Book Launch: Remember Everything You Want and Manage the Rest


Dear Friends,Remember Everything You Want and Manage the Rest

I am delighted to announce that my book – Remember Everything You Want and Manage the Rest – has been launched on Amazon Kindle.

UPDATE, Thursday, May 12: Remember Everything You Want and Manage the Rest (version 1.1) is available on Amazon. This is the time to read it!

What is this book is all about?

It is a no-nonsense guide for anyone who wishes to improve their memory and learning and acquire powerful techniques and tools to organize information from all kinds of sources.

It merges highly effective learning and memory improvement techniques with information and knowledge management to provide a complete solution for students, professionals, and life-long learners. The techniques are accompanied by easy-to-follow examples.

Memorizing Information is not enough

Many memory books claim, “You are only using 10% of your brain.” “Create a memory palace and multiply your brainpower.” Yes – mnemonic techniques work and are fascinating. You can use them to memorize a large number of facts or foreign language vocabulary fast and with confidence. They allow you to give a speech to the point completely from memory. Mnemonics are a real time saver, so we cover the most effective memory improvement techniques and accompany them with easy-to-follow examples.

But contrary to what some people might claim, you will forget a large part of this information after a relatively short time if you don’t use it. This is just how the brain works. You have to reinforce what you want to keep. Did you know that you have to spend about 50% of your learning time practicing recall to create a reliable long-term memory? And you have to do this over time.

We take an in-depth look at the most powerful memory technique of all – Reviewing by practicing recall using effective methods and modern computer software.

What’s more, information and knowledge management are equally important for modern learners:

These days an enormous amount of information is available on the Internet, in databases, and in huge libraries. A lot of this information will be outdated in a few years. You’d better not “store” everything in your brain. Remember, you need a considerable time to keep the information there. Most of it you shouldn’t even download to your computer or smartphone.

This book shows you how to extract the important information and organize what is relevant for your business, research, or studies, so that you can re-find it with ease while it is relevant. We introduce smart and mostly free computer applications allowing you to distill and manage information from all kinds of sources with the click of a few buttons.

In this book, you learn:

  • Highly effective memory improvement techniques: Learn and review faster, pass exams, memorize foreign language vocabulary with confidence, and improve your memory in all areas of your life.
  • Methods and mostly free computer software to distill, organize, and review information from all kinds of sources.
  • How to re-find your information with ease, build your personal digital library, and create bibliographies for your own writing by clicking only a few buttons.
  • How to take and manage notes in innovative ways, including techniques such as mind mapping and outlining.
  • How to improve your attention span and concentration and beat absentmindedness and stress.

So this is it.

If you like what you are reading, check out Remember Everything You Want and Manage the Rest on Amazon.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read this book. In fact, I think it looks great in the Kindle App. Just download the Amazon Kindle App, which is available for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

Thank you very much for all your support!

Have a great day,

Helmut Sachs

Don’t Be a Headless Chicken: 8 Tips for More Happiness and Productivity


As soon as the headless chicken wakes up, it starts running in circles. It becomes frantically active, checks its mail, and feels the urge to do something. Anything that can relieve the stress and the worries will do.

While handling the phone, it opens the pantry to refill the coffee maker. Too bad, there is no more ground coffee left. Well, instant coffee will do for now.

“Shit, it put the coffee in the kettle instead of the cup…”

The chicken has no time; it wants to do everything at once.

And so it forgets some of its papers on the nightstand and runs back and forth and all around the house to fetch everything for the office.

It truly has lost its head.

Fortunately, the drive to the office is without any major incident. While still at the wheel, the chicken’s head is already at the morning meeting.

It doesn’t see anything to its left or right.  Neither beauty nor danger! Had a little chick suddenly run out from behind the parking cars, it would have been flat!

In fact, a little bit earlier, there was a little chick.

Luckily, by the time the headless chicken drove by, the little chick had already safely crossed the street. An elderly couple saw it early and stopped to allow the chick to cross safely.

The headless chicken didn’t know anything about this though when it angrily flashed its headlights at the slow moving car in front of it – the car of the elderly couple that had just spared the headless chicken a nightmare.

What does this have to do with me?

I have been a headless chicken at some point in my life. Sometimes I still am, I am afraid.

But now I have more experience and strategies to re-find my head in most situations. I am still learning, mind you.

In this post, I want to share with you how we often lose our head in the craziness of our busy mind, and eight simple techniques that help me to stay happy and productive.

