5 Simple Ways To Keep Your Mind Sharp

The importance of keeping your mind sharp cannot be overstated. We’re all part of a fantastic intellectual and information economy, which thrives on ideas, creativity and intelligence. Keeping your mind sharp is sure to give you the edge over the competition, and more importantly lead to your own higher levels of happiness.

When your mind is in top shape, you will:

  • Have greater motivation and focus
  • Get more done
  • Come up with more creative ideas
  • Find inspiration more often
  • Remember more
  • Experience a better life

I’d like to share a few practices I’ve found are extremely beneficial in keeping my mind sharp and can help you as well:

1) Continue reading, absorbing knowledge and experiencing culture
Sorry to use a clichéd quote, but education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.It should be something pleasurable and done for intrinsic reasons above all else. Read blogs on subjects both within your field and in new fields you know nothing about; read books; watch lectures on fascinating new subjects; read about ancient societies; take in a new form of art you’ve never experienced; you get the idea. Challenge your mind to continually broaden your horizon and soak up new information like an infinite sponge (that’s pretty much what it is, you should use it to do just that).

2) Learn a skill or craft you’ve never tried before like playing an instrument, composing music, painting, building a model airplane, or even coding computer programs. 
Engage your mind in learning a new skill. You’re never too old to do this, but this is definitely something you should start as young as you can. I started composing my own music at around 17, and in retrospect I wish I had started even younger. You’d be surprised how much learning a new skill will open up many new paths in your mind and help you become even better at whatever you are already an expert at. You’ll also open yourself up to tons of new connections and intellectual social circles by engaging yourself in a new hobby, form of art, or trade.

3) To improve memory don’t write everything down
If you can, try this for a week: write down everything you need to do at the beginning of the week, as you normally would, but take your list and put it out of sight. Instead of keeping that list visible at your desk, internalize your projects and simply remember and know what needs to be done, prioritize it in your mind, and do it. Your brain is extremely powerful and you’ll find that, in time, you may not have to write anything down to remember everything (you can still keep a list for reference, but it’s great not to need it).

4) Give your mind time to assimilate knowledge
We live in a culture where we are constantly experiencing and learning new things and taking in new information. This is a great thing, I’m not going to go into the information overload spiel, I don’t really believe in that anyway (you are in total control over how much information you take in at once). But in your process of absorbing new skills, knowledge and life experiences; internal analysis of yourself, what you have learned and where you are going is vital to put everything in proper perspective. Some people do it well during running, others through listening to music, and some people through making art. Find your own place that allows you to assimilate all you have learned and frequent it often.

5) Eat well, sleep well and exercise often
Giving your mind the proper rest and energy is essential to getting the best performance out of it. This one is pretty self explanatory, but people often forget that you need proper fuel and proper rest to function optimally. Also, putting your physical body through the paces is a surefire way to rejuvenate yourself mentally. If you’re ever feeling stressed, out of inspiration, or depressed, a few days of nutritious food, good sleep and vigorous exercise will put you back to your full self soon enough.

Turning Procrastination Into Motivation

Procrastination is something many people suffer from daily. Fortunately, it’s also something that is purely mind over matter to overcome.

Typical procrastination excuses we tell ourselves

 

  • I’ll do this tomorrow, there’s not enough time to do this today.
  • I work better under pressure, I’ll wait until it’s almost due and then the work will be even better.
  • This is such a huge project, I don’t even want to think about it yet, I’ll put it off for one more day.
  • I don’t really need to do this yet; it can wait until sometime in the future.

Unfortunately all of these lead to the inevitable day when you must actually complete the task. And while most people actually do get it done under that time pressure, working that way does not always produce the best results, and allows less time to proof and make it perfect.

The causes of procrastination:

Perhaps procrastination is a part of the human condition, having an extended period of time to accomplish something makes us put it off into the future, even if we can begin it now.Perhaps it is modern society, which often times seems to focus on immediate and instant results, rather than something carefully crafted and refined over a longer period of time.

