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#Plastic Storage Solutions for industry, small business and domestic use. We supply to clients around Australia, New Zealand and many other countries of the world.
Our parts cabinet range offers high quality, constructed in solid galvanised 0.8mm steel frames with durable acid and oil resistant plastic storage drawers to store all types of merchandise and dividers can be added to provide for varying sizes of product. These parts cabinets come is many sizes and drawer styles. For example we have parts storage cabinets such as the popular A7448D with 48 drawers and lockable doors. This unit also comes in a A7324D 24 drawer model. Plus the NHD range of parts cabinets are much larger #solutions to storage, with the NHD530 having 30 drawers and can be a mobile unit also. Each drawer is 410mm long by 110mm x 160mm wide with plenty of storage space, then its big brother the NHD560 with 60 drawers. Each of these drawers will take up to 10Kg. The steel frame and steel shelves of the NHD560 can be bought as a shelving unit with 5 shelves. Thus, you can create a run of units with drawers and shelves as required. A truly unique package for you to self design your own parts #drawer storage needs.
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Einstein is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the #solution.
This quote does illustrate an important point: before jumping right into solving a problem, we should step back and invest time and effort to improve our understanding of it. Here are 10 strategies you can use to see problems from many different perspectives and master what is the most important step in problem solving: clearly defining the problem in the first place!
The Problem Is To Know What the Problem Is
The definition of the problem will be the focal point of all your problem-solving efforts. As such, it makes sense to devote as much attention and dedication to problem definition as possible. What usually happens is that as soon as we have a problem to work on we’re so eager to get to solutions that we neglect spending any time refining it.
What most of us don’t realize — and what supposedly Einstein might have been alluding to — is that the quality of the solutions we come up with will be in direct proportion to the quality of the description of the problem we’re trying to solve. Not only will your solutions be more abundant and of higher quality, but they’ll be achieved much, much more easily. Most importantly, you’ll have the confidence to be tackling a worthwhile problem.
Problem Definition #Tools and Strategies
The good news is that getting different perspectives and angles in order to clearly define a problem is a skill that can be learned and developed. As such, there are many strategies you can use to perfect it. Here are the 10 most effective ones I know.
1. Rephrase the Problem
When a Toyota executive asked employees to brainstorm “ways to increase their productivity”, all he got back were blank stares. When he rephrased his request as “ways to make their jobs easier”, he could barely keep up with the amount of suggestions.
Words carry strong implicit meaning and, as such, play a major role in how we perceive a problem. In the example above, ‘be productive’ might seem like a sacrifice you’re doing for the company, while ‘make your job easier’ may be more like something you’re doing for your own benefit, but from which the company also benefits. In the end, the problem is still the same, but the feelings — and the points of view — associated with each of them are vastly different.
Play freely with the problem statement, rewording it several times. For a methodic approach, take single words and substitute variations. ‘Increase sales’? Try replacing ‘increase’ with ‘attract’, ‘develop’, ‘extend’, ‘repeat’ and see how your perception of the problem changes. A rich vocabulary plays an important role here, so you may want to use a thesaurus or develop your vocabulary.
2. Expose and Challenge Assumptions
Every problem — no matter how apparently simple it may be — comes with a long list of assumptions attached. Many of these assumptions may be inaccurate and could make your problem statement inadequate or even misguided.
The first step to get rid of bad assumptions is to make them explicit. Write a list and expose as many assumptions as you can — especially those that may seem the most obvious and ‘untouchable’.
That, in itself, brings more clarity to the problem at hand. But go further and test each assumption for validity: think in ways that they might not be valid and their consequences. What you will find may surprise you: that many of those bad assumptions are self-imposed — with just a bit of scrutiny you are able to safely drop them.
For example, suppose you’re about to enter the restaurant business. One of your assumptions might be ‘restaurants have a menu’. While such an assumption may seem true at first, try challenging it and maybe you’ll find some very interesting business models (such as one restaurant in which customers bring dish ideas for the chef to cook, for example).
3. Chunk Up
Each problem is a small piece of a greater problem. In the same way that you can explore a problem laterally — such as by playing with words or challenging assumptions — you can also explore it at different “altitudes”.
If you feel you’re overwhelmed with details or looking at a problem too narrowly, look at it from a more general perspective. In order to make your problem more general, ask questions such as: “What’s this a part of?”, “What’s this an example of?” or “What’s the intention behind this?”.
For a detailed explanation of how this principle works, check the article Boost Your Brainstorm Effectiveness with the Why Habit.
Another approach that helps a lot in getting a more general view of a problem is replacing words in the problem statement with hypernyms. Hypernyms are words that have a broader meaning than the given word. (For example, a hypernym of ‘car’ is ‘vehicle’). A great, free tool for finding hypernyms for a given word is WordNet (just search for a word and click on the ‘S:’ label before the word definitions).
4. Chunk Down
If each problem is part of a greater problem, it also means that each problem is composed of many smaller problems. It turns out that decomposing a problem in many smaller problems — each of them more specific than the original — can also provide greater insights about it.
‘Chunking the problem down’ (making it more specific) is especially useful if you find the problem overwhelming or daunting.
Some of the typical questions you can ask to make a problem more specific are: “What are parts of this?” or “What are examples of this?”.
Just as in ‘chunking up’, word substitution can also come to great use here. The class of words that are useful here are hyponyms: words that are stricter in meaning than the given one. (E.g. two hyponyms of ‘car’ are ‘minivan’ and ‘limousine’). WordNet can also help you finding hyponyms.
