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The Science of Eureka

We’ve talked about the power of the “Eureka!” moment before on the blog and here’s the science to back it up: these epiphanies are often better at solving problems than analytical thinking. Researchers at Drexel University did a series of experiments last year that prove the value of these flashes of insight, even over more rational analytical thinking.

One professor on the study, Dr John Kounios, is even co-author of the book The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight and the Brain. On the Eureka moments, he says, “the process runs to completion in its own time and all the dots are connected unconsciously, the solution pops into awareness as an Aha! moment. This means that when a really creative, breakthrough idea is needed, it’s often best to wait for the insight rather than settling for an idea that resulted from analytical thinking.”

How do you test for something like that? Subjects were given four different types of timed puzzles to complete. The ones who reported their answer coming from an “aha” moment were more likely to be correct. People answering with an analytical answer were more likely to meet the time deadline – but their answer was wrong making meeting the deadline a bit irrelevant.

Insight proved the clear winner. On the linguistic puzzles insight had a 94% success rate, compared to 78% for analytic approaches. In visual puzzles the gap was even bigger: 78% for insight versus 42% for analytic.

So an insight isn’t always going to be right but it has a much greater chance of being correct than an analytical response, especially under a deadline. We tend to look down on these sudden “aha” moments though, thinking that answers ought to come from robust analysis and toil. Really it depends on the subject.

Dr Kounios said that analytical thinking is best for when there are known strategies to find solutions, like maths. But for creative thinking or issues without an obvious structure for a solution then these insights deserve to be given weight and consideration as they are even more likely to be right than an apparently rigorously methodical analytic solution.

The next question is how to go about collecting these insights as by definition they are less likely to happen when you are sat at your desk actively working on a problem. In fact the “aha” moments can happen at very inconvenient times – such as when you are driving.

Which is exactly where MessageMia can help. Remember your great ideas while driving by calling up Mia and leaving a message. It will be transcribed and emailed back to you, ready to go. MessageMia is your hands-free on-the-go notebook.


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.


How to build your own task management system

Last time here on the blog we talked about the Getting Things Done task management system. While GTD has millions of devotees all over the world it isn’t for everyone. Maybe you have given it a go and weren’t impressed. Or maybe you have tried all sorts of productivity systems, to do list apps and time management plans but haven’t found anything you really like?

There is a tendency to assume that because something worked for one person it must work for everyone. Which is why we get floods of books and articles about the productivity habits of the top entrepreneurs and businesspeople.

Of course in reality we all have our individual quirks and habits, not to mention unique circumstances. If you can’t follow anyone else’s system you don’t need to be set adrift and completely system-less. Instead you need to build your own, tailor-made to you.

How do you currently organise your day and your to dos? Do you think it could be better with a few tweaks or do you want something else entirely?

The foundation of your new task management system should be somewhere you already spend most of your time. That could be your online calendar, paper diary or planner, email inbox, to do list or note taking app even pinboard in your kitchen. Don’t reinvent the wheel and remember that the key to getting organised is to actually use it.

Once you have decided on your base of operations you can build on it. If it is electronic there will be addons, extensions and plugins that you can use. Most email programmes link to a calendar where you can add reminders, or they have a tasks function like Gmail. Online calendars can send you reminders of tasks you had scheduled, support attachments and lists, integrate with your phone and other tricks. To do list apps should have notifications, shortcuts for adding tasks from your phone home screen and so on.

If you prefer offline use then there is still plenty you can do to streamline your system. Check out different colour and shape post-it notes for different tasks and reminders. Some stationery shops sell little packs of notes, tear off lists and reminders. Colour coding can be good for a paper calendar too – either by person or by category of task. If you use a paper diary or planner check out the Bullet Journal to supercharge it.

Most of us don’t have enough hours in the day so we have to press the less convenient times into service. One of the biggest empty spaces in our lives is our commute. But you can make that time productive by using MessageMia. It’s safe and legal using the hands-free on your phone so you can record reminders, ideas, tasks and to dos. Mia saves them and sends them back to you so you never need to forget another idea while driving. Find out more now.


MessageMia and Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done is a time management and productivity system by David Allen that has become legendary. It has spawned countless books, apps, accessories, copycats and extensions since the debut of the idea in 2001.

What makes it so phenomenally popular? Why are so many people devoted to the system?

