Episode 22 Our Personal EF Hacks Working Memory - The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast

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Full Transcript for Episode 22

Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

This podcast is brought to you by Bullet Map Academy. We have free dyslexia screener app called dyslexia quiz.  It's a fun, engaging and interactive app.  Try it now.  Just search for dyslexia quiz on the app store and see how your score differs from your friends and family.

This podcast is brought to you by www.goodsensorylearning.com where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning.

Finally, you can find Dr Warren's many courses at www.learningspecialistcourses.com .  Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

So, Darius, I'm really excited about this episode.

Why don't you tell us a little bit about it?

Well, we're going to talk about our own personal executive functioning hacks, and we've got quite a lot of them, don't we?

So, we're going to concentrate on working memory.

What sort of things that do we do to help with our executive function when it comes to working memory.

Yeah, I think this is going to be a really cool episode and I think focusing on working memory is nice because I think we can really pull that apart using battles model, which we've talked about quite a lot with the visual spatial sketch pad and the phonological loop and how we can use that and the tools that we use to expand that capacity.

Well, I think it's useful.

We are trying to translate all of this scientific jargon and concepts into practical ways.

You can visualize it, imagine it metaphors that you can relate to and practical skills that you can use in your everyday life.

And so, I think it's useful to just go back and just do a quick summary of what working memory is.

And if you don't mind, I'll just do it from my own sort of visual way of thinking of it as a metaphor.

And we've covered this in previous episodes.

We won't go into super depth and if you're interested, we'll put it into the show notes, the particular link for working memory and go and listen to that podcast in depth.

But basically, I think it's really helpful to understand what working memory is before you start using hacks for it.

Because if you understand the principles, you can understand the logic of whether the hack you're using is actually going to help you or not.

What did you call it Baddeley’s model, what's his name again?

It's Alan Baddeley.

So, working memory is basically that part of our brain that takes in information and puts it where it's meant to go or deletes it one or the other.

It's kind of like, am I going to use this or not?

And if I am going to use it, where is it going to go?

And it's a temporary tray.

We've used an analogy of it before, a temporary tray, which you can carry things to a certain place, or it's like a white board or a sketch pad that you can scribble on quickly, but there's only a limited amount of space.

So, you have to wipe it back off and draw on it again and then wipe it off and drawn again.

And then you're talking about the phonological loop where it's like a sketch pad where you're drawing on it, but it's like a 12th, 32nd or whatever length of audio recording that overwrites itself every time, if you say something different.

And so, you've got these very short capacities in every single one's brain, the working memory that we use to sort out information coming into our brain and one's visual and auditory, right?

So, it's like the information you keep it alive, you keep it present, you keep it conscious by either using that visualization or specialization.

It turns out that that is a real word specialization.

It is.

So, visualization and specialization keep it alive visually or spatially or you can keep it alive in your own inner voice or using your own inner voice.

So auditory li so it's using visual and auditory processing to help you keep that information alive.

So, you can process it.

You can actually then take information from long term memory so that you're making meaning from it, or you can actually encode it into long term memory.


So, we've got that kind of understanding the foundation of working memory and for me it's so important that we are aware that there's the visual spatial aspect and then there's the inner voice aspect and then all of our hacks will relate to one of those two in somewhere another.

We're basically trying to expand our visual spatial sketch pad or we're trying to empty it as quickly as possible so that we can get more information on it faster and getting more information through.

And the same with the auditory and just to put some more information in there badly.

Alan Baddeley.

He was a researcher.

I'm not exactly sure maybe in the late 1990s he started this model and continued it through.

He could still be working on it today.

I'm not sure if he is he was quite elderly.

The last video I saw him I think it was around 2013 but he also had something that he called the episodic buffer.

An episodic buffer is that kind of white board that Darius was talking about.

But another way of thinking about it that we've talked about is like a stage.

Yes, but it's almost like a stage and you we've talked about the spotlight being the working memory highlighting a certain actor or element on that stage.

And the spotlight doesn't fill the whole stage.

It moves around on that stage and that's where our focus is.

And that working memory, it's a limited zone.


And it's funny because it really brings in spotlight is almost like inhibitory control.


So, it's but it's helping you to kind of focus in on those bits of information because working memory can only handle 2-6 bits of information.

Now, it can also be chunks of information, which is why we have our phone numbers the way we have them in chunks.

If we tried to remember a sequence of numbers, as long as the phone number, we probably couldn't do it.