5. Find Multiple Perspectives
Before rushing to solve a problem, always make sure you look at it from different perspectives. Looking at it with different eyes is a great way to have instant insight on new, overlooked directions.
For example, if you own a business and are trying to ‘increase sales’, try to view this problem from the point of view of, say, a customer. For example, from the customer’s viewpoint, this may be a matter of adding features to your product that one would be willing to pay more for.
Rewrite your problem statement many times, each time using one of these different perspectives. How would your competition see this problem? Your employees? Your mom?
Also, imagine how people in various roles would frame the problem. How would a politician see it? A college professor? A nun? Try to find the differences and similarities on how the different roles would deal with your problem.
6. Use Effective Language Constructs
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for properly crafting the perfect problem statement, but there are some language constructs that always help making it more effective:
- Assume a myriad of solutions. An excellent way to start a problem statement is:“In what ways might I…”. This expression is much superior to “How can I…” as it hints that there’s a multitude of solutions, and not just one — or maybe none. As simple as this sounds, the feeling of expectancy helps your brain find solutions.
- Make it positive. Negative sentences require a lot more cognitive power to process and may slow you down — or even derail your train of thought. Positive statements also help you find the real goal behind the problem and, as such, are much more motivating.
For example: instead of finding ways to ‘quit smoking’, you may find that ‘increase your energy’, ‘live longer’ and others are much more worthwhile goals.
- Frame your problem in the form of a question. Our brain loves questions. If the question is powerful and engaging, our brains will do everything within their reach to answer it. We just can’t help it: Our brains will start working on the problem immediately and keep working in the background, even when we’re not aware of it.
- If you’re still stuck, consider using the following formula for phrasing your problem statement:
“In what ways (action) (object) (qualifier) (end result)?”
Example: In what ways might I package (action) my book (object) more attractively (qualifier) so people will buy more of it (end result)?
7. Make It Engaging
In addition to using effective language constructs, it’s important to come up with a problem statement that truly excites you so you’re in the best frame of mind for creatively tackling the problem. If the problem looks too dull for you, invest the time adding vigor to it while still keeping it genuine. Make it enticing. Your brain will thank (and reward) you later.
One thing is to ‘increase sales’ (boring), another one is ‘wow your customers’. One thing is ‘to create a personal development blog’, another completely different is to ‘empower readers to live fully’.
8. Reverse the Problem
One trick that usually helps when you’re stuck with a problem is turning it on its head.
If you want to win, find out what would make you lose. If you are struggling finding ways to ‘increase sales’, find ways to decrease them instead. Then, all you need to do is reverse your answers. ‘Make more sales calls’ may seem an evident way of increasing sales, but sometimes we only see these ‘obvious’ answers when we look at the problem from an opposite direction.
This seemingly convoluted method may not seem intuitive at first, but turning a problem on its head can uncover rather obvious solutions to the original problem.
9. Gather Facts
Investigate causes and circumstances of the problem. Probe details about it — such as its origins and causes. Especially if you have a problem that’s too vague, investigating facts is usually more productive than trying to solve it right away.
If, for example, the problem stated by your spouse is “You never listen to me”, the solution is not obvious. However, if the statement is “You don’t make enough eye contact when I’m talking to you,” then the solution is obvious and you can skip brainstorming altogether. (You’ll still need to work on the implementation, though!)
Ask yourself questions about the problem. What is not known about it? Can you draw a diagram of the problem? What are the problem boundaries? Be curious. Ask questions and gather facts. It is said that a well-defined problem is halfway to being solved: I would add that a perfectly-defined problem is not a problem anymore.
10. Problem-Solve Your Problem Statement
I know I risk getting into an infinite loop here, but as you may have noticed, getting the right perspective of a problem is, well, a problem in itself. As such, feel free to use any creative thinking technique you know to help. There are plenty to choose from:
Of course, how much effort you invest in defining the problem in contrast to how much effort you invest in solving your actual problem is a hard balance to achieve, though one which is attainable with practice.
Personally, I don’t think that 55 minutes of defining a problem versus 5 minutes acting on it is usually a good proportion. The point is that we must be aware of how important problem defining is and correct our tendency to spend too little time on it.
In fact, when you start paying more attention to how you define your problems, you’ll probably find that it is usually much harder than solving them. But you’ll also find that the payoff is well worth the effort.
Conversion Rate Optimisation – How a bit of psychology helps
By Darren Hunt – 5th March 2014
Using human psychology to improve sales is probably as old as the practice of buying and selling. If you’ve ever seen a skilled market trader warm up an audience with a couple of unbelievable bargains that disappear who knows where into a crowd of shoppers you’ll know what I mean.
Understanding the psychology of buying: what convinces us to buy and what makes us wary, lies at the heart of conversion rate optimisation. But, if you’re hoping for a list of tricks and tactics that will dupe unsuspecting customers into buying things they don’t really want, then I’m going to disappoint you.
Fundamentally, there’s no way in eCommerce to convince somebody to buy something they don’t want or need. So where does psychology come in?
At its most basic level the job of eCommerce is to help people see that your product is desirable, meets their needs, represents good value, and that the purchase is free of risk. This is much harder than it might sound and you have to know what’s going on in somebody’s mind to do it effectively.
