Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Posts Tagged ‘Education

Train Your Brain Like You Train Your Body

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Like your body, your brain needs exercise.  Create a workout schedule that includes brain building routines. Study a topic your are interested in, do math problems, learn how to program a computer, play chess – whatever it is, it should be something that challenges you. Go heavy or go home.

There are people who crush it in the gym but if they try reading a book they pass out after a few pages. They think it is boring, tedious and uncomfortable to sit and read. Well, just like working out the body, start out slow, increase the volume and intensity over time, and don’t quit because it hurts. We all know we want to go where the discomfort is and embrace the struggle.

You can have the best looking body in the world, but if you have a weak brain, people won’t respect you. A person with a strong body and a strong mind is unstoppable.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

April 23, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Meditation Should Be Taught In Schools

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Just do a search on the term “benefits of meditation” and you find plenty of evidence that meditation is a good thing. Meditation is often associated with “hippies” and the new age movement. Personally, I wouldn’t care if it was part of the “My Little Pony” fan culture – if it makes my life better, I’m going to do it.

I try to fit time for meditation whenever I can but I sometimes go for weeks without meditating. I’m not perfect so when life gets busy, it’s easy to justify cutting out the activity that is basically just sitting around, doing nothing. However, I’ve found that if I don’t meditate a few days a week, things start to get a little crazy. I lose my center and stress starts to degrade my ability to think clearly. Once I get in a few days of meditation, things start to settle down and my ability to focus increases.

I came to the realization that most people are in a permanent state of high stress. This explained why it is so difficult to communicate with most people about topics requiring high levels of thought. They just don’t have the capacity to do anything outside of their routine. High stress may also be a major reason why so many people are overweight – they aren’t capable of making any significant changes in their lives.

Meditation has a marketing problem. It’s not even on the radar of the public conscience. Sure people have heard about it and will generally agree that it is a good thing, but most never make the connection that it is something that they should try. There’s not enough peer pressure to take it seriously. It’s not like diet and exercise where most people have at least tried to exercise and eat better. Most people have not even tried to meditate.

This is why I think it should be taught in schools from as early as the first grade. It would be really cheap and easy to implement and it would improve students ability to learn. I’m not saying they could get most kids to sit still quietly for more than 10 minutes but at least they would become aware of the practice so they could choose to make it part of their growth process.

However we do it, it would be a huge benefit to our society if we could make meditation an accepted part of our culture. I’m not suggesting we go overboard where we have family members and coworkers disappearing for a few weeks so they could attend a mediation retreat, but it would be great if the average Joe or Jane could be comfortable enjoying a twenty minute mediation after a tough day at work.

 

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

April 2, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Aspects of a Successful Life

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How to improve the quality of your life?

We all desire a happier and more rewarding life. In that we often strive to improve specific details of our lives – get a better job, own a bigger home, spend more time with our friends and family, get in better shape, and so on. While it is important to work on these focused goals, it is important to take a step back and look at our lives as a whole and determine if our individual goals contribute to our long-term happiness. It is easy to assume that a goal such as striving to get a better paying job is something we want, but we may find that we are just following a pre-programmed path set by the expectations and influence of others or even the media. It would be a tragedy to struggle for years to achieve a goal only to find that is detracts from you happiness instead of contributing to it.

Big goals and small tasks

Once you take a step back and consider what you want to achieve in life, the complexity of the problem can be daunting. When faced with a large goal the best thing to do is attempt to break it down into smaller more manageable goals. You may need to establish another levels of goals below these as well if they are still too daunting. Once you have a list of goals, you will need to determine that actionable tasks you need to achieve those goals. Even then if there are tasks that appear too big to tackle, you can break those tasks down into smaller sub-tasks. There is no limitation on how small the tasks should be. They need to be small enough so that you feel that you can easily accomplish them. This is just a high level overview on the process of goal setting and tasks. We will expand upon the topic of goal setting in a future article.

