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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.


What would you do with an extra hour a day?

Whether you are an alarm-snoozing person or an up with the larks to pull on your running shoes person we would all like a bit of extra time in the day. Whether you spend that having breakfast in bed, hitting the gym or working on your novel.

Squeeze all the productive moments out of your day that you can. For all its convenience there is a lot of downtime in modern life and it can be better spent than reading the Metro or looking at cats on the internet.

The first step is finding out what you are actually spending your time on right now. You can use an app or a good old fashioned pen and paper to make a time diary. It might be massively at odds with what you think you are doing. It will definitely reveal some good chunks of time that you are wasting that can be used on something more important.

You might not be able to eliminate your commute but you can harness that time to pursue your goals. Listening to audiobooks or podcasts is always a good use of this time but you aren’t just limited to absorbing information. With MessageMia you can brainstorm ideas for a new project, make a note of a great opening sentence, draft speeches and emails or get a head start on your day and write your to-do list. All hands-free and on the go so you can hit the ground running when you arrive.

Tools like offline Gmail, MixMax and Boomerang give you great control over your email. You can write your mails anytime, anywhere, and then schedule them to be sent at a more appropriate or convenient time. You won’t forget the drafts and you free up time when it suits you. There are lots of other services that will make your life easier from behind the scenes provided you don’t waste too much time or get distracted while looking for them.

With just a little preparation time you can save more time in the long run. Pack your bag or lay out your clothes the night before. Set up deliveries for your weekly shop and put as much of the minutiae of your life as you can on auto-pilot.

Spend your time wisely and make the most of it with these tips courtesy of MessageMia.


Want to have more great ideas?

Find out how to unlock your creativity and get more done, courtesy of MessageMia

Be ready whenever inspiration strikes. Make sure you have a notebook or an app on your phone to save and organise all your ideas. An app has the advantage of being safe storage, usually on the cloud, and ideally to sync across your different devices. So your notes are backed up and available to work on wherever and whenever.

At the same time as being ready you can also train inspiration to strike. Cue yourself with a song to get in the mood, reading something inspiring, looking at a vision board and so on. These little rituals will start to trigger your brain to know that it is time to bring on the big ideas.

Because the mind is a muscle we can give it some workouts to strengthen it up. Crosswords, sudoku, brainteasers and brain training programmes help to keep the mind sharp. Meditation, mindfulness, journaling and dream diaries clear the mind and give it space to come up with those great ideas.

Give yourself warm-up exercises – writing prompts, ten minutes to do a sketch, brainstorm some quick ideas. Fit it into your schedule even if it means putting it in your calendar. Even ten minutes a day will bring big benefits. Every day is best, even if only for a few minutes – it will be easier to expand that time but harder to keep the habit up if it isn’t practiced every day.

Keep the inspiration tank topped up by discovering new things, reading fiction and non-fiction, watching random documentaries, visiting museums, going on walks or listening to music – whatever gets you fired up and your juices flowing.

Take advantage of every moment for ideas to come to you, even if it might seem inconvenient. Driving in the car is a tricky combination of prime idea-having time (the repetitive tasks and being in motion trigger creativity in many people) but also dangerous and illegal to use that pen and paper or mobile phone app.

The answer here is MessageMia, a hands-free note-taking service that works with your phone. Call the free MessageMia number and record your message. It’s transcribed and emailed back to you. Simple and safe to make the most of every minute of great ideas.


How to Get the Hands-Free Autopilot Life

Self-driving cars still have a few hurdles to make it over before we can take our hands off the wheel and read, snooze or write on our journeys but there are still plenty of things you can set on autopilot in the meantime.

IFTTT (If This Then That) and Zapier are two behind-the-scenes automations that link pretty much all your apps, accounts, devices, websites and wearables. Use for business and home in nearly limitless combinations. Build recipes or zaps to trigger automatic actions that can join up your social media, to-do list app, note taking, calendar, email and payments just for starters. Log, track, share and sync everything without lifting a finger.

Home automation isn’t growing as fast as pundits predicted and often seems focussed on security but has so much potential to save time as well as money. Put your home on autopilot with programmable and internet-linked lights, heating, sensors, entertainment and cameras. Have your thermostat and lights adjust automatically when you get home and so much more. It will save time and money and wildly impress your friends.

There really is an app for anything meaning you can access pretty much any service instantly at your fingertips. Have apps work out your most efficient commute, organise your travel, track your spending, find a plumber, be your fitness instructor and fulfil your every whim. You can even turn your phone into a full blown personal assistant with services from Google, Amazon and the big boys or DIY it out with Tasker.

Take notes while driving the hands-free way. Call up MessageMia on your phone and leave a recording that is transcribed and emailed back to you. Safe, legal and making the most of productive journey time when your mind wanders and you have great ideas or just want to brain-dump your to-do list.

You can even use the magic of IFTTT and Zapier mentioned above, to have all your MessageMia emails get put straight into your to-do list app, a new document or spreadsheet for review or directly into your calendar. Forward them to your assistant or project management system for even more hands-free organisation.

So driverless cars might not be on your street yet but now you’ve got everything on autopilot how will you be spending all the extra time and energy?


Who can get the most out of MessageMia?

MessageMia is a versatile hands-free tool to make sure you don’t forget great ideas while driving. So who can get the most out of MesssageMia?

The quick answer is that anyone spending time in the car can benefit from using Mia. Whether it’s a daily commute, business trips or holiday travel. If you have an idea or remember a thought while driving you can use MessageMia. Work through your shopping list on the way to the supermarket, rehearse for a speech, make a note to buy flowers or post a card.

If you are a manager of a fleet or a business owner, then you need Mia not just for yourself but for your employees. Health and safety concerns are your responsibility and providing MessageMia to your workers will help you manage the risks. Hands-free and with no special equipment needed everyone can use Mia to make their drives safe, legal and productive.

Because writers are always mulling over their books and the open road encourages an open mind, a lot of thinking happens when driving. Coming up with that perfect sentence is a thrill – but not being able to write it down and then forgetting is an incredible frustration. Writing advice says to always have a pen and paper or note-taking app ready for when inspiration strikes. But what happens when inspiration strikes in the car? MessageMia is what you need.

Entrepreneurs can have their MessageMia transcriptions forwarded on to a VA to get started on their to-do list. Rather than a phone call you can dictate as and when you have ideas, in short chunks and when you aren’t distracted. The recordings are transcribed and emailed back so you can begin taking action straight away.

MessageMia is flexible for anyone’s needs, and everyone knows what it’s like to have a great idea while driving and then forget it. Not anymore.