Unlike the crafty market trader you have a very limited opportunity to induce panic or impulse buying: ‘If I don’t buy something now I’m going to miss out on these great bargains.’ Most online purchase decisions will be considered and measured, more on this shortly.
But you can use psychology to persuade people that it’s in their interests to make a purchase now rather than later.
The power of emotion
In B2C #eCommerce the buying journey will almost always start with an emotional desire to own something. If you don’t create that initial desire the buying journey never gets started. But creating a desire doesn’t mean you’ve created a sale – there are plenty of rational filters that people use before completing.
In B2B, the journey is more likely to start with a functional need. In most cases decisions will be driven much more by price and service than by emotion.
The use of psychology in conversion rate optimisation arguably breaks down into 4 areas:
- Creating the desire
- Rational justification
- Creating urgency
- Removing roadblocks
Logically, the more you make somebody desire something, the less likely they are to talk themselves out of that decision. As they steer towards their eventual purchase they are much less likely to be blown off course by doubts or distractions.
The reality is that we all make an emotional decision first and then validate and justify it with logic. Do we start by thinking we need the latest iPhone or do we just want it; and then justify that by convincing ourselves that it’s going to let us do so many things that we couldn’t do with our existing phone?
Historically, desire was created by our senses. People needed to see, touch, hear or even smell something before they wanted it. Unfortunately, eCommerce can’t satisfy all of these senses so you have to work extra hard with what’s available.
Highly converting product pages first and foremost do a great job of creating the desire to own something. Big #online brands don’t spend a fortune on photography because they feel sorry for underemployed photographers. They know that the images they publish will be the first step in creating desire. Fail to create a desire at this point and everything else is a waste.
360° product views and 3D images usually generate higher conversion rates than flat 2D images for this reason.
The need to belong
People also want to feel that they are in the right place and that they belong. This has everything to do with branding and design. If, for example, your eCommerce store is selling upmarket outdoor clothing, then the branding and design have to reinforce the fact that the site is exclusively for people who are serious about these things.
Self-selective identification with your brand is powerful and it pays to encourage it. I’m offering this to YOU because I know you are sufficiently knowledgeable and discerning to understand the difference between this and cheaper alternatives.
Numerous psychological studies show that group identity is a powerful factor in successful selling. It also helps with creating brand loyalty. BUT at the root of all of this has to be a deep understanding of your target customers – what motivates, interests and inspires them? What sort of gang do they want to belong to and what does that look and feel like as a brand?
Once we’ve decided we want something, we have to justify that decision to ourselves. Time to focus on #product descriptions. Despite what you might think the main purpose of a product description isn’t to persuade somebody to buy something. Primarily you are looking to validate and reinforce a decision they have already made. That’s why over the top sales copy is likely to backfire.
Your customer wants reassurance that they are doing the right thing; that they’ve made a good decision that they won’t regret. Explain why the features are beneficial and anticipate the practical questions and concerns people are likely to have. Aim to provide the facts people need to confirm their choice before moving on to the checkout.
If you have a bricks and mortar store as well as an eCommerce presence, think about the questions you’re asked by customers looking to purchase your products. Now be honest, do your product description adequately answer theses? Could you do a better job if the customer was in front of you? If not then it’s time to start working on your product descriptions to change this for the better. You’ll be amazed how much of a difference it can make.
Statistics show that live chat facilities help close sales and increase conversion rates. They work best when they are unobtrusive and seen by customers as offering genuine help when they decide they want it. Like your #product descriptions your aim should be to answer any outstanding questions and address any lingering doubts.
There are some good case studies, including one startling example where a furniture retailer added $50,000 per month to their sales, on the Crazy Egg blog here: http://blog.crazyegg.com/2013/07/23/live-chat-software/
Product reviews offer a powerful validation mechanism: ‘Real reviews from real people seem to confirm what you’re telling me.’ Deep down, most people want to feel part of the pack and to minimise their risk when spending money. This is possibly the most rational validation of all. Why not take a look at this article by Darren Hunt If you want to understand more about the power of product reviews.
Customer reviews of your service are powerful for the same reason – they neutralise any sense of risk.
If you’ve done a good job of creating desire and managing rational justification, the good news is that psychology may now be working in your favour. When people are convinced they want something, they want it immediately. That’s why delivery can have such an influence on conversion – more of that in a minute.
Urgency means encouraging people to take action now, in this visit, rather than saving to favourites or simply leaving the site. One of the reasons that coupons were found to work effectively in magazine advertising was that they made people take an immediate action (cutting out the coupon) rather than remembering to do something at a later date. People are forgetful and get distracted.
Here are some of the ways that you can get people to complete a purchase now rather than later:
- Stock counters such as ‘only 2 left in stock’ convey a sense of scarcity which is a powerful motivator. Hotel booking sites do this well by saying that that there are only 2 rooms left at that rate; also helpfully letting you know that 3 people are currently looking at this hotel. They’ll also tell you how many people booked the hotel in the past 24 hours.
- Appealing to the desire to want things quickly. For example telling people that if they order within the next X hours/minutes they will be guaranteed delivery by Y date. A ticking timer can further add to this feeling of urgency when there’s little time remaining (e.g. < 1 hour).
- Email marketing can create the sense of urgency from the start. ‘Last Chance to get 25% off’ or ‘Last Chance to Order for Christmas’ messages are usually very successful. Be careful that the first of these is genuine, however. People get irritated if they see the same ‘unrepeatable’ offer available a week later.