But when we chunk it, we're turning it into pieces that working memory can handle.

All right.

Let's get into the and techniques that we use the hacks to help with our working memory then.


So, I think the first one that you actually mentioned when we were making this list with the split screen.

Tell me how that works for you.


So, if you think about working memory is temporarily taking information from one place to another.


Often on a computer, you open up a screen, you find some information and you go somewhere else and you put it in there, you're on a website, you want to take a note and you put make a note, okay, in that intervening period you can drop the ball and so it's really useful to have both of them side by side in a split screen, what you're working on and what you're taking notes from and you split screen it and what's happening there is you're no longer having to use your working memory to hold that little bit of information.

You can use your working memory to start because it's sitting there right in front of your eyes on a white board as it were.

So, you don't need to put that into your working memory, you just know it's there and you use your working memory to figure out where you're going to put it in the next place and so you don't drop the ball as much.

So, this split screen for people with dyslexia, I found with working memory difficulties or not difficulties, but smaller working memories because the difficulties only arise if you don't know how to use your working memory, so they have smaller chunks that they can carry.

I think it works for everybody because it enables you to think about other things, you're not using up your working memory because now I'm going to also backpedal a little bit because some people might not know what we mean by split screen.

So, Darius, tell us, what is a split screen?

So, in your screen you can take two windows and put them side by side.

That's splitting your screen into two workable chunks.

But within the Mac operating system which I live in, you know you can split screen on your iPad, you can split screen on your Mac.

You basically got two things you're focusing on.

Not 20 things, but two things, one on one side, one and the other then you're really in the zone of I'm focused but I'm also aware that I have to work with two things at once and the relationship between the two of them.

So, it might even be exactly the same document.

Split screens and I do this with a lot of my clients.

You get the same documents, split screens on both sides but you're working on one part of the document on the right-hand side where you make taking maybe detailed notes or summary something, but then you're scrolling through the same document on the other side to find the information.

You're not losing your place and you're not having to use your working memory to remember where you were.

And so, it releases up another unit of your working memory, not having to remember where you were.

I really like that.

I don't know if I've done that before and I think that's a really, really cool idea.

I mean the only problem with that sometimes is that you're like wait, which one did I update.

So, you have to be very mindful They are both the same document and they both get updated. They get updated automatically, synchronized.

They're just in different screens.

You can do this on the iPad quite a lot.

It's really useful.

That's really neat.

That's really neat.

I really like that.

So, I mean we're talking about the visual spatial sketchpad.

Yes, I have real working memory difficulties.

You know, my working memory is somewhere between two and three units.

Okay, that works fine.

As long as I don't overload it, I use white boards in the kitchen a lot in my household.

So, if my wife and I are talking about something, she's just learned, I have to just write it all.  She can hold like seven items in her head.

I can hold three while we're discussing it until one of them gets deleted or overwritten.

And so, if I write them on the white board, I can have an unlimited working memory because the white board replaces my visual spatial sketchpad.

I write a keyword to do with something saying we're going on holiday, we need to get the shopping, the car needs charged, whatever.

And it's a list of things we're talking about.

I use the whiteboard a lot.

What about you?

That's funny.

It kind of reminds me of I think a lot when I'm driving.

Oh yes.

And when I'm driving, you know, I have all sorts of great thoughts and I don't want to lose them.

So basically, what I do is when I'm sitting in my car, I have all sorts of great thoughts.

I'm always so incredibly busy that it really helps me when I'm in my car to be able to use my phone.

What I do is, you know, of course you can't manually text yourself, but you can verbally text yourself.

So, I'll say send Erica an email and then I'll say whatever I need to say, it might be an idea for a student that I have, it might be an idea for a publication.

It could be something that I really need to do.

It might be a billing issue.

It could be so many different things.

But I'm constantly sending myself emails as these reminders or these little thought blips so that I don't lose them.

And when I get home then I'm able to address it.

But then I'm also able to let it go.

Because the other thing is it's about time management for me, my life is so busy that I don't want to be in the car holding onto information.

So, I don't forget it because that happens to all of us where we'll be in a situation will even be in a conversation with somebody and we've got this really important thought, we don't want to forget it.

So, we're using our verbal rehearsal to say it over and over and over and over again and we're missing the whole conversation, you know, having these little strategies where you can write something down so that you can let it go is really big for me.