If even one of them helps you to get back your peace of mind and cruise through the day, this post has served its purpose.

How the chicken lost its head

At the root of our frantic activity are worries that we are going to run out of time or money and the realization that we have no control over this world.

We feel we have to do something, anything to get back in control and on top of things.

Here are some common causes for our headless-ness: Continue reading

Using Your Fitbit as a Pomodoro Timer or with a Smartphone Productivity App

Using your fitbit as a pomodoro timer or together with a smartphone productivity timer

Working in intervals of 20 to 40 minutes (so-called timeboxes) interspersed with 5-minute breaks is an excellent way to increase productivity, overcome procrastination, and do something for your health at the same time. In an earlier post I have outlined some ideas on how to implement time boxing.

In the 1980s, Francesco Cirillo devised the Pomodoro Technique, a complete time management system based on the concept of timeboxing. According to him, the optimal length of a timebox is 25 minutes. He called this 25-minute interval a pomodoro. Cirillo’s technique has spawned a variety of productivity apps and timers. I’ll introduce you to one cool app below.

I have used timeboxing more or less for several years, but have also varied the work period depending on the task at hand.

If a task is very difficult or boring, starting out with only 15 minutes is fine, if that helps you to get started and avoid checking your phone. I can always do 15 minutes.

For writing, I much prefer 45 minutes of even an hour.

Recently, I got myself a Fitbit Charge 2 fitness tracker. I bought it to encourage me to move more during the day and track my sleep during the night.  It also continuously tracks my heart rate and automatically recognizes and records different exercises. For example, it detects and records when I am walking, running, or using a cross trainer or treadmill and supplies stats such as duration, calories burnt, heart rate graphs…

I have come to like my Fitbit a lot – and it can help with time boxing / pomodoros as well. Continue reading

Unlock Your Problem Solving Powers and Squash Your Worries through Writing

How to solve problems and dispel worries through freewriting.Coming up with your own solutions before checking up on Google or with experts can vastly improve your results, dispel worries, and increase your confidence in your own creative powers.

By relying on your own knowledge reservoir, your own subconscious mind, you might dig out nuggets no one else has found.

If you are lucky, you get to explore areas of the solution space (the set of all possible solutions) no one has looked at. Everyone else might have sniffed around in just one corner.1

Whether you are looking for a solution to a problem or want to write an article or blog post, I suggest you look inside yourself before you check up on solutions on the Internet.

I would go so far as to say, it is often (not always) best to not read anything before you have not described the challenge in writing and written about it yourself.

If you want to get your head around something, just start writing. That way, your writing comes from you and isn’t yet clouded by the most prominent public opinion or scientific expertise. Empty everything out.

The Road most Traveled

Many people, when trying to solve a problem, go right to Google and ask “How can I do such and such…” Continue reading

How to Use Light Therapy to Change Your Internal Clock and Sleep Better

Use carefully timed light therapy to optimize your sleep

Do you feel very sleepy at 9 pm but want to stay up until 11?

Are you in bed at 11, yet can’t fall asleep for another hour?

Perhaps you have traveled across several times zones and now, even several days later, you feel sluggish and jet lagged.

All of the above are signs that your habits and desires and your biological clock are out of sync. And for most people the clock can’t be forced into sleep mode like an on-off switch.

Carefully timed light therapy, that is, exposure to blue, blue-green, or blue-enriched white light either in the evening or in the morning can be a fast and elegant way to set your clock to align with your lifestyle, sleep better, and even overcome serious insomnia.

My motivation for exploring light therapy for sleep

I often alternate between living in a small town for a few weeks and staying in a large bustling city. In the country side, folks are usually in bed by 9 pm; there is little else to do in the evening.

Quite quickly, I settle into a routing of having dinner, then watching TV for an hour or so – basically until I feel sleepy, which is usually pretty soon. So by 9 or 10 I am in bed and dozing off. I believe I have always been more of a lark, a morning person who tends to go to bed early and rises early. In fact, as I get older I become even more of an early riser.

This doesn’t suit me well when I am in the city though.

If I were to go to bed too early, noise would likely prevent me from falling asleep, and from hanging out with friends and drinking a few beers at night. Naturally my beer consumption also goes up when I am around town.

While in town, I would much rather go to bed at around 11:30 pm and maybe wake up at 7 or even 8. Being among other people and exposed to lots of light, I usually manage to stay up until 12 am and then go home and fall asleep quickly.

Unfortunately, I wake up at 4:30 or 5 am.