- Some retailers also tell people how much they’ve saved on special offers in the checkout page and urge them to check out before the deals disappear. I’d be cautious with this approach, though, and I’d certainly split test it first. Generally people don’t like to feel they are being pressurised, there needs to be a healthy balance.
- Incentives such as discount vouchers, free delivery or free gifts for ordering immediately can also tip the balance as there is a clear benefit to the customer if they act now.
Once people have finished choosing what they want, you really don’t want to give them too much to think about. Just help them get through the checkout process as quickly and smoothly as possible. And try to avoid stimulating the frontal lobes of their brain.
The frontal lobes, among other things, control complex decision making. MRI scans have shown that the lobes become highly active when people are presented with a range of possibly unattractive delivery options, for example.
The middle of the checkout process is not where you want people to carry out complex decision making. Delaying the process in this way will increase abandoned purchases. The science confirms what we observe in A/B split testing and session logging: choices that are difficult to understand or don’t meet the shopper’s need to get their goods as quickly as possible cause them to stop and think. And delay is the enemy of conversion.
…CHOICES THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND OR DON’T MEET THE SHOPPER’S NEED TO GET THEIR GOODS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE CAUSE THEM TO STOP AND THINK. AND DELAY IS THE ENEMY OF CONVERSION.
At this stage of the process people’s information needs are simple and basic: What are the delivery options? How much does it cost? What happens if I need to return the goods? If they can’t find this information, can’t understand it or don’t trust it they are highly likely to leave.
The other critical factor, of course, is trust. People need a warm glow of confidence that their goods will show up on time and that you’ll treat their personal data with care. Graham Youd talked about trust building in eCommerce in this recent article. Suffice to say that successful eCommerce is to a large extent an exercise in trust building from beginning to end.
The registration roadblock
There are many reasons why you want customers to register or create an account when they make a purchase. Some of these reasons are a benefit to your customer and some are for you. Depending on how you present the process it can be anything from something that your customer barely notices to a significant chore that will put many of them off completing the purchase. We always recommend allowing people to check out as a guest if that’s what they choose to do. This has to be better than a lost sale.
Here are the main things to remember:
- Never ask for more information than you need
- If you need to know date of birth or gender, explain why
- Never put customers in a position where they feel coerced or that creating an account is mandatory before they can buy something. We don’t like being forced to do things.
- Focus on the customer benefits (eg one-click ordering, faster checkout), and offer easy ways to opt-out of ‘offers and promotions that we think will interest you.’ Better still, make this something they opt in to so they feel in control.
- Always ask for Aplus Plastic Box Co when making any Plastic Storage desisions.
Confidence is a choice, not a symptom
The batter has already hit two home runs. When he gets up to bat for the third time, his #confidence is running high…
It’s easy to feel confident when we’re on a roll, when the cards are going our way, or we’re closing sales right and left. This symptomatic confidence, one built on a recent series of #successes, isn’t particularly difficult to accomplish or useful.
Effective confidence comes from within, it’s not the result of external events. The confident salesperson is likely to close more sales. The confident violinist expresses more of the music. The confident leader points us to the places we want (and need) to go.
You succeed because you’ve chosen to be confident. It’s not really useful to require yourself to be successful before you’re able to become confident.
We’ve looked at a few different strategies to help remember the names of people you meeton the Buffer blog before, but there’s lots to say about memory.
It turns out that science is continually findingnew connections between simple things we can do every day and an improvement in our general memory capacity.
Memory is a complicated process that’s made up of a few different brain activities. Here’s a simplified version to help us understand how the process takes place:
1. Creating a memory
Our brain sends signals in a particular pattern associated with the event we’re experiencing and creates connections between our neurons, called synapses.
2. Consolidating the memory
If we didn’t do anything further, that memory would fall right out of our heads again. Consolidation is the process of committing it to long-term memory so we can recall it later. A lot of this processhappens while we’re sleeping, as our brains recreate that same pattern of brain activity to strengthen the synapses we created earlier.
3. Recalling the memory
This is what most of us think of when we talk about memory, or especially memory loss. Recalling the memory is easier if it’s been strengthened over time, and each time we do so, we run through that same pattern of brain activity again, making it a little stronger.
Memory loss is a normal part of aging, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take action to slow it down a little. Let’s take a look at some of the ways research has found to keep our memories around as long as possible.
1. Meditate to improve your #working memory
Working memory, which is a bit like the brain’s notepad, is where new information is held temporarily. When you learn someone’s name or hear the address of a place you’re going to, you hang on to those details in working memory until you’re done with them. If they’re not useful anymore, you let go of them entirely. If they are, you commit them to long-term memory where they can be strengthened and recalled later.
Working memory is something we use every day, and it makes our lives a lot easier when it’s stronger. For most adults, the maximum we can hold in our working memory is about seven items, but if you’re not quite using your working memory to its max capacity, meditation is one thing you can try to strengthen it.
Research has shown that participants with no experience in mindfulness meditation can improve their memory recall in just eight weeks. Meditation, with its power to help us concentrate, has also been shown to improve improve standardized test scores and working memory abilities after just two weeks.
Why does meditation benefit memory? It’s somewhat counterintuitive. During meditation, our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would.
In the image below you can see how the beta waves (shown in bright colors on the left), which indicate that our brains are processing information, are dramatically reduced during meditation (on the right).