So even when we're having the podcast, I'm constantly writing little thoughts down so that I can stay in the podcast, but I don't lose that important thought that I really want to bring into it.

So I think I'm always using strategies to empty my working memory so I can be in the present because I think that was a problem for me as a child, I had so much going on in my head that my attentional skills were lacking and I lost my train of thought in conversations and in the classroom because I was thinking and that's what's great about taking notes is it can help to let go of that.

And using an iPad can be really useful.

Sometimes I'll even like you do is I web my ideas so I can bring in color and stuff like that because that's really relaxing and appealing to me, but it helps me to process it recorded empty the working memory.

So, I'm constantly emptying the working memory so that I can really digest the information.

Yes, I think in its simplest form taking notes is in essence what we're talking about here in all sorts of different ways.

Notes on a whiteboard, underlining key words while you're reading things is a way of taking notes as it were sending yourself text messages, emails um putting things into a to do list.

These are all taking notes.

I mean I remember Richard Branson saying you know his number one hack for his dyslexia was to take a notebook everywhere that he went.

You know because he had to write everything out otherwise, he'd either forget it and those are important thoughts, important experiences, important ideas that actually literally get deleted.

They're just temporarily in our working memory until our mind decides whether or not to delete them or use them.

So, the two aspects of the working memory are capturing the information within a tool, like a note or so on or capturing it in our memory.

I found it fascinating having this discussion with you Erica because you started to share all your hacks about memory strategies and things like that to emptying your working memory.

And I tend to use a lot of tech and whiteboards and note taking and so on to empty my working memory.

And there's two aspects too. It’s like capturing the information and putting it into another memory, a phone, whatever is one thing.

But you can also put it into your long-term memory, and it's captured inside of your mind and your working memory is empty.

So why don't you talk a little bit about the other side of the equation which is getting things through your working memory and getting them into your mind.

Yeah, I'm going to do that.

But quickly, I want to say one thing is whenever we do these little hacks, like the ones that we were just talking about of writing things down or sending yourself voice memos, the most important thing to do and what a lot of people this is the missing piece is that you have to make the time every day to go back and review those things.

You have to schedule the time to do that.

You have to get into that habit because if you don't then again you may lose those beautiful little nuggets or you may not completely follow through with those ideas, Could I counteract that and being saying like you don't have to, it definitely is optimal, and I don't always do that.

That's why I'm being defensive here.

I don't always do that.

But I do at the very least know that if I go gosh, what was that?

I can go back and find it.

So at least you've got that at the very least.

And for those of you going, oh my goodness, what's the point?

Because I'll never go back to it.

But there will be times where you do go back for that really.

Our brain in this day and age is our most valuable thing in our life, you know, your ability to think, your ability to learn your ability to make decisions and get things done.

Executive function in many ways is one of the most valuable things we have And I'm glad that you said that.

And it's funny because you know, I started writing blogs about 15 years ago and now I have probably 500 blogs that have written and sometimes I go back, and I read them.

I'm like, wow, I wrote that, That's good.

Or I totally forgot about that.

Oh my God, that's so great.

I'm so glad I have this kind of diary and I never thought about creating it for that purpose, but it's almost like a historical picture sure of, of where my thoughts have been and what I've been processing and it's nice to have that history.

So, you're right.

Sometimes you just, it's nice to know that you have these places where you have old thoughts that you can go to if you need to.

And things like blogs are nice because you can do a search on them for keywords and I can find different things and it's really, really helpful to have that.

But with that said, I want, I don't want to ignore what you said about the memory strategies because that is something that is really paramount and for me and it's something that I love to teach my students.

So, memory strategies enable you to better encode information so that you can retrieve it when you need it.

So, I typically use these strategies for my students for testing situations.

But I find it helpful in everyday life if I'm trying to remember someone's name.

I use memory strategies.

If I'm trying to learn the flowers in my garden, I use memory strategies and when I don't, I don't remember them not well.

It's funny.

There are certain things I remember really well, but some things I cannot remember without a memory strategy.

For me, it's about being conscious.

We've done a few episodes where we've touched on memory strategies and I think we should put them in the show notes if listeners want to jump to them, you know, because we've done quite an in depth on that, but they're scattered.

They're scattered across all the different podcasts.

I think they come up.

It's specific times.

But let me talk about a few of my favorite memory strategies and I have a course where I teach all of my memory strategies.

It's at learning specialist courses um and we can put that in the show notes.

