How to save your next great idea

The brain is super quick in establishing connections – it can jump from one idea to the other in a fraction of a second. Your mind is a holding tank for all the memories, experiences, and thoughts you’ve had at some point in your life that haven’t been forgotten. Unfortunately, you can’t hook your brain up to a computer to download information from it… not yet, anyway.

With so much information passing through our brains everyday, it’s impossible to manually record everything that comes to mind. But once in a while, you have that gem – that one idea that sparks your creativity.

Still, if your brain is like mine, the idea will be gone by tomorrow unless I do something about it. Over the years, I’ve developed a system that allows for me to record anything noteworthy, enabling me to look through my thoughts and take action or even expand upon my original idea.

Capture and storage

One of the important elements is the ability to capture thoughts from anywhere I am. Therefore, I not only require a system that functions on every device I own, but also one that allows for the sync of data across these devices so I have an exact, up to date version of my notes wherever I am.

Digital Tools to Help Whip Your Body Into Shape

Technology has crept into almost every single aspect of our lives these days and fitness is no exception. With summer season coming up in a couple of weeks, here are some digital tools to help whip your body into shape.

Online classes (live and on demand)

Online classes are basically live or pre-recorded video classes which you can access from home. These are great exercise options if travel is inconvenient, one is on holiday or has to stay at home for an extended amount of time

This option also suits corporate busy bees and start up workaholics who can never seem to find the time to go and work out as online classes have 10 to 15 minute workouts on demand. All you would need is a laptop or tablet, a mat, and related exercise equipment (e.g. chair, dumbbells, etc.)

For some live classes, your device would need to have a camera and Internet connection so that the instructor can see you, and it has to be positioned where it shows your full body.

How to bounce back from burning out

Burnout occurs when the demands and stress placed on us exceed our physical and mental abilities to deal with them. We cheat ourselves out of the rest we need because we assume we can push past our breaking points. The bad news is, this is happening more frequently.

Forbes reports that since the economic downturn, many employers have cut resources—though you probably didn’t need anyone to tell you that. The reduction of resources, and stagnant pay, has coincided with an increase in tasks and responsibilities. Employees feel an intense obligation to never say no.

Prior to my burnout, I said yes to everything. There was nothing I couldn’t do, nothing I wouldn’t do for my job. If I’m being honest with myself, what it all came down to was me not wanting to give anyone else the opportunity to say yes.

The point of no return

By the time I was willing to admit to myself that I was burnt out, it was too late. I had withdrawn socially and stopped being able to sleep. I found myself crying during the middle of the day for no good reason at all. I just wanted to do better, to work as hard as I thought everyone else around me was working. It was easier for me to tell myself to work harder than it was for me to face the truth– that I needed a break.

Everyone needs a break from time-to-time. According to Scientific American, exposure to constant stress releases the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol within the body. These hormones block your ability to properly process information—among a host of other health issues they cause.

When I say break, I’m not talking about a 15-minute stroll around the block. I’m talking about some consecutive days off. The body takes a while to disconnect from the stress. That can take anywhere from a few days to a full week. Your physical and mental resources need time to regenerate. You didn’t lose them overnight, so you can’t expect to gain them back overnight either.

Here are just some of the health benefits to taking some time off:

  • Breaks you out of the cycle of stress
  • Improves relationships
  • Able to gain new perspectives
  • Helps your heart and resets your mind

For a variety of reasons, many of us refuse to (or can’t) use our vacation time. So how do you cope with burnout when you can’t stop working?

Getting real

This is the part that most of us fail miserably at. We don’t check-in with ourselves enough because we think we are too busy or too powerless to fix anything. Neither of those assumptions are true.

15 Productivity Hacks For a Startup Parent

I have a three-year-daughter and a productivity startup. Both demand my time during the day and it’s only fair that I set aside time to nurture both my babies. Spending time with my family is as important to me as building my startup.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this question: “Would you think of your business or your family when you are dying?” All work and no play is just not my thing.