Part of the modern business world for most of us also involves a constant connectivity. Cell phones, office phones, email, Blackberries, etc. are constantly ringing, buzzing and updating interrupting us with communications. Our friends, parents, co-workers, bosses, managers, etc. all are vying for our attention for sometimes trivial and sometimes important messages.

While these are all part of modern life, and we have learned to function efficiently with them, they can be a hindrance when in the midst of a project which requires complete focus.There is absolutely nothing wrong with staying in touch and being friendly/social with your peers, co-workers and friends, and giving proper attention to your loved ones – in fact I encourage all of those things. But there is a time and a place, and unfortunately being distracted can sometimes make you lose focus and motivation with the task at hand.

6 ways to minimalize procrastination and maximize motivation:

 

  • To be the most proficient, successful and happy at whatever it is you do in life, especially if you are producing intellectual products; you need to have a distraction-free environment. This will guarantee your mind is completely focused on the task at hand and you’ll always get the best results.
  • Start projects immediately if you have idle time. Once you actually start something and get into the flow of it, you’d be surprised how easy it is. Don’t think about starting something, act. You can always tweak the project and make changes as you go along. Getting that first start is vital.
  • Remove all distractions from your environment. Anything that will make you lose focus is something that will potentially set you up for procrastination and destroy your motivation.
  • Eat well, sleep well and get exercise. From personal experience, a healthy mind and body is less likely to procrastinate. You’ll feel better, you’ll be more upbeat and active, and more optimistic about accomplishing your goals sooner rather than later.If you’re tired or hungover, you’ll be less productive and more likely to procrastinate a task until the next day.
  • Mix up your projects and assignments so you’re not simply doing the same exact thing every day. If you keep things fresh they will be more interesting and compelling for you to work on, and you’ll be less likely to procrastinate them.
  • Keep your thoughts positive, and recognize when you’re entering a cycle of procrastination. Here is where you will need to address mind over matter. Start by just getting into it and doing step one of whatever your task is and go from there. Sit down and break the project up into consumable parts that are less daunting.

The Emergence of Speech Recognition

Imagine a device that acts as virtual personal assistant and can answer all your questions like “How’s the weather outside ?”. Well, Apple has introduced an intelligent software based personal assistant called “Siri” on its brand new iPhone 4S. If you ask Siri, why it’s so great, it answers with disarming humility: “I am what I am.”

It’s not just the usual speech recognition

Siri goes well beyond voice recognition by applying artificial intelligence combined with natural language processing to understand the meaning behind questioners’ sentences. When you ask Siri to tell how is the weather outside, it doesn’t deal with the request using only speech recognition, it sends the question to the cloud where a powerful artificial intelligence algorithm analyzes the words in the question to find out what exactly do you want. It then tells you the weather of the location where you are.

It’s not so easy to understand and interpret the question as per the requirement of the user. For example, “I like two sailboats around eBay” and “I like to sail boats around the bay.” will act same for an usual speech recognition software. So, Siri applies natural language processing to serve the requests of the user. It continues to grow its knowledge, a kind of machine learning in order to become better and better.

How can Siri help you?

You can ask Siri to set a reminder for you, send a text message, get weather reports, set calendar appointments, send e-mails, search through your contacts, set alarms and timers, or get directions. Reminders and tasks are location-aware through the new Reminders app in iOS 5, so you can ask Siri to remind you to pick up your dry cleaning when you leave work.

Future of speech recognition

Speech recognition has been emerging over past few years and intelligent voice assistant like Siri are proving themselves in the field of technology. Not only Siri, even Android phones have their own cloud based voice recognition but unlike Siri its limited to a set of commands to initiate communication. Even Samsung phones like Samsung Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note have a voice based assistant powered by Vlingo’s Virtual Assistant but it is also limited to set of commands. Over the next few years, software like Siri will be implemented in personal computers and other electronic appliances allowing you to communicate with the device without physically interacting with it. You can also try some great things using Windows Speech Recognition available in Windows Vista/7.