My favorite one is I call it hooking.

Uh and basically the idea is that you look at the question and you find the answer in the question.  So that if you're anxious and nervous, or you can't remember something, that somehow it hooks you to what it actually is. I'll give you an example.

I'm on this journey to remember all the flowers in my garden because I have a hard time remembering the names.

A lot of them are very technical, some of them aren't.

But it was very funny because yesterday I was really, I could not think of this flower, which I often can't think of, and it was a marigold.

I just never stopped to say, okay, let's take a moment and remember this word.

And it's so easy.

It's such an easy name.

Some of them are really hard, like sweet alyssum is one that I was yesterday I decided to learn sweet alyssum and to also learn marigold.

Well, sweet alyssum worked for me because I can think of sweet for some reason with my brain is I can remember two names, so I can remember Darius non drawn, but I sometimes have trouble with one.

So as long as I've got the sweet, the Allison is going to come with it.

So, I can remember sweets.

Nice because it's a really sweet little flower, it's really delicate, it's really beautiful and I love the colors.

And so, I think of sweet and then the alyssum comes with it, marigold.

Oh, my goodness!

That's such a great one.

There's such merry little flowers and they're golden.

Oh, you turned it into two.

Yeah, exactly.

So, marigolds became much more of what it is and I'm sure whoever named it was thinking, oh, they're so merry and they're golden.

Let's call them marigolds.

And when you think about it that way, it makes it really, really easy.

And it's nice because marigolds are yellows and oranges and if you had to come up with a single name for the color, I guess you could say at their kind of golden.

They've got a little bit of orange in it, a little bit of yellow.

And that's, I guess if we had to come up with one-color would-be gold or, and then you can say, oh, and they're just there or you could imagine that they look like little bits of gold.

But as soon as I stop and I process it instead of just hearing it as just a blip a thing and I pull it apart and I process it and think about it and make these little connections, then it becomes quite easy.

Of course, there are other ones that are more difficult.

It's called Scaevola. Scaevola is a really difficult one.

It's like, how am I going to remember that one?

And it's one that I have in my garden in many places.

And I really need to remember.

It's a beautiful purple flower, Scaevola, Scaevola granola.

So, I associate it.  I visualize scattering granola around it.

And so, if I'm having trouble remembering, that's what I do.

It's like, oh, what is it?

That's right, Scaevola, granola.

Okay, it's a little different, but they sound similar enough that it triggers me, and it takes me back to the name but it's I think you've got quite a lot of inhibitory control involved here because you're going through multiple phases of executive function as well.

You know it's like you've got your working memory which has captured the information, marry gold and then you use your intention to zoom in and not just passively allow it to flow over the top of you and past you.

But you're saying I am going to choose to capture that and encode it.

So, it is there not some inhibitory.

Yeah, well you know what it is.

It's the meta cognition piece of inhibitory control.

I'm making a personal choice to control my cognition.

You're right.

It's that it's that what was that expression?

Use something in zoom and zoom.

That's right.

I'm muting everything else.

I'm dropping into that moment and I'm zooming in and then and then I'm digging through my long-term memory sometimes I'm like okay well what was it what was the visualization?

The visualization, granola, granola, Okay granola.

Oh, it rhymed with but then you know so I'm then I'm bringing it back into the working memory and re processing and saying what was the visualization.

So, in many ways this is an executive function hack in its true sense because you're using the full range of your executive functions.

You know your working memory, inhibitory control, and your cognitive flexibility all at once to remember something and you're not just remembering it, you're not just emptying your working memory, you're putting it into your long-term memory, you're using it to do meta goal that you've got which is to really connect with the flowers in your garden deeper level.

There's a whole lot going on there once that's all-executive function.

It is but it's really my working, it's my inner voice that kind of conducts the whole thing.

So, I'll say to myself this flower, I know this and maybe it's impatience and whenever I look at that that flower, I know I feel impatient when I can't think of it.

So that's my hook but it said interesting else I hear my inner voice saying okay what is your strategy?

Right, what is the visualization?

Got it?

Oh, there it is because I think for me you know I definitely have word finding problems and that's a big piece of my dyslexia and so but it's exhausting at times because you have to spend a lot of cognitive load pulling up all those different strategies.

So, there are times where it can be exhausting.

Well, it is if I'm trying to remember a lot of flowers, I mean there's certain things that I just can remember really easily and then other things that are more difficult particularly things like Ebola which is like it’s these all of these other ones like um that have more technical names that are really complex.