This would be fine when going to bed and 9 or 10, but with my later bed time I only get about 5 hours of sleep: a perfect recipe for feeling low on energy and sleep deprived.

It takes me quite a few days or even weeks to nudge myself into waking up later.

For many years, researchers at the sleep lab of Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia have been researching the use of bright light therapy and blue-green light to help people optimize their sleep and overcome insomnia.

They were initially focusing on people with delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD), also known as delayed sleep phase syndrome and advanced sleep phase disorder (ASPD), aka advanced sleep phase syndrome.

Now they are also applying their research to help frequent travelers overcome jet lag and shift workers adjust to a markedly different sleep-wake schedule.

In a way, you could even consider party people as shift workers.

Owls and larks and everyone in between

Continue reading

How to Block Blue Light for Better Sleep and Why It Works

Special blue-blocking glasses, lamps that emit no blue and little green light, and apps that shift the color temperature of our smartphones and iPads have been designed to remove potentially sleep-disrupting light.

But how do these blue blocking glasses and lamps help with sleep?

And how do they need to be designed and used to actually work?

How to block blue light for better sleep

A couple of years ago, I was often riding the subway home late in the evening, coming either from work or a night on the town. For the first couple of minutes, I usually felt very sleepy and was ready to go to bed. At the end of my ride though, I was completely alert. At some point, I started wondering whether the bright light in the subway car might be responsible for my alertness at the end of the ride.

I had previously heard of morning bright light therapy to wake people up and treat bad winter moods, and the subway car seemed to be doing just that.
The problem: we were in the middle of the night!

Looking further into the alerting effects, I came across a whole line of research that had identified the blue light portion of white light as the most potent wake-up signal.

In 2001, researchers identified novel photosensitive cells at the back of our eyes, and these cells were most responsive to blue light. What’s more, they are directly connected to our biological clock. It has been found that light exposure to these cells resets our internal clock, suppresses melatonin, and keeps the clock in sync with our 24-hour day.

Likely unaware of these findings, from 2005 on governments were starting to pressure manufacturers and households to get rid of incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps and later white LEDs.

As it turns out, most of these lamps contain a lot more blue light than the old bulbs, and they have also been found to be a lot more effective at suppressing melatonin, the primary hormone that signals darkness to the cells in our body. The same goes for modern LED-powered devices including smartphones, tablets, and PCs.

Let’s look at how light impacts our biological clock

Continue reading

Choosing and Using the Ideal White Noise Machine for Sleep

In this post, we will look at the most suitable white noise machine for sleeping, and how to use it for maximum effect and fewest side effects. I have also summarized research findings regarding white noise and sleep.

The ideal white noise machine for sleeping

Many years ago, I stumbled across my first sleep-aid sound conditioner by chance. At that time, my bedroom window was facing a small, but pretty noisy street. During winter, I used a small ceramic heater that had a fan to distribute the warm air. As it got warmer in spring, I was ready to put the heater back in storage.

I noticed, however, that it was a lot easier to fall asleep with the little heater running, so I even put up with a slightly overheated room just to get my fan noise.

Later I used a normal room fan. It wasn’t loud enough for me though.

A friend had the solution: I punched a few holes in a plastic bag and covered the fan with the bag. Voila – I had a loud white noise machine.

I am aware that this isn’t a safe way of doing things: So don’t try this at home. Don’t cover your fan with a plastic bag.

At that time I didn’t know, but there are a lot better solutions readily available… Continue reading

My Top 6 Noise Blocking Earmuffs Review

In this post, I want to provide an overview and detailed review of noise blocking earmuffs.

Regular readers of my Blog know that I am into blocking noise to reduce stress and improve cognitive performance and sleep. Many studies show a large positive impact of noise reduction on all kinds of mental tasks, including studying, reading comprehension, writing, serial memory, proof reading, mental math, and so on.

my top 6 noise blocking earmuffs review

As a student and as a professional, you can improve your performance on almost any task by controlling the noise you are exposed to while working. In addition, by removing disturbing noise from your environment, you can reduce stress levels, improve general well-being, and prevent permanent hearing impairment.

Earmuffs are also becoming increasingly popular with people who are hypersensitive to noise, and sufferers from hyperacusis, misophonia, autism and ADHD.

I have found noise cancelling earmuffs to be among the most effective tools for studying. And it’s not only me: Search Google Images for memory championships and you will see participants wearing industrial earmuffs.