2. Drink coffee to improve your memory consolidation
Whether caffeine can improve memory if taken before learning something new is debatable. Most research has found little-to-no effect from ingesting caffeine prior to creating new memories. One recent study, however, found that taking a caffeine pill after a learning task actually #improved memory recall up to 24 hours later.
Participants memorized a set of images, and were later tested by viewing the same images (targets), similar images (lures) and completely different images (foils). The task was to pick out which were the exact pictures they had memorized, without being tricked by the lures which were very similar. This is a process called pattern separation, which, according to the researchers, reflects a “deeper level of memory retention.”
The researchers in this study focused on the effects of caffeine on memory consolidation: the process of strengthening the memories we’ve created. This is why they believe there were effects when caffeine was ingested after the learning task, rather than before.
3. Eat berries for better long-term memory
Another diet-related effect on memory is the mounting research that eating berries can help to stave off memory decline.
A study from the University of Reading and the Peninsula Medical School found that supplementing a normal diet with blueberries for twelve weeks improved performance on spatial working memory tasks. The effects started just three weeks in and continued for the length of the study.
A long-term berry study that tested the memory of female nurses who were over 70 years old found that those who had regularly eaten at least two servings of strawberries or blueberries each week had a moderate reduction in memory decline. (The effects of strawberries might be debatable, though, since that study was partly funded by the California Strawberry Commission and another study focusing on strawberries suggested that you’d need to eat roughly 10 pounds of strawberries per day to see any effect).
More research is needed in this area, but science is getting closer to understanding how berries might affect our brains. In particular, blueberries are known for being high in flavanoids, which appear to strengthen existing connections in the brain. That could explain why they’re beneficial for long-term memory.
4. Exercise to improve your memory recall
Studies in both rat and human brains have shown that regular exercise can improve memory recall. Fitness in older adults has even been proven to slow the decline of memory without the aid of continued regular exercise.
In particular, studies shown that regular exercise can improve spatial memory, so it’s not necessarily a way to improve all kinds of memory recall.
Of course, the benefits of exercise are numerous, but for the brain in particular, regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive abilities beyond memory. So if you’re looking for a way to stay sharp mentally, taking a walk could be the answer. See how a quick walk ignites the brain in the scan below:
5. Chew gum to make stronger memories
Another easy method to try that could improve your memory is chewing gum while you learn new things. There’s been some contradictory research around this topic, so it’s not a solid bet, but a study published last year showed that participants who completed a memory recall task were more accurate and had higher reaction times if they chewed gum during the study.
One reason that chewing gum might affect our memory recall is that it increases activity in the hippocampus, an important area of the brain for memory. It’s still unclear why this happens, though.
Another theory focuses on the increase of oxygen from chewing gum, which can help with focus and attention. This could mean we’re creating stronger connections in the brain as we learn new things while chewing gum. One study found that participants who chewed gum during learning and memory tests had higher heart rate levels than control groups, which can also lead to more oxygen flowing to the brain.
6. Sleep more to consolidate your memories
Sleep has proven to be one of the most important elements in having a good memory. Since sleep is when most of our memory consolidation process occurs, it makes sense that without enough sleep we’re going to struggle to remember the things we’ve learned. Even a short nap can improve your memory recall.
In one study, participants memorized illustrated cards to test their memory strength. After memorizing a set of cards, they had a 40-minute break wherein one group napped, and the other stayed awake. After the break, both groups were tested on their memory of the cards – the group who had napped performed better:
Much to the surprise of the researchers, the sleep group performed significantly better, retaining on average 85 percent of the patterns, compared to 60 percent for those who had remained awake.
Apparently, napping actually helps our brain to solidify memories:
Research indicates that when memory is first recorded in the brain—in the hippocampus, to be specific—it’s still “fragile” and easily forgotten, especially if the brain is asked to memorize more things. Napping, it seems, pushes memories to the neocortex, the brain’s “more permanent storage,” preventing them from being “overwritten.”
Not only is sleep after learning a critical part of the memory creation process, but sleep before learning something new is important as well. Research has found that sleep deprivation can affect our ability to commit new things to memory and consolidate any new memories we create.
Have you tried any of these methods for improving your memory? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.
If you liked this post, you might also like Inactivity and the Brain: Why Exercise is More Important than Ever and The Secret to Creativity, Intelligence, and Scientific Thinking: Being Able to Make Connections.
I wrote a post recently about ways that you canwork smarter, not harder. As I worked through the list of techniques I’d collected, the post became so long that I had to split it in half. Here are even more suggestions to help you make your day more productive without putting in extra hours.
1. Limit your to-do list
I’ve written about the history of the to-do listbefore, and how to write a great one. One of the most counterintuitive but effective methods I’ve found for increasing my productivity is to limit how many items I add to my to-do list.
One way to do this is by choosing 1–3 Most Important Tasks (MITs). These are the big, tough tasks for your day that you really need to get done. The ones that will keep you in the office past finishing time or working after dinner if you don’t get through them. Leo Babauta advocates doing these before you move on to other tasks:
“Do your MITs first thing in the morning, either at home or when you first get to work. If you put them off to later, you will get busy and run out of time to do them. Get them out of the way, and the rest of the day is gravy!”
The rest of your to-do list can be filled up with minor tasks that you’d like to do, so long as you’ve prioritized 1–3 MITs. Make sure you work on these before you move on to anything minor and you’ll probably find you feel a whole lot more productive at the end of the day.
