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Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Caffeine Maintenance – Can Missing Your Morning Cup of Coffee Reduce Productivity?

Posted by medliorator on June 2, 2010

An update on Professor Peter Rogers caffeine research…

“Although frequent consumers feel alerted by caffeine, especially by their morning tea, coffee, or other caffeine-containing drink, evidence suggests that this is actually merely the reversal of the fatiguing effects of acute caffeine withdrawal,” wrote the scientists, led by Peter Rogers of Bristol’s department of experimental psychology.

The team asked 379 adults — half of them non/low caffeine consumers and the other half medium/high caffeine consumers — to give up caffeine for 16 hours, and then gave them either caffeine or …placebo.

The medium/high caffeine consumers who got the placebo reported a decrease in alertness and increased headache, neither of which were reported by those who received caffeine.

But measurements showed that their post-caffeine levels of alertness were actually no higher than the non/low consumers who received a placebo, suggesting caffeine only brings coffee drinkers back up to “normal.”

Caffeine addicts get no real perk from morning cup [Reuters]

Corollary: Achieve Morning Alertness without Caffeine
Corollary: Neuroprotective Effects of Caffeine
Corollary: Coffee Drinking and Heart Disease
Corollary: A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features.

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Rapid Learning Strategies for Medical School

Posted by medliorator on January 22, 2010

#2 – Metaphor

Here’s a quick way to separate the rapid learners from the average learners. Ask them to give you an analogy for whatever they are learning. The rapid learners probably have already thought of at least one analogy, application or metaphor. Slower learners usually are baffled by the question.

Linking ideas allows you to retain them longer and understand them better.

#5 – Linking (Or How to Remember a Grocery List Without the Paper)

The idea here is that you form a chain, linking each item in a sequence to the next item. You form these links by imagining bizarre and surreal pictures which combine the two elements.

For a simple list like Milk -> Honey -> Apples, you would need to form a link between milk and honey, which you could imagine a giant cow that had bees which came from its udders instead of milk. For the honey and apples, you could imagine an giant apple beehive swarming with tiny apple seeds.

#6 – The 5-Year Old Method (Try explaining quantum physics to a first grader)

Most rapid learners know how to simplify an explanation. Obviously, actually explaining your masters thesis to a first grader might be impossible. But the goal is to reduce the complexity, by explaining, breaking down and using analogies, so that someone far below your current academic level could understand it.

If you can teach an idea, you can learn that idea.

9 Tactics for Rapid Learning [Scott H Young]

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Multitasking: An Open Discussion

Posted by medliorator on January 17, 2010

A stimulating discussion on multitasking is underway at Britannica Blog.  Stop by for insights from authors Maggie Jackson, Howard Rheingold, Heather Gold, & Nicholas Carr.

Multitasking: Boon or Bane? [Britannica]

Correlate: The Cost of Multitasking

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RePost: Managing Exam Stress & Optimizing Performance

Posted by medliorator on December 27, 2009

Philip Zack:

Many people have an automatic train of “self talk” in their heads, which has the effect of giving up control to external factors with unhelpful statements such as, “The exam is making me stressed” or “I’m bound to fail again.”

Take control of these self talk messages by challenging them—for example, “The exam is making me stressed” becomes “I let myself get stressed in the exam;” or “I’m bound to fail again” becomes “I might fail, but if I prepare well I might pass.”

You can also control your emotional state by practising simple meditation or visualisation exercises, both before the exam and during short breaks in the exam itself. Box 3 shows a simple example, using a technique called anchoring. You can use a range of techniques, which can either be self learnt or taught by a professional, such as a yoga teacher or hypnotherapist.

the Yerkes-Dodson curve:


Exam technique 2: performing [BMJ Careers]

Posted in Productivity, Wellness & Health | 1 Comment »

Medical Student Alarm Clock Guide

Posted by medliorator on December 21, 2009

Medical students understand the value of owning multiple alarm clocks.  Consider the following novel alarm clocks if adding to your arsenal this season:

1. Mobile Alarm Clock

Premise: in order to turn off the alarm clock, you must first catch the alarm clock.

Pricing: $50 for the original Clocky from Target; $40 for knock-offs

Notes: Watch a video of this critter in action here.

2. Puzzle Alarm Clock

Premise: Alarm clock turns off only after you’ve returned pieces to the base in the appropriate position.  Fancy models fire pieces into the air, scattering them on the ground.  Simpler models  let you scatter the pieces before going to bed.

Pricing: $100 for spring-loaded model; $15 for regular models

Notes: Watch a video of this terror in action here.

3. Flying Alarm Clock

Premise: Alarm clock fires flying component through the air and will silence only after the flying piece is returned to the clock base.

Pricing: $50 for BlowFly model

Notes: Difficult to find in stock

Correlate: Turn your Computer into an Alarm Clock – WakeupOnStandBy

Correlate10 Tips for Waking up Early

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Goal Setting & Productivity – Deprioritizing the Unimportant

Posted by medliorator on November 11, 2009


A lot of goal-setting advice focuses on deciding what matters to you. People exclaim, “follow your passions!” or “set priorities.” This is fine, but it misses the opposite, but equally important question: what doesn’t matter to you.

Ask yourself questions like, “If I had to pick 4-5 things to fail at, what would I sacrifice?

Pick the things that don’t matter. Or, at the very least, decide your maximum input level for those pursuits. If you stop yourself from overcommitting on the small things, you can ensure you have the opportunity to pursue the big things.

