How to Give Your E-mail Inbox a Smackdown

Does your email drive you crazy? Do you feel like you’re never above water when it comes to gaining control of just too many messages (not including spam, notifications, newsletters, and daily deals)? According to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, we each spend 13 hours reading, deleting, sorting, and sending emails on a weekly basis. That amounts to a whopping 28 percent of our workweek! Imagine getting all the time back to pursue other more important things, let alone accomplishing more productive “real” work. Here’s how to do it: embrace the following 3 rules and improve your email sanity. 
 
Thank you so much for your interest in Brainetics. For years now people have been asking me to write a book that features my best lessons for adults to learn in becoming productive, fast thinkers. I’m thrilled to finally be sharing with you the good news: it’s landing in bookstores this week. Want a sneak peek? Below are some of my many secrets you’ll read about in The Power of Forgetting: Six Essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You. Take it to heart today. Be smarter tomorrow.
 
Rule #1: Be a Smart Loser
Face it: You will never get ahead of your email for any lengthy period of time. Never. So give up the idea that you can win in this realm and you’ll automatically free your mind up to deal with email smartly. You can’t lose sleep knowing that every minute you’re away from your computer is a minute you’re missing incoming emails to handle. Most everyone today wakes up to dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of new emails. You’re not alone so why worry? Forget about it!
 
Rule #2: Get Your Priorities Straight
If you get anxious when you can’t access your email account or respond to messages marked “high priority” (!) right away, then this rule is definitely for you. Repeat after me: Thou shall not treat email—not matter what—as my #1 priority. Seriously, folks. No one is going to die if you’re not responding to email quickly or at all for a given period of time. You know deep down what can wait, even if the person on the other side will get annoyed if you take longer than expected to reply. In fact, see if you can avoid checking any email before 10 a.m., and if that’s just too impossible for you, then scan your mail quickly first thing in the morning, flag the most important messages to respond to that day, and plan when you’ll deal with sorting, deleting, and responding. Do not reply to anything before 10 a.m. unless it’s truly an emergency. And I mean it: e.m.e.r.g.e.n.c.y (these don’t happen every day).
 
Rule #3: Flip the Switch!
Does your email automatically stream into your inbox on a regular basis? And do you look at messages as they come in? If so, listen up: Not only does keeping your email account always “On” and routinely downloading from your server leave you more vulnerable to bugs and computer viruses, but you could be doing serious damage to your ability to perform your job. Take a moment to think about the types of jobs that require high levels of focus and concentration for extended periods of time. Surgeon. Test pilot. Race car driver. Member of the special forces in the military. Champion chess player. People who go into these lines of work or who take up hobbies that demand intense precision and rigor must train their brains to achieve exceptional levels of concentration—and they aren’t checking their emails thirty-six times an hour all day long like so many of us do. Choose the times that you’re going to go check your inbox and manually hit the “get mail” function in your email program; stay strictly offline in between those times (and please don’t have any “you’ve got mail” pings streaming through your speakers; turn these features off your mobile devices, too, including tablets). Having your email turned off will automatically make you feel less stressed out, anxious, and prone to checking it continuously like a maniac. You can even include a line in your signature that says something along the following: “Note: If I do not respond to email right away, I am on deadline or away from my computer. I will return messages within 1 to 2 business days. Thanks.”
 
 
Want more tips and best practices to improve your mental performance? Order your copy of my book, The Power of Forgetting, at your favorite retailer today at MikeByster.com.

How to Remember Everyone’s Name at Your Next Cocktail Party or Business Meeting

Have you ever been introduced to a bunch of different people in a room and left not remembering anyone’s name? If you’ve ever wished that name recall came instantly and automatically for you, then I’ve got good news for you. Names tend to be pretty abstract on the surface. For many people, it’s easier to recognize faces than to remember names, which is why the secret to mastering name recall is to apply a strategy whereby a feature of that person tells you his or her name. Follow these 3 tips and you’ll never draw a blank again when you run into someone you’ve met before.

Thank you so much for your interest in Brainetics. For years now people have been asking me to write a book that features my best lessons for adults to learn in becoming productive, fast thinkers. I’m thrilled to finally be sharing with you the good news: it’s landing in bookstores in March. Want a preview? Below are some of my many secrets you’ll read about in The Power of Forgetting: Six Essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You. Take it to heart today. Be smarter tomorrow.


 

Tip #1: Listen Up!

So many of us fail to establish original awareness of a name when we first hear it. So it’s not that we forget names; it’s that we never hear them clearly at the start and end up with only gobbledygook to remember. I think it’s human nature not to want to ask someone to repeat his or her name. We don’t want to look stupid. To that I say, get over it! If you don’t catch a name clearly when you’re introduced to someone, ask again. And if it’s not an easy or common name, ask the person to spell it. That’s not rude, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If anything, the person will be flattered that you’re interested enough to want to remember their name. Even if you don’t think that you’ll ever see this person again in your life, get the name right the first time so that you won’t be caught off guard when you do meet again after all.