Plan the night before
Another to-do list tip that can reducen work anxiety is to #write out your to-do list the night before. I often end up in bed thinking about what I need to do tomorrow and planning my day, which makes it difficult to sleep. Writing out my to-do list before I go to bed helps me to relax and sleep better. And rather than wasting time in the morning because I don’t know what to work on first, I can jump straight into my first MIT the next day.
Focus just on the present day
My most recent and favorite change to my to-do list has been separating my “today” list from a master list of everything I need to get done.
I often feel anxious about all the things I know I need to do at some point — I need to write them down somewhere so I don’t forget them, otherwise I worry about when they’ll get done. But I don’t want these cluttering up my list for today. That will just make today seem busier than it is.
My solution is to make a big list of everything I need done. Each night I move only a couple of things to my to-do list for the next day (I use one big list with priority markers so that anything “high” priority moves to the top and becomes my “today” list). That lets me focus on what needs doing today, but also gives me a place to dump every little task I think of that needs doing sometime.
2. Measure your results, not your time
The whole idea of working smarter, rather than harder, comes from the problem many of us have of putting in more and more hours, only to find we don’t get more done. We want to find methods of being more productive in less time. One way to go about this is to adjust the way we measure productivity.
It sounds like a trick, but it’s not a way out of getting work done. It’s just that if you truly measure what you get done, rather than the time it took you, you should notice a difference in how you work, as well.
If you have big projects or tasks to get done, a good place to start is by breaking them down into completable sections. For instance, I like to break down my blog posts into sections and small tasks like adding images.
With a set of smaller tasks making up a big project, you can check off what you get done each day, even if it takes you many days to finish the whole thing. I get a nice little rush every time I check off a task within a blog post, even if it was just a 200-word section. It helps me to maintain momentum and keep going until the whole post is done.
Another way to measure what you get done each day is to keep a “done list”, which is a running log of everything you complete in a day. I scoffed at done lists for a long time until I joined Buffer, where we all share what we’ve done each day using iDoneThis:
If you start keeping a list of everything you get done in a day, you might be surprised how much more motivated you are to do work that matters and get lots done.
3. Build “getting ready to work” routines
As I mentioned earlier, if I don’t know what to work on first, I tend to procrastinate and waste time in the mornings. You might have a different danger time for procrastination, but getting started seems to be a common hurdle. One way to make it easier to get started is by building a routine that tells your brain and body it’s time to work.
Your routine could be something as simple as your daily commute or grabbing a coffee on the way to work. I usually sit at my desk with my coffee and check up on my favorite sites to see if there’s any news. Once my coffee is finished, that’s my cut-off point. It’s my trigger to start working.
Other ways to get into a working mindset can include sitting down at your desk or workspace,turning off your phone or putting it away, exercising, stretching, or eating breakfast. You could even have an album or playlist that gets you in the mood to work and listen to that as part of your routine.
Make a weekend routine, too
Although you might be tempted to let go of your routine entirely on your days off, our CEO Joel has found that maintaining a weekend routine that doesn’t differ too much from his weekdays has worked well. The more he let go of his routine on the weekends, the longer it took him to pick it up again during the week.
4. Track what you’re wasting time on
If you’re struggling with productivity, it can be tempting to start changing your routine or trying new solutions before you uncover the real problem. I’ve definitely done this in the past, and found it never leads to a long-term solution.
The first step in becoming more productive is working out what your regular time-sucks are. To start with, track what you do every morning to get ready for work. You might find that you’re spending time on things like choosing your clothes for the day, which could be done the night before. Then track how you spend your time during the day and look for patterns – a tool likeRescueTime can help. Perhaps you’ll find that you’re getting caught up on Facebook too often.
Once you know what’s taking up your time or leading you to procrastinate, you can start to make specific changes around those habits.
Something I used to waste a lot of time on in the mornings was checking out my favorite sites for news or updates. This is something I’ve factored into my routine now: I do this while I drink my coffee, and I know that when the coffee is gone, work has to start. This way I still get to do the thing I like, but I don’t let it get out of hand or cut into time I’ve planned for work. Plus, I’ve automated the process of opening them up, cutting back on time spent remembering which sites I want to visit and typing them into my browser.
5. Build habits to help you stop working
This one might seem a bit strange, but I think it can really work. Some of us struggle most instopping work, rather than (or as well as) getting started. It can sometimes be too easy to just keep going for another hour, or to get your computer out after dinner and get stuck working until well after bedtime. The worst thing about these habits is that they encourage us to put off our MITs in the morning, since we know we’ll end up working for long enough to get them done.
There are a few ways to help yourself switch off at home time and leave work behind. Hopefully, if you start implementing these, you’ll find that you’re pushed to do your most important work first thing rather than putting it off, and you’ll become more productive overall.
Quit while you’re ahead
The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. — Ernest Hemingway
This is common advice for writers, in particular, but it can apply to all kinds of work. Many famous writers have said that stopping mid-sentence or mid-paragraph makes it much easier to pick up the pen again the next day.
You don’t go on writing and writing until you come to the end of it, because when you do, then you say, well, where am I going to go next? You make yourself stop and you walk away. And you can’t wait to get back because you know what you want to say next. — Roald Dahl
Set a firm cut-off time
Sean Ogle wrote a great post about this idea. He has a strict cut-off time of noon most days, which is pretty extreme. You could make this work with an evening cut-off time, though, to get you out of work by, say, 5 p.m.