Here are some of my productivity hacks that I use to get my share of a balanced work day.

1. Plan the night before

Once my daughter is asleep, I take 10 minutes and plan my next day. What do I want to accomplish? What calls I need to make? What are some things I need to review?

One practice that has really helped me is to plan a rough outline of the entire week every Sunday night.

2. Early mornings

I try to wake up an hour or so before she wakes up. I open up Teuxdeux and take five minutes to prepare for the day. I quickly check my mail (feel compelled to since I am in the Web business) and then get to the most important (not urgent) task on my list.

Somedays, I start writing – I keep Writer Pro open on my laptop the night before so I can jump into writing without being distracted by other apps and notifications.

3. Exercise

Recently, I have opted to take her swimming a couple of times a week so that I can get a quick workout too. I get 30 minutes of swimming while she is in the pool – this is great because she is excited that I am in the pool with her.

Exercise is a great way to break the monotony of daily work and just feel refreshed. My productivity soars post a workout.

4. News diet

I limit myself to very little general or world news. For tech news I just head over to Techmeme every morning and scan the top stories.

Think about it – we don’t consume much news when we are on a vacation. What happens when we are back? Nothing changes. If it is really important, you’ll hear it from someone.

Does your to-do list make you sad? Here’s how to change that

As our company grows, so does the to-dos. It gets harder to prioritize what needs to be done on any given day.

In the morning, I might have my day’s tasks lined up but suddenly a few things happen and everything changes. Priorities shift. What I thought was most important a few seconds ago, no longer is.

By the middle of the day, my to-do list can look like a messy pile of clothes in a Wal-Mart “for sale” bin.

It’s overwhelming.

I had been using the Clear app on my phone and my desktop computer because it allowed me to sync all my tasks no matter where I was. It worked great for me when I had fewer daily tasks but with more items and the constant shifting in priorities, it no longer did the trick.

When I started writing my to-dos down on paper, I felt a sense of control.

Psychology John Medina wrote in his book Brain Rules, about how the brain is a sequential processor, meaning that the brain can only run a single task to completion before starting a new one. This means the brain cannot multitask.

Even if you think you’re good at multitasking, you’re likely just better than others at switching between tasks. Everyone’s brain must go through a similar 4-step process each time you switch to a new task. You might be able to go through this “switching process” faster than someone else but we all must go through this same process.

Focus is a fragile thing. Just having my to-do list peeking at me behind my current window on my computer, seemed to create a form of multitasking in my brain.

Where to find ideas and inspiration for a blog post

One of the most common questions I get asked as a writer/blogger/content marketer is where I get my ideas from. Publishing as often as I do (multiple times per week, up to every weekday sometimes), ideas are certainly something I need a lot of.

Since people seem interested in how this works for me, I thought I’d share some of the ways that work best for me (so far—it’s always a work in progress!).

TED talks

Whenever I’m in a curious mood, I like to browse the homepage of TED. The videos I’ve found there are usually full of memorable stories and fascinating information.

In the past I’ve used TED talks as inspiration for posts about an inspiring teacher, how we think about charities (that one really woke me up) andneuroscience myths.


I try to read a lot. After all, that’s one of the marks of a good writer.

Sometimes I’ll want to riff off something I read, but more often it’ll simply plant a seed in my mind that doesn’t grow into an idea until later. I really like using pen and paper, so I’ll often jot down thoughts, ideas and quotes that come from what I’m reading, which really helps to cement that seed in my mind so it can connect with other thoughts I have later and become a full idea of its own.