Decide What’s Unimportant to You [Scott H Young]

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Case Studies – Tackling Common Sleep Problems

Posted by medliorator on November 10, 2009


The worrier

  • challenge:  “My sleep problems are definitely stress-related,” she says …She lies in bed thinking about work, making mental to-do lists, and even listening to random songs that play in her head.
  • advice: “She seems to have a predisposition for insomnia, and for people like her, whenever there are additional pressures, like a new job, the insomnia bubbles to the surface,” says Gary Richardson, M.D., a senior research scientist and a staff physician at the Sleep Disorders Center at the Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit, Michigan …she needs to find ways to handle her stress better so that it doesn’t wake her up at night.
    • Distract her brain by trying a relaxation technique, like focusing on her breathing.
    • Working on keeping her sleep environment quieter, such as using an air conditioner or a fan, as well as blackout shades to block street light.

The night owl

  • challenge: She grows more alert late at night, then stays up until about 3 a.m., watching TV, reading, clearing out e-mail, and organizing things for her family.
  • advice: To start slowing down and readying herself for an earlier bedtime, psychologist Rubin Naiman suggests blocking blue light. “The blue end of the light spectrum — emitted by ordinary lightbulbs, televisions, and computer screens — suppresses melatonin,” says Naiman. Nicole might consider …reducing the amount of light in general. “Being exposed to too much light at night is the environmental equivalent of caffeine,” says Naiman. So at least two hours before bed, dim the lights. In addition, Nicole needs to find time earlier in the day for catching up on e-mail and organizing.

The slow riser

  • challenge: Elizabeth …struggles with an innate tendency is to stay up till midnight, then hit snooze so many times in the morning. “The clock has been known to give up,” she says. Even when she feels exhausted all day, she becomes more alert at night. When she does get into bed, it takes her up to an hour to fall asleep. Elizabeth has tried going to bed earlier so she’ll have less trouble getting up in the morning, but then she just lies awake. She doesn’t drink caffeine, and she reads when she gets into bed, does yoga three times a week, and uses an aromatherapy-oil diffuser in her bedroom.
  • advice: While avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and the evening is a wise move, physician and sleep researcher Gary Richardson says that having some first thing in the morning can be helpful for people like Elizabeth, who have trouble waking up.
    • Modulating her exposure to light could reset her internal clock gradually, according to Richardson. “Too much light at night will push her clock even later,” he says, so the key is to keep the lights dim the closer she gets to bedtime. Elizabeth should also maximize her light exposure first thing in the morning. If she can go outside in bright sunlight for some exercise, that would provide a double whammy of wakefulness.
    • Taking a melatonin supplement (0.3 milligram before bed) might help Elizabeth if light manipulation isn’t enough, Richardson suggests. It may help pull her internal clock to an earlier hour so she can get the sleep she needs

How to solve 9 sleep problems [CNN Health]

Correlate: Making Time for Sleep
Correlate: Sleeping Smarter
Correlate: Understand the Mechanics of Sleep

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How to Start the Day Right

Posted by medliorator on August 5, 2009

Get Enough Sleep:

  • Going to bed earlier (set an alarm to remind you to go to bed, if necessary!)
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening
  • Switching off the computer and television and reading for an hour or so before bed – bright screens can prevent you from getting sleepy

Drink Water and Eat (a Healthy) Breakfast:

  • I’d suggest holding off on the coffee for at least a little while after waking up, and drinking a big glass of water instead: being slightly dehydrated will knock your concentration levels right down.
  • healthy breakfast like baked beans on wholewheat toast, or oatmeal, will give you slow-release energy to see you through the morning.

How to Get Your Morning Off to a Great Start [Life Optimizer]

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Forum Filter: Simplify Cooking

Posted by medliorator on July 12, 2009


by typography: I’d like to get into cooking but all my attempts so far have been defeated by one of three things:
-Too much cleanup.
-Too much time.
-Too much equipment or too many special ingredients.
Is there a cuisine I can learn that alleviates some or all of these concerns?

Ritchie: I was going to suggest Italian, as I like being able to put together the absolute basic essentials of pasta, olive oil, and garlic (and, usually, onion) in about 15 minutes with minimal cleanup (2 saucepans and a colander)

telstar: Two cuisines spring to mind: Mexican (the original fast food) and Middle eastern(falafel, hummus), the latter tastes just as good after storing in the fridge, so you can make up a bunch and then coast on your efforts. For Mexican, I like tacos. Make and store taco components, then hunger-to-cooking-to-eating time is minimal.

Kololo: Most asian food is by definition about ‘fast cooking’. Buy pre-cut veggies (if you really want to eliminate that ‘chopping’ step), a selection of chinese-ish sauces or flavourings, and keep some sliced up protein your freezer, and you can make stir-fry or soup in less than 15 minutes, with nothing but one saucepan/frying pan/wok to clean up.

: My “not requiring thought” dinners revolve around this basic pattern: Saute onion or garlic or shallot or ginger or all three in oil. Add veg or meat or both. Add whatever spices are desired. Meanwhile, make some sort of grain or starch (Bulgar, pasta, risotto, basmati, whatever.) Combine, possibly add cheese, season well with salt and pepper.

I’m sick of scrambled eggs, but can’t deny their cooking appeal [MetaFilter]

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Turn your Computer into an Alarm Clock – WakeupOnStandBy

Posted by medliorator on April 16, 2009


WakeupOnStandBy (Windows)

Wake your system from Stand-by mode or Hibernation at a predefined time and run any file or program.  It can also be used to run scheduled operations daily, or on specific day(s).

Posted in Productivity, Software | 1 Comment »