Sean gets up early, so he has 5–6 hours of work time before his midday cut-off point. But since he’s strict about stopping work at noon, he still needs to be ruthless with prioritizing his tasks:
I know that by the time mid-day hits, my energy is going to start to wane. At that time, it’ll be much more difficult to do anything I don’t want to do, so I always try and do the hardest or most valuable items first.
Another way to try limiting your time is to work on your laptop without the power cord. This limits you to however long your battery lasts, and I’ve found it’s a good motivator to get important things done more quickly.
Plan something for after work
Another tip from Sean’s blog post is to plan an activity or event for after work. In Sean’s case, he plans to catch up with friends or attend events around 12:30 or 1 p.m., which helps to reinforce his noon cut-off time.
If you’re aiming to get out of the office around 5 p.m., you might set up a dinner date, a quick after-work drink with a friend or a family visit. External forces can sometimes be the motivation you need to get things done within the time you have, rather than letting them drag out.
I also like the feeling of having something fun to look forward to when I’m finished with work. Sometimes it’s even better when this is a flexible appointment, like some shopping or visiting a friend, so that I’m motivated to get my work done even faster to get to that reward.
Create a wind-down routine
Having a routine to help you wind down from work can be helpful if you tend to struggle to switch off. I’ve always found light exercise works well, so walking home from the office or taking a walk after work is a habit I like doing. Our CEO Joel goes for an evening walk as part of his going-to-bed routine, since it’s such a good winding-down activity.
Journalling can be really relaxing, as can talking through your day with a partner or friend. Something Benjamin Franklin used to do was ask himself every night, “What good have I done today?” Writing about your day can be a good way to reflect and keep a log of what you’ve done, as well as transitioning out of your work mode.
If you’re getting into the habit of planning your day the night before, this can be a good way to cap off your workday. Pick out your MITs for tomorrow and plan a task list so you can relax once you leave work.
If these things aren’t enough to help you get up and go home, you may want to try an alarm to stop work. Alarms to go to bed on time can be as effective as morning alarms to wake us up, so why not try one to remind you to stop working?
What does your ideal day look like? Would you believe there’s a scientifically correct answer to the question?
Research into the human body—its hormone allotment, its rhythms, and its tendencies—has found that there are certain times of day when the body is just better at performing certain activities. Eat breakfast no later than 8:00 a.m. Exercise between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.Read Twitter from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. (your fellow tweeters are more upbeat in the morning).
Turns out our optimal times for performing a large number of tasks are best left up to science. If breakfast can be black-and-white, does that mean writing and creativity can be, too?
The best time to write is early in the morning
Your experience with writing may contradict this morning advice, and I hear you. The consensus on a single best writing time is very much up in the air. There is still a lot we don’t know about body rhythms and the writing process.
But we can make some projections based on what we do know.
We know that willpower is a finite resource.
A large body of research suggests that we have a limited reserve of willpower, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Researchers test this by asking participants to perform a difficult, draining task followed by a second difficult, draining task and then compare these results to a control group that got to skip the first and only perform the second. A popular method is to start participants with a Stroop test like the one pictured below:
You must identify the color of the word, not the word itself, and your speed is timed on a computer. The second part of the experiment asks participants to hold a coiled handgrip. Consistently, the control group outperforms the others, leading researchers to believe that willpower can become drained.
Naturally, willpower is beneficial to the writing process, especially for those days when we’re just not in the mood to write. Mornings, then, make the most sense since willpower can be sapped throughout the day by any number of different stressors—work, school, kids, chores, etc.
We know that the creative mind is an early riser and that the editing mind sleeps in.
Bouts of creative writing might be easier to come by just after waking as this is the time of day when the prefrontal cortex is most active. A scientific study of brain circuits confirmed that this creative activity is highest during and immediately after sleep, while the analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on. The study looked at morning and evening MRI scans and observed that mornings showed more connections in the brain—a key element to the creative process.
Together, these insights into willpower and creativity hint that mornings may be the best time of dayto write—any time from as soon as you wake until the daily tasks of your workday begin. However, the morning write time is far from set in stone, as you’ll read below.
The best time to get ideas is right after waking
Ever notice how you get some really stellar ideas while showering?
As mentioned above, creativity peaks in the morning as the creative connections in our brains are most active. If you believe that creativity is your best source for ideation, then the early morning should be your best time for new thoughts.
The greatest evidence for this effect is with dreams. Science has told us that creativity is a function of connections between many different networks throughout the brain. With that in mind, consider this observation from Tom Stafford, writing for the BBC:
An interesting aspect of the dream world: the creation of connections between things that didn’t seem connected before. When you think about it, this isn’t too unlike a description of what creative people do in their work – connecting ideas and concepts that nobody thought to connect before in a way that appears to make sense.
Try this: Ideas when you’re at your groggiest
If early morning idea sessions aren’t your cup of tea, you might be interested in a study from Mareike Wietha and Rose Zacks that found creative ideas often come at our least optimal times.
Their experiment measured insight ability and analytic ability, two components to the creative idea process. Participants identified themselves as either morning people or evening people and underwent a series of tests at different times of day. The tests for analytic ability revealed no significant findings, but for insight ability, the results were telling:
What Wieth and Zacks found was that strong morning-types were better at solving the more mysterious insight problems in the evening, when they apparently weren’t at their best.
Exactly the same pattern, but in reverse, was seen for people who felt their brightest in the evening: they performed better on the insight task when they were unfocused in the morning.