I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to, but here’s my process at the moment:

  • I’ve subscribed to around 30 RSS feeds using Feedly. I’m fairly ruthless about choosing what to read within these feeds: if it’s not interesting to me, or I’m not engaged after the first paragraph or two, I don’t waste time continuing with it.
  • I use Readability to save articles for later. Not just long ones, but almost everything. I generally find not only do I not have time to read when I come across new articles online, but I’m rarely in the right frame of mind, either. (side note: I’ve tried Pocket and Instapaper, as well as Pinboard’s read-later option and found that Readability is best for me right now but they’re all good services with their own benefits.)
  • I don’t read much on my Mac, but when I do I use Feedly’s web interface. I have ReadKit, and as soon as it integrates with Buffer I’ll use that as my main reading tool for the Mac.
  • On my iPhone and iPad I use Reeder for both RSS feeds and my Readability articles. It has a beautiful design and integrates with things I use a lot, like Buffer and Pinboard.
  • When I make the time, I also read actual books on my Kindle Paperwhite.
  • Every morning I check a small stack of sites including Hacker News, Quibb,Quora and Kippt to find interesting stories to add to my Readability queue.
  • Occasionally I use an iPhone app called Readtime (that happens to be made in Melbourne! Yay!) which lets you choose a time period like 10 minutes and grabs articles from your Readability or Pocket list that fill in that much time. It’s a great way to get through your list more quickly.

There are loads of other places to find great stuff to read. Some of my favourites that I just don’t have time for right now are Prismatic, Flipboard, Zite, Byliner, The Feature, Longform and Longreads.

I also save lots of links from Twitter as I browse it, and occasionally from

How to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

I used to hate answering questions in class. I mean what if I got it wrong or what if I didn’t say it right? Nope, too many risks.

Instead of answering questions I would try to look very intently at the teacher. That way I could let them know, that I knew, but that I couldn’t answer. Yah, that never worked.

When people describe me, assertive is the last word they use. This has cost me a lot, both professionally and personally. Hopefully, you can learn from some of my mistakes.

Where does assertiveness come from?

Use any other euphemism you want for being assertive, I would still want nothing to do with it. It truly terrifies me.

Assertive comes to us from the late 1560′s meaning “declaratory, positive, full of assertion.” To understand what it means to be assertive, you have to figure out where you place on the spectrum of communication behaviors. So, here they are:

Your ability to control and regulate your emotions happens in the prefrontal cortex:

Because the prefrontal cortex develops during adolescence, how assertive you are in life is also largely determined at this point. It is heavily influenced by the experiences you had early in life.

Assertiveness has been linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine, helps to control the brains reward and pleasure center, among a myriad of other things. Assertiveness is a goal directed behavior, meaning you utilize it in order to achieve something you view as desirable. This ties into the motivation and reward centers of your brain, which dopamine plays a huge role in.

But what’s so useful about being assertive?

Does your to-do list make you sad? Here’s how to change that

Psychology John Medina wrote in his book Brain Rules, about how the brain is a sequential processor, meaning that the brain can only run a single task to completion before starting a new one. This means the brain cannot multitask.

Even if you think you’re good at multitasking, you’re likely just better than others at switching between tasks. Everyone’s brain must go through a similar 4-step process each time you switch to a new task. You might be able to go through this “switching process” faster than someone else but we all must go through this same process.

Focus is a fragile thing. Just having my to-do list peeking at me behind my current window on my computer, seemed to create a form of multitasking in my brain.

Digital clutter is as bad as physical clutter

When I started writing my to-dos on paper, the separation from the digital space (where I do most of my work) to the physical, helped me feel less overwhelmed.

As Mark Hurst, author of Bit Literacy, a New York Times best seller on controlling the flow of information in the digital age put it,

“Bits are a new material.”

Although an extra app open in the background may not seem like much, it effects your concentration. It has been largely supported that humans can hold an average of seven plus or minus two bits of information in our working memory to dedicate to a current task.

This means, for every tab or app you have open, you’re potentially depleting your ability to perform the current task by more than 10 percent.

Each tab or app you have open is a form of interruption. Moving your to-do list to a different medium from where you do work helps separate it from your working memory.

