Monthly Archive November 2016


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.