Well, the interesting thing is you're using your verbal, I find doodling is probably my biggest hack that fits within this category of not just taking a note, but actually processing and putting into a long-term memory or placing it somewhere properly within my thoughts.

And I use the word doodling very intentionally.

I draw I sketch a mind map and I also doodle, I actually do doodle maps, you know, where for me it's very important or as you say, webs, I find it very important to identify connections to things.

Maybe that's that visual spatial thing, you know, how things connect in the spatial landscape of ideas and thoughts and that's a big deal from, that's simultaneous processing.

So that's another that's another way of processing which enables you to see the big picture and to make the connections.

So it's different than sequential processing because you're not necessarily looking at something in a sequence, You're creating that web, which there are many sequences within the web but it really enables you to see how everything is interconnected and fundamentally the working memory aspect of that because there's also an inhibitory control where you kind of deciding what information to leave out what information to keep in the map and all that decision making, about how to mute and zoom but doodling, it's a fantastic way of emptying your working memory for many people where especially if the verbal phonological loop isn't so strong, the greater strength is in the visual spatial because not everyone's working memory is created equal.

It's different and so you need to work play to your strengths definitely.

You know, I have another memory strategy to take us into because it's really interesting in the sense that it's a very different type and we've talked about this before which is the memory palace or the method of loci I and the reason I want to mention this one is it works again, it's such a great one for working memory because it brings in the idea of specialization and it's a combination of it can be a combination of visualization but doesn't have to be specialization can be just your imagining yourself moving through space.

So, what this memory strategy does is you imagine a common pathway that you take.

It could be maybe from your bedroom to the kitchen, it could be maybe from your office to the grocery store, it could be from your house to your neighbor's house and you that's a pathway that you know really, really well and what you the things that you want to remember, you actually tag along your journey from Point A to Point B.

And it sounds like - are you kidding me that would help with memory?

How is that possible?

That's even more to remember.

But it's not and it's amazing how it actually helps you to remember.

It's great for grocery lists or what else can you use it for?

Well, I find it's better for things that are really important to remember longer term like world memory Championships use this technique probably the most.

The guy uses the method of Loki in an external stent.

It happened in memory palaces where you do it inside your house and you walk around your lounge and your kitchen and you place things on chairs, imagining things on the windows and the doors and so on.

And then you can also go into the external space and walk along a play park that you know very well and place things on different items in the play park.

And so, you could remember history, like a sequence in history and you say right, this happened at the beginning of the sequence that happened then that happened then, and you put them in the right sequence in the right order and you remember where everything goes.

So really good for remembering historical sequences, geography, you can even use it to remember mathematical formulas and so on.

So, I've got students actually, well I've got medical students who work with bullet map academy and they're using these doodling.

So, if you can blind a doodle with the method of lo chi memory palace.

It's really helpful going back to doodling actually what what's important about doodling for me and working memory is that often we've got too much information in what we're visualizing.

We're trying to paint a picture or draw a picture sometimes too much and this seems counterintuitive but sometimes by simplifying it and symbolizing it and just creating something much more cartoonish or simplified helps you really lock into it, and you don't get distracted by the definition high-definition images or whatever.

Some people however and I'm talking about when you this is just with taking notes so some people when they want to take visual notes get so absorbed in doing the drawing that they actually zone out of keeping up with capturing the information.

I've got students who can listen to a one hour talk and doodle everything that was in that talk because they're not fixating on incredible detailed drawings, but they know what each doodle does.

And the importance of that with regard to working memory is that if you think about it and you're in a lesson or a lecture, you're having to use your working memory at full revs all the time, you're getting some information, you're having to decide what am I doing with it.

Most people just decide I'm just going to write everything I hear because I don't know which is important which isn't.

But once you start getting into that zone of using your working memory your inhibitory control and focusing on the key ideas by doodling for example what's happening is you're not just capturing the ideas, you're processing it, you're digesting it as well.

So, you get your basically learning while you're in the lecture rather than just capturing information.

And that's kind of what's been in our dialogue all the way through in this episode.

I think capturing information is important.

But the ultimate is capturing information in such a way that you digest it and put it in your in your memory.


You know, I think another strategy that I find to be incredibly helpful personally, and I also teach it to my students is the idea of color coding.

Color coding is really, really interesting and I use it when students have to do research papers where the first thing, we do is we break down what are the main ideas?