Things to note about Siri

  • Siri supports English, German and French voice input. Apple said more languages would be added over time.
  • For time being Siri is not available in all countries. It’s available in US and UK counter-parts.
  • You need to buy iPhone 4S to use Siri which will cost you around Rs. 45000

Read more on: http://www.techntricks.com/the-emergence-of-speech-recognition

Are You A Good Developer?

‘Good’ means having qualities that are desirable and distinguishing. From a developer’s perspective, these qualities are both technical as well as non-technical. Here are some qualities that a developer should possess if he/she aims at becoming a ‘good’ developer.

1. Good Communication skills - In the software world, people usually define good communication skills as fluency in a spoken language. That’s not really what it is. It is how effectively you are able to communicate with others. As a ‘good’ developer, you should be able to express yourself well, listen well, as well as manage the communication process well.

2. Positive Attitude - ‘Your attitude determines your altitude’. I am sure you must have heard that phrase. From a developer’s context, this means believe in you, stop blaming others and adapt to changes without fretting. Remember that you always get what you want because you always want what you get.

3. Read Books - Read plenty of them to get a good idea of different technologies. Reading books gives you quick and handy insight into a technology. You should choose books that are usually written by known professionals who recommend best practices and different methods of solving a business problem using the technology. During the course of time, you will learn to develop your own methods. Who knows you may one day write a book!!

4. Practice, Practice and Practice - I have seen a lot of developers having good amount of theoretical knowledge. They read a lot of books and technical material. However when it comes to applying that knowledge, they take a back foot. That is because they do not practice. Efficiency and effectiveness in your work can only be attained if you practice code. The only way you can make a good developer of yourself is to practice, and then practice some more.

5. Follow Patterns and Best Practices - Patterns & practices reflect technical guidance, technical problem domain and engineering practices based on real-world experiences. The process to learn it is gradual, but once done; it can save you a lot of time and efforts and enable you to work smartly. Follow a Code Design Guideline. Always use a code analysis tools that will evaluate and analyze your code.

6. Discussion/Newsgroup - Participating in communities develops the quality of leadership and contribution, both ingredients of success. Having participated in a good technical discussion on the community leaves you with a feeling of self-satisfaction. It also increases your knowledge, as you find smart people who can validate your solutions, as you validate theirs. It also teaches you to appreciate suggestions. Do not forget to ‘pat someone on the back’ if he/her has made a positive contribution. Believe me it makes all the difference.

7. Knowledge of Networking and Databases - People may contradict this point, but during my career as a developer, I have realized that a good developer should know the basics of networking and databases. Almost all the solutions that we create, involve interactions with networks and databases. Having knowledge of these two, helps you write better code and saves you on a lot of time too.

8. Blog/ Write Articles - How many of us can remember everything? I cannot. So I document them. It helps me to reference stuff when I need them. Over and above, it also helps me get some good feedback from readers and shows me multiple approaches to do the same stuff. I have received a lot of feedback about my work, some good and some not so good. However, I do validate them and learn from this process. It develops the developer in you.

9. KISS - Keep Implementations/Approaches Short and Simple. Do not over complicate things by using jargons, which people find it hard to understand. The key is to simplify your designs and avoid over-engineering things.

10. Think as a Tester - Developers and Testers; two sets of people from different camps, ready to take on each other. I have observed that the intersection of the two produces good results. It does not harm taking off the developer’s hat for some time and putting on the tester’s hat. In fact, in the long run it helps you reduce bugs/defects in your code. You develop a mindset of about breaking your code, when you are creating one.

11. Consistency is the name of the game - Do you hop jobs too often or are bitten by the ‘salary’ bug? If yes, then it’s time for you to sit down, relax and plan. Invest time in thinking and let your decisions not be spontaneous. To move ahead, you need a solid foundation and that comes with consistency.

12. Attend technology seminars and events - If there is one hosted in your city, make sure you take out time to attend one. Most of them are free and provide a valuable source of information about new technologies.

