Kornell compares memory to weight lifting and outlines how to up your memory and learning game.

Relating the story of his daughter studying for a test, Kornell shows how much of what we might assume about learning and retaining information is wrong. Importantly, and counterintuitively, it should be hard. The brain is a muscle, and like resistance training we need to stretch ourselves and face a little pain. Easier work, on the brain or muscles, means less gain.

So Kornell put together some top tips on how to most efficiently and successfully learn and retain new information.

Top of the list is trying to make an informed guess first of all. Get the gears of your mind turning over.

Use summaries to review material you have just read. Forming the information into your own words and thinking it through independently is better for learning than just rereading.

Previously on the blog we looked at the forgetting curve – so put it to use and make sure to top up your memory at the most efficient moment as you start to lose the information. Continually doing this will commit it firmly to memory.

Don’t get complacent – while the forgetting curve can be used to optimise your learning don’t fall victim to it either. Kornell warns that people underestimate how much time and energy they need to commit to learning something. So even once you think you know something you need to keep revisiting the material to make sure.

Using these methods will shed new light on how your brain works and your capacity to learn and retain new information.

If your struggle is more with remembering great ideas you’ve had, or urgent to-dos that slip your mind, you need MessageMia. Even when you are driving – Mia is hands-free and simple to use. Call up and leave a voice recording and Mia will transcribe and email your message back to you. So even if all your memory-boosting tricks fail you never need to forget a great idea again.


How do you like to travel?

Maybe you dream of chauffeured cars and first class flights or are more at home in the saddle of a cycle or motorbike – even a horse. Unfortunately, our commutes are rarely so glamorous but we can still dream of planes, trains and automobiles.

Each method has its advantages and, more noticeably, its disadvantages.

Train – Fast, when they are on time. Productive, when you can get a seat. The potential of rail travel is more often spoiled by the reality. Sure you could get a great table with a plug socket for your laptop and room to spread out your papers but you could just as easily get squeezed in between raucous football fans travelling to an away game or sat on the floor by the toilet.

Bus – Buses used to have a good coverage and frequency going for them but now seem like the worst of all worlds. Crowded and with timetables cut they are not a place to be getting any work done. About as productive as you can be is to read the Metro or flick through Instagram.

Car – A more direct door-to-door experience that can be equal parts liberating and frustrating. All the responsibility is yours but at least you can also take charge over the route, temperature and music. But you have no control over the traffic, other drivers, weather conditions and rising blood pressure they provoke.

Taxi – If you aren’t in London then catching a taxi has never been a very on-the-fly experience but the new generation of apps are changing that. Still, taxis are expensive and even more so when there is a surge on. Being driven about is super convenient for working or relaxing during your journey though.

Plane – over seriously long distances planes are about the only option if you are not looking for “the experience” of weeks on a boat or train. Flying is one of the most common fears so for many people it’s no fun at all. With high baggage prices, minimal leg room and increasingly non-existent refreshments it’s not the luxury it once was – unless you leave economy behind and are inducted into the luxuries of business or first class where you can work and play in comfort and style.

Travelling by car looks like pretty unproductive time compared to the others but it doesn’t have to be. You can knock out that disadvantage and make your commute more productive with MessageMia, your hands-free note-taking service.