This review looks at general noise blocking effectiveness of different earmuffs and comfort and suitability for different types of noises, including low frequency noise and human speech. I focus on enhancing cognitive performance and general well-being rather than hearing protection in industrial settings and on the shooting range. That being said, you will find an in-depth comparison of manufacturers’ attenuation data.

In my quest to find the most effective, most comfortable and most fashionable earmuffs, I have purchased and used quite a number of different models. In this review I am going to look at the following:

  • Overall noise blocking effectiveness
  • Low-frequency and human speech blocking effectiveness
  • Comfort
  • Manufacturing quality and durability
  • Discreteness
  • Earmuffs for sleeping

The models in this review include:

  • 3M Peltor X5A
  • 3M Peltor X4A
  • 3M Peltor Optime 105
  • 3M Peltor Optime 98
  • 3M Peltor Optime 95
  • Howard Leight Leightning L3 (with some references to the Leighting L2 and Leightning L1)

My personal earmuffs ranking

Before I delve into the details about which earmuffs are best for which application, here is my overall ranking. Please note that this ranking is personal and does not only account for noise reduction, but also general usability, comfort, weight, build quality, and price. Continue reading

Happy, Relaxing Floating – First Experiences with Float Therapy

Recently, during an extended stay in Taiwan, I started with floating sessions.
Flotation tank with open lid.

Every other week, I float for about 70 minutes in a tub filled with magnesium-sulfate-saturated water, a so-called flotation tank, also known as an isolation tank.

The water is kept at skin temperature, and the tank is supposed to be sound and light proof. Upon closing the door or lid, it is pitch dark, and you hear almost nothing.  Float therapy was originally devised to answer the question “what happens to the brain in the absence of sensory stimulation?”

In the meantime, it has become a popular tool to reduce stress, solve creative problems, help with insomnia, and improve performance, among others.

So far, I have done two sessions, with more coming up.

I have found that floating can be very relaxing and uplifting. With this post, I would like to inspire you to try it yourself.

How to prepare for floating?

Continue reading

How I Read, Annotate, and Organize Web Pages and Keep Track of Important Info without Wasting Time

How I read, annotate, and organize web pagesIn this post, I want to share with you how I read, annotate, organize, and summarize the web.

Here are the benefits I have gained:

  • I read with pleasure.
  • I remember more and can re-find the important info I come across on the web.
  • I save a ton of time.

Most of us who read online waste enormous amounts of time: We hook our brains up to massive news streams to keep up with things. Unfortunately, even most of the information that matters to us and could help us in our life gets drowned out and is forgotten the next day, or at best a few days later.

It doesn’t have to be that way!

Yes, a lot of what we consume doesn’t really have an impact on our life; it is purely for entertainment and distraction, so it makes perfect sense to forget it.

But what about the really important information bits you come across while reading? Do you forget these too?

And if you remember these nuggets, can you quickly reconnect to the web pages where you found them? Can you remember the ideas you had when you read an article?

Simply bookmarking all “worthy” articles you come across, or worse, clipping them and putting them in a giant archive doesn’t solve the problem.

If you do that you will often have to re-read the whole page to remember why it was important.

Most of the information in your archive, you will never look at again, yet it will become a burden and demand time and effort to be maintained.

My two most common reading scenarios:

  1. Reading to answer a specific research question, such as “does NAC help with sleep?”
  2. Capturing information nuggets and the thoughts I had while reading the daily news or following a subject that interests me.

Let’s get started with scenario 1, answering a research question:

Continue reading

How to Win Twice at Meditation: Harvesting Great Ideas and Taming the Monkey Mind

Meditators are often advised to focus on a meditation object, and when they realize that their mind has started wandering, to just bring it back to the object of their meditation. The standard advice is not to follow any thoughts and emotions that may arise.

This, however, is often easier said than done. As soon as I am trying to quiet my mind, thoughts and reminders start coming from all directions.

Like a monkey of whom I have limited or no control, “my” mind bounces around, jumping from the cup of coffee I had before the meditation to yesterday’s cookies, and from there to the chat I had with a friend last night.

Meditation helps you to gain creative insight and tame the monkey mind.

Quite appropriately so, they call it the “monkey mind.”

But is this monkey mind good or bad news? I have been contemplating this for quite a while and over time have come to appreciate it. Why? This state of mind can be used to harvest plenty of good ideas. I let the mind loose and it turns into a treasure trove of creativity.

How do I use meditation for creativity? How do I harvest ideas and gain insight?

Continue reading