13. Jack of all or Master of One? - Well that’s a difficult one to answer. In today’s scenario, you have to master more than one technology. Practically it is quite difficult to do so, but the good ones do it. However the key is adaptability over here. If you are good at any one technology and confident in it, given an opportunity, it would be easier for to relate to a new technology in a short period of time. Try it out as it enables you to compare technologies and make decisions, once you have worked with them.

14. Stop complaining - Did the software fail or are the testers giving you a tough time by finding a lot of bugs? A natural tendency for a lot of developers is to react and then overreact in such situations. While the reaction is natural, it may not be desirable. Analyze why the software failed or why was the bug reported. It is going to be a learning experience and will help you in your future projects.

At the end, just remember that you are not going to remain a programmer for ever. So once you are satisfied and get a feeling that you have proven yourself as a good programmer, it’s time to re-program yourself. Expand your interests. Development is just a part of the process. Understanding the users and business is in itself an art, one should aim for and should master over a period of time. I hope you liked the article and I thank you for viewing it.

LETTER OF THE EDITOR OF “THE TIMES OF INDIA ” TO PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA

Must Read ! Very Powerfully Worded. Bravo - Prakash Bajaj, Editor of
Times of India .

I am born and brought up in Mumbai for last fifty eight years. Believe me, corruption in Maharashtra is worse than that in Bihar . Look at all the politicians, Sharad Pawar, Chagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane, Bal Thackray , Gopinath Munde, Raj Thackray, Vilasrao Deshmukh all are rolling in money. Vilasrao Deshmukh is one of the worst Chief ministers I have seen. His only business is to increase the FSI every other day, make money and send it to Delhi , so Congress can fight next election. Now the clown has found new way and will increase FSI for fishermen, so they can build concrete houses right on sea shore. Next time terrorists can comfortably live in those houses, enjoy the beauty of the sea and then attack our Mumbai at their will.

Recently, I had to purchase a house in Mumbai. I met about two dozen builders. Everybody wanted about 30% in black. A common person like me knows this and with all your intelligence agency & CBI, you and your finance ministers are not aware of it. Where all the black money goes? To the underworld, isn’t it? Our politicians take help of these goondas to vacate people by force. I myself was victim of it. If you have time please come to me, I will tell you everything.

If this has been a land of fools, idiots, then I would not have ever cared to write to you this letter. Just see the tragedy. On one side we are reaching moon, people are so intelligent; and on the other side, you politicians have converted nectar into deadly poison.I am everything  - Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Scheduled Caste, OBC, Muslim OBC, Christian Scheduled Caste, and Creamy Scheduled Caste; only what I am not is INDIAN. You politicians have raped every part of Mother India by your policy of divide and rule.

Take example of our Former President Abdul Kalam. Such an intelligent person; such a fine human being. But you politician didn’t even spare him and instead choose a worthless lady who had corruption charges and insignificant local polititian of Jalgaon WHO’S NAME ENTIRE COUNTRY HAD NOT HEARD BEFORE. Its simple logic your party just wanted a rubber stamp in the name of president. Imagine SHE IS SUPREME COMMANDER OF INDIA ‘S THREE DEFENCE FORCES. What morale you will expect from our defence forces? Your party along with opposition joined hands, because politicians feel they are supreme and there is no place for a good person.

Dear Mr Prime minister, you are one of the most intelligent person, a most learned person. Just wake up, be a real SARDAR. First and foremost, expose all selfish politicians. Ask Swiss banks to give names of all Indian account holders. Give reins of CBI to independent agency. Let them find wolves among us. There will be political upheaval, but that will be better than dance of death which we are witnessing every day. Just give us ambience where we can work honestly and without fear. Let there be rule of law. Everything else will be taken care of.

Choice is yours Mr. Prime Minister. Do you want to be lead by one person, or you want to lead the nation of 100 Crore people?

Prakash B. Bajaj
Editor Mumbai-Times of India

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