Your to-do list should not be a source of decision fatigue

We all have a limited number of “decision-making points” in a day. When you wake up in the morning, you start with a full glass. As the day goes on, each decision you make – from deciding what to wear to what you should eat for lunch – your glass starts to empty. Each decision you need to make hurts your ability to make your next decision a good one.

One recent study found that people were nearly twice as likely to choose an unhealthy cake over a healthier bowl of fruit after being asked to remember a seven-digit sequence of numbers compared to an easier 2-digit sequence.

An unorganized to-do list forces you to make too many unnecessary decisions. It depletes precious resources that you could be dedicating to problem solving or more creative tasks.

Learning something new? Remember these 3 simple things

I’m the person that buys the new thing and immediately dives into the most difficult possible project. This is usually followed by immense frustration and sometime after that—quitting.

Well, not this time. This time I’m going to do it right. In order to do that, I wanted to understand a bit more about what I can do to promote the best possible learning experience. Hopefully what I found out can be of use to you as you begin to tackle something new in your life.

Tip 1: Know how you learn

You know how in cartoons the really smart characters always had obscenely big heads to house their incredibly intelligent brains? Okay, so we know that’s not how real intelligence works, but certain areas of your brain do expand while you are in the process of learning something new.

Some neuroscientists believe this occurs when your brain is trying to solve a problem it doesn’t know the answer to. Your brain (or more specifically your cortex) doesn’t necessarily know which area of the brain is best equipped to solve the problem or learn a new skill. So it recruits a good portion of the cortex, like a search committee, to hunt for the answer. When this happens, your cortex expands.

To make the most out of your time spent learning, space it out.

Popular convention, or perhaps all those nights spent cramming for tests in college, might have you believe that those short bursts of study time are the best.

Research shows that spacing out your studying over a period of time is actually the best way to enhance your memory of the material.

In fact, if you want to remember something for 5 years, your best choice is to space out your periods of study around 6-12 months. That seems completely counterintuitive but doing this helps the brain build a sturdy foundation for knowledge.

When your brain has finally solved a problem, the cortex will once again contract. The skills that we acquired during that learning period remain. And because the brain work this way, it means making mistakes is vital to the learning process.

Tip 2: Get comfortable making mistakes

You may as well get used to making mistakes right now because when we learn something new, we can’t help but make them. Our ability to make and learn from our mistakes is essential to acquiring a new skill and even to our very evolution and survival.

The brains medial frontal cortex (located in the frontal lobe) monitors negative feedback, action errors, and decision uncertainty—it’s perfectly suited to process our mistakes. The frontal cortex adapts based on negative feedback or diminished rewards and it does that through… yes, you guessed it, dopamine!

Removing unnecessary negativity from your life

Having more positivity in your life tends to lead to happiness, success and an overall feeling of calm.

However, positivity can be an elusive animal to catch. There are probably a million books written on positivity. In fact, Google says there are 5,900,000 results for the search “Positivity Books.” That’s a ton of information to comb through.

The task of sorting through all that information to find positivity wouldn’t be very positive.

I feel I’ve figured out a way to achieve positivity in my life and it has nothing to do actionably trying to be more positive. Instead, I’ve started being extremely diligent when it comes to removing negativity, which in turn, leads to more positivity.

While I don’t think you can remove all negativity from your life, I’ve been very proactive in removing as much of it as I can. Here are a few ways I’ve done this and you can too.

Clean up social networks

A few months ago I spent a few hours completely reorganizing my Twitter following and it’s the best thing I’ve done for my use of Twitter since the day I joined.

After creating multiple Twitter Lists of the different groups of people I followed, I found that one specific list of people ended up being super negative. Honestly, I could have retitled that list to “people who only complain, but are successful.”

I no longer have this list and it’s amazing how much less I look at any of the lists I created. I find my use of Twitter has increased and I’m no longer afraid to look at my main feed because it isn’t inundated with messages I don’t want to read.