Mind, Body and Spirit

The first step that I take when editing my life goals, is to consider the three main aspects of my being that I want to improve which are mind, body and spirit. While the more pragmatic may feel that this is little too “new-agey”, I want to assure you that I will strive for practical advice based on both quantitative and qualitative research as well as my own personal experience. The word “spirit” has religious connotations, but in this context this word encompasses the topics of passion, drive, motivation and purpose. The concepts of mind, body and spirit are very useful when setting goals. In practice, however,  most goals will address more than one of those. Though exercise is often considered a way to improve the body, it also improves the mind and spirit as well.

Maintain skepticism

Most of the advice I will provide on this site will be based on work done by others. For years, I have researched the fields of self-improvement, productivity, business and anything else that would help provide the answers I had been looking for. I will continue to research in my endless mission to improve my life and the lives of others. In those years my life has had many challenges and I attempted to apply what I’ve learned to those challenges. I’ve achieved great things as a result. I’ve also found that some of what I’ve learned was faulty or incomplete. I don’t begrudge those who shared that faulty information as I believe most offer the best that they know and it was up to me to find my own answers.

I will do my best to share what I’ve learned but it is important that you remain skeptical to my advice or the advice of anyone else. You have to find what works best for you, but to do that you need to consider what others have to share. If you figure out a better way of doing things, I ask that you share that with others.

Nobody has all the answers. We often see experts publish a book one year only to produce an expanded edition some time later. Were they holding out on us? I don’t think so. The publish a new edition because they’ve gained more knowledge, more insights and have had more time to apply their ideas in the real world. I’m sure they also get feedback from others about how their advice didn’t work as they expected and that they needed to make changes to meet their personal circumstances.

It’s up to you

Not only do I not have all the answers, I still have many more questions of my own to figure out. Still, I am absolutely certain that if you try some of the ideas I will share with you, you will learn ways to improve your life. When you do experience success, it won’t be because of anything I’ve shared, but rather due to your own efforts to apply what you’ve learned.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

January 8, 2012 at 11:23 am

Researching a Topic on the Web

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In my career I am often required to research topics on the web. Over the years I’ve developed a routine that I follow repeatedly that allows me to gather a broad understanding of a topic in a relatively short time. These tips and tricks are in no way a replacement for advanced research but they should help you get what you can from the web.

1. Wikipedia

Your inclination may be to try the search engines first and for most simple topics that would be correct. But if the topic you are researching is complex with plenty of subtopics you can save yourself some time by getting some background on the topic from Wikipedia. It may even be tempting to begin and end your research using Wikipedia but this site tries to limit the content to purely factual information. Even if that is all you need it is best to confirm those fact using other sources. In addition to a factual overview on a topic it will also provide you with key terms or subtopics that can help you dig deeper into the details you need.

Using pen and paper or a digital equivalent (SpringpadEvernote, etc.), make note of potential terms to use in search engines. Save a link to the article in your browser (or other tool).

2. Use the search engines (Google, Bing)

By now you should have a list of terms to search for. Start your search with your main topic. When the results are displayed scan the list of result headings before making a selection. Don’t automatically click the first link in the list. There is some controversy over which sites move to the top. Those may just be the sites that are very good at getting traffic and may not be the best choice. Try to avoid any links to product sites unless you happen to be researching that specific product and even then you may want to start with review sites first.

Avoid any sponsored links or ads. Both Google and Bing will indicate which are ads unless you believe they can add to your research. For example if you want to research water purification methods, you don’t want to start at Brita. Links from educational institutions (.edu) tend to be very good sources of objective information (albeit boring) with no intent to sell a product.

One trick that can help filter out vendor driven material is to preface your search term with “Top”, “Best”, “What” or “How” as in “Best Colleges” or “How Water Purification”. The reason this works is because a product site is not going to list the Top alternatives to their product. Typically you will see results links to sites that get ad generated revenue by attracting people researching topics just like you but they themselves will not be trying to sell you something.

