Monthly Archive May 2017


How to boost your memory

Almost all of us have experienced frustrating tip-of-the-tongue moments or forgotten something important leaving us scrambling at the last minute – a birthday or anniversary, a deadline or meeting at work. Not so the elite “memory athletes”. The current World Memory Champion is a medical student from the United States, Alex Mullen, and he can memorise the order of a deck of cards in 17 seconds – a world record.

That might seem so extreme that you will dismiss the next point: anyone can improve their memory. There’s nothing fundamentally different about a memory athlete’s brain. It’s a case of training and techniques that anyone can master. And reassuringly, Mullen says he sometimes still forgets where he put his keys.

Medical practitioners need to be able to recall thousands of illnesses, symptoms, treatments and side effects so it is no wonder they practice memory techniques. Or London cabbies who train for two years for “the knowledge.” Having a great memory is an important skill for anyone. It makes learning a new skill even easier, helps with languages, impresses at work and makes daily life less of a chore.

So how do you go about improving your memory?

Brain champ Mullen retreats to a memory palace and there are two main forms – the Roman Rooms or the Journey method. Both work by taking an ordinary context – the rooms in a house or a well-known journey, and attach the items you want to memorise to them. So in your mind you can walk through the house or go on this journey and when you encounter objects or places they are attached to the new things you want to remember.

Part of the reason this works is because “memory” isn’t just one thing. Our spatial memory – finding our way around a house or to work – is different from the memory we use to recall a shopping list. So these techniques work by attaching the two. You don’t need to actively recall the layout of your house, it’s unconscious. So you leverage that for things you do need to work harder at remembering.

Studies say that 30 minutes of practice a day will shoot your memory abilities way up. But you don’t always have time to create a mind palace, or you need to remember to remember something. Like when you are driving, which is where a lot of great ideas or to-do list items surface in your brain.

Which is where MessageMia comes in. Even while driving you can take notes by calling Mia using your normal hands-free kit and the toll-free number. Record your message and Mia will transcribe it and email it back to you.


Eureka and catching your great ideas

History is full of great examples of flashes of inspiration, that a-ha moment of an epiphany.

We call it a eureka moment after one of the early examples. Ancient Greek mathematician and scientist Archimedes got into his bath after a long day of inventing. He noticed that the water slopped over the edges of the bath as his body went in. Legend has it he leapt from the bath shouting “Eureka!” (“I have found it!” in Ancient Greek) because he realised he had found a way to work out the volume of an object by the displacement of water.

Science has many such moments, a little nudge or prompt and everything falls into place. Isaac Newton sat under an apple tree sees the fruit falling and all of a sudden understands gravity.

It might seem like a bolt from the blue but it isn’t exactly. When an epiphany comes it is likely that your brain has been working away on the issue subconsciously. Archimedes and Newton were actively engaged in science, maths and trying to understand these things. They had the background knowledge necessary. After all, plenty of other people had seen objects fall or spilled their baths before Newton or Archimedes did.

Their realisations came not when they were sat at their books, working out sums, or carrying out deliberate experiments. It was when their minds were quiet and engaged with other tasks that all the connections fell into place.

It’s the same reason why we have great ideas while driving. Certain parts of our brain are taken up with the repetitive, automatic task of driving a car while others wander free. It’s the perfect environment to have an epiphany.

Unfortunately it’s a very imperfect environment to safely record the results of that epiphany. Few things are more frustrating than having a great idea and then forgetting it. We’ve all experienced it – the idea that would have made our millions, a task we absolutely must do, the perfect line for a book, even just a great idea for someone’s birthday present. These flashes of inspiration come quickly and can go quickly too. But when we are driving it is hard to catch them. Writing a note or typing it on our phone is dangerous and illegal. We might not be able to pull over to do so safely.

Which is where MessageMia comes in. To help you remember great ideas while driving you can call up Mia safely and legally using your normal hands-free set up. Dictate your message and Mia will transcribe it and email it back to you along with the original recording. Hands-free on-the-go note-taking that is safe and legal, keeping you productive even while driving.


The Facts on Commuting

The daily commute sees our rush hour traffic pile up, road rage to get the day off to the worst start, and hours spent getting to and from work.

How does your commute compare to the average? Find out how far and how long people commute, what methods of transport they use and how commutes are changing over time…

  • On average people commuted for 55 minutes a day in 2015.
  • Commutes of more than 2 hours a day have gone up 72% in the last decade.
  • Even bigger commutes of more than 3 hours have gone up 75% in the last decade.
  • More than 3 million people commute for more than 2 hours every day, and 880,000 for more than 3 hours.
  • 21.5 million people commuted to work in 2011 according to the census, out of 26.5 million working people.
  • 66% of commutes were made by car in 2011. That’s down on 2001 numbers.
  • Over 10% of commutes are by rail, up from last decade and bus travel is also rising.
  • London has the biggest numbers of commuters by rail, more people travel by train or underground than drive.
  • Commuting time is increasing most in the south east, south west, east Midlands and Wales.
  • The number of people working from home or not commuting regularly is going up rapidly.
  • Most journeys are made for shopping, not for travelling to and from work.

There are lots of places this research comes from. The census asks questions about people’s workplaces and travel, there’s an annual National Travel Survey, the Office for National Statistics collates lots of information and presents it, then there are independent surveys carried out by companies or organisations, such as the Trade Union Council study.

It all paints an interesting picture of our commuting habits. Less people are commuting, but those who do are travelling for longer. Public transport is being used more but cars still reign in most of the country.

Why are commutes getting longer? Housing shortages in the most-affected areas may be to blame as people must live further away from work to get affordable housing. Increases in trains and buses might also be a factor as these methods might take longer than travelling directly by car – though there are lots of advantages to public transport as well.

Commuting by car can be especially frustrating as there isn’t much you can get done on your commute while staying safe and legal. It isn’t the most productive way to travel but millions of people are doing it every day, sometimes for hours.

MessageMia can turn that travel time into productive time. Your hands-free on-the-go note-taker, Mia allows you to record ideas, thoughts, tasks, to do list items and anything you think of while driving. Just call Mia’s toll-free number and record your message. Mia will transcribe it and send it back to you in an email. So you can have a safe, legal, productive commute, however long it is.