Maybe we would use a bullet list, which is another great strategy re brainstorm.

What are the main ideas of your paper?

Once we establish that we color code each of those main ideas.

So anytime they find something in the research that they want to include, they automatically highlight it in that color.


Give us an example for the listeners.

Well, so say you were writing an essay on otters and maybe one of your main ideas is reproduction.

And another one is their habitat.

Each one of those ideas would be a different color.

Maybe even the introduction would be a different color.

The conclusion would be a different color.

So, any time you find something in the research that you want to include in your paper, you say, okay, well, which main idea does this fit under?

Oh, this fits under reproduction. Reproduction is pink.

So, and I always think, well, what color would be reproduction so that it becomes a no brainer.

They automatically know which color to go to and then they highlight that in pink.

Or they might actually pull it over into their document and turn the text pink.

What happens is it makes it really, really easy to write the essay because everything is color coded, and everything is placed into the right paragraphs.

Because if you highlight everything in the same color, then you have to go back through another time and organize all the ideas why not just organize them from the get-go.

If you do that, you can save yourself an enormous amount of time.

So, it's another little hack of opening up your working memory to be able to do other things so that you can write more effectively.


I want to make sure that we have time to tap a little bit into some technology tools we've talked about a couple.

But let's dive in there.

What do you think about some technology tools that might help with working memory?

Well, my favorite at the moment is the iPad Hands down.

Well, actually it's the apple ecosystem, of course.

iPod, air pods, phone, iPad, and Mac.

But at the center of all of that for me is the iPad because it can capture my doodles, my handwriting and everything else.

Text, audio, etcetera.

So, I'd say my iPad has become my visual spatial sketch pad extension and my auditory extension, the phonological loop.

So, I use my iPad a lot to take notes to sketch out ideas when I'm in meetings etcetera.

I write down information.

I find there are some people who really need to hand write information to process it.

I'm one of those, I'm not saying everyone is, but I'm definitely one of those people.

I mean they've done research papers on it that if you hand write something compared to text typing it, same information.

You're 15% understand it more, remember it more.

Process it more.

It's 15% better handwriting but it's slower.

Like I think that's how it used to be for me.

But it's changed now.

No, it's not slower.

What do you mean?

It's slower?

Well, it depends on how fast you can type.

No, no, no.

In this research paper the people, some people typed 200, you know, hundreds of words and so on.

They just transcribed it virtually.

And other people were only allowed to handwrite it.

The people who handwrite it did better even though they wrote slower and wrote less.

I bet it has a lot to do with the fact that when you are typing you try to capture everything and when you try to capture everything, you are spending so much time processing and typing that you don't have time to digest it.

But I know for me that it used to be that if I couldn't even, I couldn't even process when I was typing.

But once typing becomes automatic which goes back to automaticity, we have a great podcast on that.

But once it, once it becomes automatic for me has become actually a really effective way.

But you're right, it is slightly different somehow.

When you are writing it, it feels like you're digesting a little bit more.

But there are times where typing is more efficient for me, but I think it has to do with whether you are truly automatic with typing.

So, iPad for me, I love voice to text, I love speaking into my phone and it turning into text.

I'm really enjoying Otter at the moment.

I'm actually developing an app, a voice to text app at the moment to capture thoughts and what is Otter Tell the audience what Otter is.

Otter is a very simple little app.

You just you talk to it, and it types out what you say, and it will also take an audio transfer, audio recording that you've got on drobox or whatever and just turn it into transcription for you within seconds and it's pretty accurate as well.

So, it's great.

I love Asana for my task management in terms of apps, there's tons of apps that help voice to text apps, there's hardware like iPad and the phone.

But interestingly, you know when you were talking about you emailing yourself a note.

Okay now with Asana for example, you can forward that note to that email to Asana and Asana turns it into a task with the body of the email in your task or the attachments or whatever.

So, when you come to do that task, you've got everything there with you, stuff like that.

I really love and find helpful.

You know, it's funny because it's just recently that I've been using trail.

Oh, and slack.

I'm loving those interfaces.

It's really cool because you can do a lot more with it.

There are so many limitations to sending yourself an email or to texting yourself.

Whereas in these particular apps you can do so much more.

I'm just stepping into that.

What do you like about slack?

Well, I love about the simplest.

You get away from email, you've got a clear thread with all of the information in it.

It's not confusing.