Tip #2: Create an Association to the Sound of the Name

Create a similar-sounding word or sentence using the sounds of the name. For instance, Karasek could sound like “carrot on a stick.” My name, Byster, could sound like “by the stairs.” In each case, you’d picture the individual embodying the phrase. So you’d picture Mr. Karasek holding a carrot on a stick, and you’d picture me standing by a staircase. As with any association you make when you want to remember something, it’s important to create the link in the moment—the very instant you’re first hearing the name (and perhaps shaking hands). And like most anything else, it will become easier and easier to apply this tactic as you practice it. Soon enough, you’ll be able to turn names like Kraszynski (pronounced “kra-zin-ski”) into phrases such as “crazy zin on skis” (“zin” for a bottle of zinfandel), or make the zin a “sin”; Djokovic (pronounced “joke-a-vich”) becomes “joke and fetch,” and Gutierrez becomes “gut in tiara.” If you’re familiar with more advanced vocabulary or the romance languages in particular, you might have noticed that the second part of Gutierrez contains sounds that are close to the word tierra, which means earth or land. So alternatively, you could associate this name with “gut in the earth.” As you can see, absurdity is allowed here, and the phrase you create needn’t contain every sound or syllable in the name. You just need to have enough sounds to give you the gist of it—then you can figure it out. Your memory will fill in the blanks.

Tip #3: Link a Physical Feature to Their Name

The third strategy is to identify a feature or characteristic about the person and link it to their name. The mere act of seeking an outstanding feature will force you to be aware of the person in a conscious manner, creating original awareness. Such a unique feature can be any number of things—crooked teeth, ears that stick out, a high forehead, a puggish nose, a mole on the cheek, acne, freckles. First impressions count! That is to say, first impressions tend to be lasting ones, so try to make your association the moment you meet. Use the first thing that comes to mind. The feature you choose doesn’t necessarily have to be something permanent. Let’s say you meet someone named Barry who happens to be wearing a blue shirt. Say to yourself, “Blueberry.” This word will trigger your memory the next time you see him and need to recall his name. Or let’s say you meet a Tamara who has a toothy grin. It’s not a name you’ve heard before, and it’s not easy to pronounce; you’re not sure if it’s closer to the word “tomorrow” or “tomato.” Assuming that it sounds more like “tomorrow,” with the second a sounding like the a in “car,” you could come up with “going to the dentist tomorrow” or something similar. The point is to single out a specific feature to which you can link a word or phrase and instantly associate that person with it. Even if it’s challenging to find a link that’s good and strong enough to permanently interlock a name and face in your memory, just trying will improve your memory. Face it: You’re doing what so few people do when they meet someone—and that’s paying attention!

Finally, I should add here that you do not need to know everyone’s name and face. Focus on just the ones you need or want to recall and forget the others. Practice these strategies in situations where you’re not feeling the pressure to remember.

Want more tips and best practices to improve your memory and mental performance? Pre-order your copy of my book, The Power of Forgetting, at your favorite retailer today at MikeByster.com.

How to Think Like a Memory Champ

Wish you had the memory of a pro so you can pack more information inside your head while expanding your processing speed, mental sharpness, and overall brainpower? Well, the secret lies in mastering one simple trick.

Thank you so much for your interest in Brainetics. For years now people have been asking me to write a book that features my best lessons for adults to learn in becoming productive, fast thinkers. I’m thrilled to finally be sharing with you the good news: it’s landing in bookstores in March. Want a preview? Below is one of many secrets you’ll read about in The Power of Forgetting: Six Essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You. Take it to heart today. Be smarter tomorrow.

Build a Memory Palace: A Place to Get Organized (and Comfortable)

At the World Memory Championships, top competitors memorize the order of twenty shuffled decks of cards in an hour and more than five hundred random digits in fifteen minutes, among other feats. Believe it or not, almost everybody has the capacity to perform such incredible feats if you know how to build a memory palace.

A memory palace is an imaginary place where you can go to recall information. What you basically do is envision a large building (a “palace”) in your mind and mentally decorate that building, filling it up from the inside out in ways that help you store information you need to remember. So, for instance, if I’m trying to memorize the signers of the Declaration of Independence, I might go to a parlor in my memory palace where all of the signers are sitting around the table. Or I could have a kitchen where my refrigerator is adorned with important telephone numbers. But memory palaces needn’t be based on palaces per se. They can be based on a trusty route you take to work or a single room where you are most comfortable, such as your bedroom, or a favorite garden. The only rules you have to follow in building this fictional setting are to make it relevant to yourself and your life and to make it totally bizarre.You have to give yourself the freedom to fill your personal space with eccentric objects, situations, people, and even characters.

With time and practice, anyone can build a memory palace, and again, your palace can reap a wide spectrum of benefits for you that go beyond a memory champ’s achievements. You can use your palace at work to mentally stage your presentation at the next board meeting. You can use it at school to recall a year’s worth of knowledge for a final exam or in an athletic setting to store critical information about plays or strategies. And you can use it in more personal ways as well, such as remembering important information like birthdays, anniversaries, your social calendar, and appointments. For instance, you could organize a year’s worth of birthday dates by picturing a twelve-story building, with each floor designated as a month. January is the first floor, and your twelfth floor represents December. Within each floor you have mental pictures that signify the people and corresponding dates of their individual birthdays.

            Lots of Web sites will teach you how to build a memory palace. Most of them follow similar instructions, such as:

  • Decide on a blueprint for your palace. Will it reflect your house? Your drive to work? A favorite vacation spot?
  • Define a route with its specific locations and storage spots.
  • Memorize your memory palace.
  • Place things to be remembered in your palace, using symbols and images that are relevant to you and that reflect your creativity. This means you might not stock a closet with all of the planets. Instead, you’ll “see” a mobile of the planets hanging over your bed.
  • Keep exploring your palace to lock it into memory, and make changes as necessary.
  • Use your palace.

You may even want to draw your memory palace on paper the first time you do this exercise. See if that works for you. Memory palaces aren’t for everyone, and they can take time and practice to get used to. But for some of us they can be astonishingly effective. You just might surprise yourself.

 

Want more tips and best practices to improve your memory and mental performance? Pre-order your copy of my book, The Power of Forgetting, at your favorite retailer today at MikeByster.com.

 

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