3. Use an online note taking tool

Pen and paper is still great for quick notes but you need something more permanent (and legible) to store the many links, clippings and notes that you will be collecting. Most note taking tools have browser extension that allow you store links and clippings without leaving the page you are on. Two of the most popular tools are Springpad and Evernote (I prefer Springpad but Evernote is more popular) which both have free smart phone apps that store data on the web. There are others (http://mashable.com/2008/08/19/online-note-taking-applications/) so take your time and find what works for you.

Using an online note taking tool you can gather a great deal of information in a short amount of time that you can then read and review at your convenience. Some will also store audio and video if your research requires it.

4. Video Research

Video research is a great way to gather more information when you are too tired or stressed to read. They can also be entertaining depending on the content and the speaker/narrator. Sites like YouTube have videos of almost every topic imaginable.

If you are lucky you can find information that you need at Khan Academy which is an excellent site for learning a variety of topics. If you have never heard of this site follow that link and check it out.

5. Blogs

When blogs first started becoming popular find useful information on them was extremely rare (unless you were researching pet lovers or stay-at-home parents) but now you can find excellent and timely information written by experts. Even non-experts can provide insights and details that experts miss. You may also find amateur blogs that have links to the content that you would have spent hours looking for.

6. Forums and Discussion Boards

Somewhat related to blogs, forums are a great way to get answers to your questions. If you find the right discussion board you can just simply ask for the information you need – “Where can I find more information about X?”. The best approach is to put your questions out there and then check back in an hour. Most forums will let you setup a notification so that any responses be sent directly to your email address. Make sure you thank people for their feedback even if it doesn’t answer your question completely. If you happen to see any questions on the board that you can help with you should do what you can – people tend to help people who help people.

Try not to get too caught up in discussion boards (unless you are having fun). They are time-sinks that can distract you from your research. If you find it interesting or enjoyable you can always revisit it when you finish your research.

One more thing to remember

When doing research (or any activity) on the web you should avoid the urge to spend time in sites that don’t help you complete your originally intended goal. If during your research you find a site or an article that peaks your interest you can always save that link in your online note taking tool for further enjoyment later. If you are unable to resist the urge of following link after link ask yourself if the time you spent on those various sites would have been better spent doing your research or some other meaningful activity. You don’t want to look at the clock and realize that you spent the last 8 hours on the web with nothing to show for it.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

December 30, 2011 at 9:10 am

Read as If Your Life Depended on It

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You should read as if your life depended on it because in many ways it does. Whatever it is you want to do in life acquiring information is an essential task and reading is the fastest and most purest way of acquiring information. Some people say they learn by doing and that’s a valid way to learn but if you limit yourself to that you will find that learning this way is a slow process. Reading makes the learn-by-doing process faster by acting as a guide.

In most cases, reading provides you with the best source of information. Without it, you are dependent on what the media and your contacts are willing to provide. It is common knowledge that the news media has a tendency to sensationalize and often what you are hearing is only the juiciest part. Depending on your family, friends and coworkers for knowledge is also questionable. Unless you know an expert on a particular topic you would be better served by reading about it. Even if you do know experts, quite often they don’t have the time or the patience to teach you everything they know.

Even with reading you can’t depend on a single book, blog or magazine article if you want to really get to know about a particular topic. You will need to read from a number of different sources in addition to asking for input from your social circle. If you rely on one source of information your knowledge is not your own, it is of the writer or speaker. By absorbing information from a number of different sources you will be able to come to your own conclusions about the topic.

Your time is valuable so, unless you need to be extremely thorough when researching a particular topic, you should only read the best materials you can find. Read reviews and try to verify that a particular source is well respected and recommended. If it is a new book, read reviews of other books by the author. Often you will find that there are only a few  (in some cases, just one) books or authors that are considered the ultimate source for a particular topic. For example when I was researching the topic of Data Warehousing, I found that the author Ralph Kimball was the leader in that field and his book The Data Warehouse Toolkit was the most highly recommended book on the topic. Sure, you can continue your research by reading other books on the topic, but it is important to start with the best.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

April 29, 2011 at 9:21 am