At the heart of GTD is the idea of capturing all the little items that are floating around in your head at any one time. The to dos, the ideas, the tasks, the things you need to remember. Allen says “your mind is for having ideas, not holding them” and that is something of a motto for GTD. He calls these “open loops” or “incompletes” and the theory is that having them buzzing around in your head is distracting and causes anxiety from worrying you are going to forget something.

So the first step is capturing and collecting all those incompletes. Anyone who has done a proper brain dump – whether related to GTD or not – knows how freeing it feels to get everything out of there. The feeling is almost addictive so it is easy to see why people keep coming back to a system where that is the first step and a very central point.

GTD goes on to provide a really robust and workable system for clarifying your to dos, organising them, reflecting and engaging. It gives users the confidence that their to dos are in a process where they don’t need to keep them in their heads anymore.

It’s also really flexible in organising your tasks by likely time investment and location so you never need to wonder what you should be working on. If you are at your computer and have 15 minutes you can easily find what you should be working on.

The key is to be able to trust your system and not be worrying about all these open loops so collection and capturing is key. Whether it’s an app on your phone, a notebook on your desk or both, you need to know you can get the information down and then into the system.

One of the most frustrating places to have ideas or remember things you need to do, is when you are driving. You can’t simply drop everything to capture new tasks or thoughts on your phone or in a notebook.

Which is exactly the problem MessageMia is here to help you with. Mia is a hands-free way to record your ideas and to dos. Using your usual hands-free setup you call Mia and record a voice message – safely and legally while you are driving. Mia transcribes your note for you and sends it back in an email, along with the original voice file. Your commute and driving time becomes productive, safer and less stressful trying to hold on to ideas.

MessageMia is your hands-free to do list and on-the-go note-taker. Try it now.


Forgetting versus Not Remembering

Is there a difference between forgetting, and not remembering? More than just a quirk of the English language that means they might look like the same thing at first glance.

It’s a distinction that might help you wriggle out of a bind in the future. It’s not that you forgot something, it’s that you didn’t remember. It might also explain how tip-of-the-tongue facts elude you watching University Challenge or at the pub quiz.

Some people might argue that it is all purely semantics, or word play. Remembering and forgetting are opposites, they might say, so “not remembering” is the same as “forgetting.” But, like language, the science of memory is complicated. For information to be retained it has to jump through a lot of hoops in the brain. And even then, most of it is lost within days.

Think back to your last encounter with a stranger. The person sat opposite you on the bus, train or tube this morning. The cashier at the corner shop or barista who handed you your morning coffee. Chances are you can’t recall much about them. What were they wearing, what about the colour of their top? You don’t know – but did you forget that information, or did you not remember it in the first place?

Forgetting implies that the information made its way into your brain at some point but that you have trouble getting it back out again. You know when Mother’s Day is (pro-tip, it’s this weekend!) but you forget in the hustle and bustle of life to order flowers, or that it’s this weekend and not still in the distant future.

When prompted, given clues or hints, or reminded properly, the information comes flooding back.

But with not remembering that information never really makes it into your mind in the first place. Maybe you get distracted before you can really make a note of it, before it is embedded. And then it is gone and no amount of prompting or reminders will get it back and you just draw a complete blank.

Of course, with MessageMia you don’t need to worry about either forgetting or not remembering. You don’t need to rely on your busy brain at all. Just make a note with Mia and you will never forget – or not remember – your great ideas, tasks or to-do list jobs. Mia is your hands-free to-do list and on-the-go note-taker. 


How MessageMia Helps Fleet Managers

As a busy fleet manager you have got enough on your plate at the best of times. The last thing you need to deal with is drivers that pick up points and fines for driving using their mobile phone or who are getting distracted and having accidents.

The police are cracking down on drivers who use their mobile phones and public opinion is turning against it – which can lead to trouble for businesses whose drivers are seen on their phones. Careless driving reflects badly on the company too and there could be liability issues. Penalties can hit you where it hurts when it comes to insurance and needing to onboard new drivers fast. Having accidents in the fleet really disrupts things and creates lots more extra work.

At the same time it can be frustrating to have a great idea while driving that you can’t make note of and driving time can feel like a waste.

MessageMia makes driving safer and more productive. Mia is a hands-free to-do list and notebook perfect for when you are on the go. Just call up Mia using the normal hands-free kit and record a voice message. This message is then transcribed and emailed back. All completely safe and legal.