It straightforward can upload documents very easily, videos all the rest of it as well.

Send audio notes etcetera.

It's just much more fluid and interactive.

The only problem with slack though is it's got a certain memory on the free version, and I used it for the last four years and eventually it starts deleting information like four months back or six months back and you want to go back through the thread and then you realize, oh gosh, it's been deleted because I'm on the free version.

So just watch out for that.

Which is one of the reasons we moved over to google chat where the free version keeps all of your communications forever, you know, and doesn't delete anything.


So, I guess a lot of these are very similar to texting, but they have this capacity for you to search around to do a lot of other things.

What are some other things that you can do with these interfaces other than just like texting?

Well, I use signal quite a lot if you're using WhatsApp, it's like WhatsApp other people a bit more advanced this telegram, but things like signal or even messenger, whatever is I use voice messages a lot.

So, if I want to talk to someone, if I want to send them a message, I often just record, do an audio recording, and send an audio recording or do a video recording, send a video recording because sometimes it takes more effort to put it into words for me than it is to speak it.

And so, I like that whole ability to audio things, and I think that's going to be used much more by people.

Yeah, well that's another really great working memory hack because again, you're not having to type it, you can just say it.

Yes. And then of course you always have that speech to text option with so many of these things.

Even with texting, you know, where you can just say it and it will type it for you which is really great for those that have trouble with spelling because the second you don't know how to spell something, you can just say it and it will spell it for you.

However, you can get some pretty funny texts from people who just say something and then it turns it into text and it's like way off.

Well, that's why it's sometimes better just to send them a voice.


And another interesting thing is with regard to dyslexia is that you're not always quite sure how to phrase something when you're typing out and you don't always communicate via text in the way that you thought, and it can come across as a bit brusque or rude or cold and how do you communicate that?

Well sometimes if you just do a voice communication, a voice message, click that record button, send a one-minute voice message or 30 seconds they can hear it in the tone of your voice that you are being friendly, you are being kind, you aren't being curt.

So, I think voice is very important to communicate emotion in a digital world as well.

I love that.

I think that's a really good point.

Well, this has been an awesome podcast.

I really appreciate hearing all of your hacks and even having the opportunity to process my own hacks because the more I process it, the more value I see in it and the more I step into it.

Yeah, me too.

I've enjoyed it.

I think next time let's talk about hacks for inhibitory control.

Shall we you know how to stay focused?

That's exactly what we have planned.

I'm really looking forward to it.

So, we touched on inhibitory control a little bit this time but we're going to do a deep dive.


Looking forward to that.

I think it's really nice to chunk these hacks into three areas of executive function so that you kind of realize that I think sometimes with executive function it's like three different managers or it's like the c table in a company chief executive officer, chief technical officer and these different chiefs and there are different chiefs.

There's like a person in charge of working memory inside yourself and there's a person who's in charge of inhibitory control and there's a person in charge of cognitive flexibility and all three of them work in concert together underneath you.

And so, these are like three managers who are coordinating those departments and there's the department of working memory and is the department of inhibitory control and there's a department of cognitive flexibility and I kind of think of them as three the working memory is like a company you know where you take input into the company raw materials.

The inhibitory control is like the workshop, you know where you produce and you make and you create you combine and then the cognitive flexibility is very like the shop, you know what you've been produced, goes out to the shop and it meets the real world, interacts with the real world and you have to adapt what you do to the real world and take feedback back and people say this doesn't actually match what we need in the real world or the real world and you adapt it and there's this and that comes back through the working memory.

So, it's this integrated system but each area is supervised by an aspect of yourself and when you become aware of the working memory side of things you start taking really you make sure that important information gets captured as the raw materials.

Because if you don't have those raw materials, you starve your brain and your life and your work of what you need.

So, I think working memory is really important as a first step.

Yeah, from my perspective it's about becoming conscious so much of what we do is subconscious and really stepping into and I am a firm believer that you can't really take full control of executive functioning until you understand exactly what it is.

Once you understand what it is then you can become conscious and you can slow down say okay am I using these tools, am I consulting my different managers and am I working together as a team and yeah, I don't think of yourself as an individual.

Think of yourself as having many parts and you want to work in a collaborative and unified way.

Yeah, great.

Until next time.

Erica, sounds good.


Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer podcast.

This is Dr. Erica Warren and this is Darius Namdaran. You can check out our show notes for links to resources, mention the podcast and please leave us a review and share us on social media.

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