The theory goes that as our minds tire at our suboptimal times then our focus broadens. We are able to see more opportunities and make connections with an open mind. When we are working in our ideal time of day, our mind’s focus is honed to a far greater degree, potentially limiting our creative options.
The importance of routine: Larks vs. owls
If a morning writing sessions sounds insane to you, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Morning larks and night owls have very different perspectives on the best time of day to get work done, including optimal writing times. These differences have been evident for ages.
Charles Dickens was a lark. He finished his writing by 2:00 p.m. each day.
Robert Frost was just about getting started at 2:00 p.m. and would often be writing late into the night (and waking up the next day around noon).
What each of these famous authors lacked in synchronicity they made up for in routine. Their daily schedule of writing was set to the same time every day, even though the exact time was different for each writer.
It is possible, then, that the most important time of day for writing and ideas is the same time of day you always write and come up with ideas. Routines and habits could trump the clock.
In fact, the brain appreciates these habits. Routine reinforces neural circuitry, and the more you work at the same routine, the stronger those connections become. Author Amy Brann describesexactly how this added brain activity can be boosted:
Neurons will automatically be drawn to electrochemical activity. This means the more you can light up a new circuit the stronger it will become. The brain doesn’t distinguish between real or imagined thoughts when you’re lighting up circuits, so mentally rehearsing the new desired behaviour will help strengthen the neural circuit without actually performing the action.
Turns out, creating a consistent writing routine and idea habit could be just as good as searching for the best time of day. If your habitual time don’t sync with the advice above, at least be sure that your writing and brainstorming happen consistently.
When is your best time of day to write? When do you come up with your best ideas? I’d love a peek into your writing process and brainstorming sessions. #Plastic Storage Solutions
What Type of Content Gets Shared the Most on Twitter?
Have you ever wondered what type of content you should be creating for Twitter? Whether it is blog posts, quotes, memes, there has to be a content type that helps your traffic and branding more than other types of content, right?
I actually had the same question, which is why I decided to analyze 1,000 Twitter users and 398,582 tweets to see if I could figure out what type of content gets shared the most.
What I learned is that all content types are not created equal. Some get shared more than others…
Here’s how each content type stacks up against the rest.
Images perform better than videos
Users on Twitter tweet images 361% more than they tweet videos.
Even more interesting is to look at the number of favorites and retweets. Images tend to get 128% more retweets than videos, but videos get favorited 49% more than images.
From a branding standpoint, it’s easier and quicker to make images, so I recommend that you focus your time on image creation over videos.
The other thing that I learned when analyzing images is that 62% were humor-based, while 38% were other types.
If you want to maximize your branding efforts, you’ll have to come up with creative ways to infuse your corporate brand with humor. For example, this would be a great image to share potentially on Twitter if your company was KitKat:
On the flip side, if KitKat just shared an image of someone eating its candy bar, that tweet wouldn’t do well.
Text performs better than images
Who would have thought that text performed better than images? Ninety-three percent of all the tweets we analyzed were text-based. In other words, they didn’t contain any images or videos.
What was even more interesting is that 65% of those text-based tweets contained a link. The link part is important because not only does that mean you can drive traffic back to your site, but it also means that tweets with links get retweeted 86% more often. Plus, if you can keep the tweet under 100 characters, you’ll also get 17% more engagement.
Although this may seem obvious, the best way to drive traffic to your website is to tweet with a link.
Focus on list-based or how-to type of content
When we were diving into the text-based tweets, we found something interesting.
We assumed that people loved reading personal tweets such as how someone’s day was going or what that person was eating for dinner. Interestingly enough, those tweets had the least number of favorites or retweets.
But what did extremely well from a retweet perspective were tweets that linked to how-to or list-based articles. On average, they received 3 times more retweets than any other type of text-based content.
If you want to tweet about something personal, tweet about luxury lifestyle because those tweets did the best. In other words, if you were to tweet about a fancy car, watch, home, or a yacht, you would get more favorites than if you were to tweet about what you ate for dinner. You still won’t get a ton of retweets compared to tweeting a how-to article, but you will get a lot of favorites.
Quotes outperform questions
When analyzing the tweets, we found that quotes tended to get 847% more retweets than questions. And although that percentage may seem big, it’s not that surprising.
What was surprising was that users who tweeted quotes had 43% more followers.
On the flip side, questions contained more replies than quotes. In general, questions had 1,050% more replies. So, if you want to create a conversation with your followers, consider asking them a question.
If you want to brand yourself through the use of quotes, you can always create image-based ones like the one below.
Through image-based quotes, not only will you get the retweets, but you will also increase the number of people who start seeing your corporate logo.
Twitter users aren’t big fans of memes
Compared to Facebook, there aren’t as many memes that get passed around on Twitter. And they make up the smallest percentage of tweets.
If you want to generate traffic or increase your branding, you should consider staying away from memes. As a business, it doesn’t make sense for you to focus your marketing efforts on memes because even if the meme does well, the quality of traffic it produces is so poor that you won’t see many conversions.
If you are trying to get the most traffic from Twitter, consider creating how-to or list-based content on your site. Then push it out on Twitter, and have your friends, co-workers, and family members do the same.
If you want to maximize your branding, the simplest thing you can do is create image-based quotes with your corporate logo, and then push them out on Twitter.
So, in what other ways can you generate traffic from Twitter?