So your drivers can record observations, make notes, capture their great ideas and turn the travel into more productive, useful time.

MessageMia’s bulk discount packages for business are great value and an all-in-one low monthly price. There are no call charges – Mia is free to phone. There’s no app to install – just add Mia to the normal phonebook. There’s no special equipment – a normal hands-free kit is all that is needed. It doesn’t matter what make or model of phone – Mia works for everyone.

Just sign up your drivers and Mia will get their accounts set up with phone number and email address. You don’t need to do anything else.


MessageMia for the Solopreneur Toolkit

For the solopreneur big entrepreneurial dreams are fuelled by just one person – you. So you have to fill lots of roles and wear lots of different hats during the average day. You need support running the show: targeted to your biggest needs, value for money, allowing you to leverage your time.

There are some great tricks you can use to really maximise your abilities as a solopreneur. These will give you a capacity beyond your normal reach and make your one-person band feel and look like a bigger team.

MessageMia is like having your own note-taking PA and transcriptionist without having the hassle of hiring and human resources. It’s a low-cost subscription with no extra equipment needed – you just save Mia’s number to your phone and call normally, using your hands-free kit if you are driving.

You won’t have the commute into the office as a solopreneur but you might be travelling to visit clients or have meetings that take up a lot of your time. You can make that time productive by recording your notes, great ideas or to-do lists with MessageMia. Get a jump on your emails, presentations and speeches by calling up and leaving your messages. They are then transcribed and emailed back to you, ready to go.

Another task a personal assistant can help with is scheduling meetings – it can take a lot of emailing back and forth to establish a good time for everyone. There are apps like MixMax that sit inside your email and can be used to take the hassle out of scheduling. If you like Slack, Meekan is a scheduling and calendar management bot that can find times and sort your appointments

You can put your marketing on autopilot using tools like Buffer, Quuu, CoSchedule, IFTTT and Zapier. Social media can be a powerful tool for your business but it is also a timesink that can suck you in like a blackhole. You can limit your time spent on it by using automations and limiting the energy you need to spend on it.

ColdTurkey and similar apps can help you with that – by blocking and limiting your access to certain sites to keep you focussed. If you get distracted by Facebook or Twitter you can shut it off until a certain time so you can get that work done.

So get more done with MessageMia, your hands-free on-the-go note-taker.


Hands-free on-the-go note taking with Message Mia

MessageMia gives you hands-free on-the-go note taking and in this blog post we are also giving you some top tricks and tips on how to make the most of this great tool.

MessageMia doesn’t have its own app taking up space on your phone, needing updating and so on. It fits seamlessly in with what you already have and your current setup. You just add Mia as a contact and use your normal hands-free dialling to call up and leave a message. It’s so easy to use, with no special equipment or software necessary.

You don’t pay for your calls – just a low monthly subscription and it is all included. So you don’t need to worry about your phone bill or limiting your use. The more you use Mia the better value you get.

Businesses who want MessageMia for their team get great value bulk discounts. You can have everyone productive while on-the-go and improve your efficiency, and your safety.

Safety is an important part of MessageMia. Designed to be great for note-taking while you are on-the-go a big part of that is while driving. Trying to write down an idea, or use a note-taking app on your phone is dangerous. But pulling over is not always safe or convenient either.

Because taking your eyes off the road is so dangerous to yourself and other road users it is also punishable under the law with a £200 fine and six point licence penalty. The police are cracking down on mobile phone use while driving and the government increased the fine and penalty points new for this year.

If you have an accident or incur a fine in your company car you will have to face the music with your boss too, not just the police. And if one of your fleet is caught in an accident or using a mobile phone then the business could be held responsible too.

MessageMia protects you from all these concerns, legal as well as health and safety. Whether you are the driver or fleet manager, an individual or health and safety manager, MessageMia gives you a great way to stay productive on the road.

Commutes can be long and unproductive. You can listen to podcasts or audiobooks to do something useful with your time but you couldn’t create – until MessageMia. Now you can plan out your to-dos, capture all your great ideas, remember tasks, compose emails or presentations. All these notes will be waiting for you when you reach the office. Mia records, transcribes and emails you your notes along with the original voice message.

MessageMia is simple, safe and legal hands-free on-the-go note taking.