How to avoid a thin, shaky voice when you are about to give a speech

Jackie Gartner-Schmidt is a speech-language pathologist at the University of Pittsburgh. She studied why people's voices tremble or even squeak when they get nervous. It's because our vocal cords close up as a protective response to stressful situations, so we don't accidentally inhale water. In the video above, filmed at a TEDx event, Gartner-Schmidt shows an exercise to open your vocal cords if you are nervous about having to speak in public.

From TED:

Hold up your index finger a few inches in front of your mouth. As you exhale steadily, make a “Wooooooo” noise (think: little kid pretending to be a ghost) for 5 to 10 seconds. Do this 5 to 10 times. (Watch her demonstrate it here.)

“This … essentially relaxes the vocal folds,” says Gartner-Schmidt. “It establishes breath and air flow and voice stability, which is the cornerstone of any strong, clear voice.”

Right before the next important occasion in which you have to speak — for work, for the toast you’re giving at a wedding, for a speech to a community board — take Gartner-Schmidt’s advice and “spend some time finding your best voice.”

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No more meetings -- change the word “meeting” to the word “review”

My friend Allan Chochinov, Chair at MFA Products of Design, wrote an interesting article about getting rid of meetings and replacing them with reviews. "As you may know," he told me, "I'm super-committed around the importance of prototyping ideas, and have encouraged an ethos of "No prototype, No meeting" in our design department at SVA since its start in 2012. Well, we've taken things to the next level, and I wrote an article about it on the department the blog. Here's a taste:

There are a ton of books out there on how to have more productive, more meaningful meetings, but the fact of the matter is, you’re not going to read these books," he says. "You haven’t yet, and you probably won’t. So the problem is that everyone agrees that meetings are completely broken, but nobody will take the time or the trouble to learn how to fix them. I have an alternative solution, and it’s made by changing one single word. No books, no seminars, no videos, no list of rules to post on the conference room wall. Just one word.

At the end of the article are two pieces of software that Bill Cromie offered to write to accompany the piece — a Chrome Extension and a SlackBot — both really amazing, and should help every organization stop having so many meetings and instead have much more productive reviews." Read the rest

Why you should store your plastic wrap in the freezer

When I was young, my mom banned plastic wrap from our kitchen because it frustrated her so much when it would invariably cling to itself. Apparently you can avoid this problem though just by storing the plastic wrap in the freezer. The cold temporarily reduces its clinginess. From Mental Floss:

The cold temperature alters the polyethylene at the molecular level, which helps to remove the static and stickiness...

The freezer only temporarily changes the properties of the plastic wrap, giving you enough time to rip a sheet off and cover your leftovers with it while the material is still cool. Once the plastic wrap warms up, it will go back to its old, clingy self.

Carolyn Forte of the Good Housekeeping Institute tried it out and gave the freezer method a thumbs up. "The plastic wrap was a lot easier to unroll and use," she tells Good Housekeeping. "It doesn't stick to itself when it's cold, but still works to cover up a dish. As it warms up, it goes back to being sticky, but it's definitely easier to handle when cold."

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How to set up a fake phone number

I learned about a phone service called Twilio from reading this Lifehacker article. The article is mainly about how to set up a phone number that makes calls "disappear into the ether, never reaching me, never bouncing back, but disappearing like a stone tossed into the fog." I'm not sure why just making up a random number wouldn't be the easiest thing to do if that's your goal, but Twilio sounds useful if you need a way to receive voicemail from certain people without having to hear your regular phone ring. One cool thing about Twilio is the way you can create a computer-voice announcement just by writing the words you want it to say:

But here’s the fun part. When you click on your phone number’s settings on the Twilio dashboard, you can tell the service what it should do when somebody calls or texts the number. By default, it reads a little message (saying that you haven’t set up the number, or something). So I copied that message, and altered it so it sounded like a full voicemail box. Here’s my script:

You have reached. 5 5 5. 5 5 5. 1 2 1 2. Please leave a message after the tone. This mailbox is full.

Image: By takayuki/Shutterstock Read the rest

Genius uses treadmill to move firewood

"I was home alone working on my firewood for the winter," says this guy. "While carrying wood through my basement into my furnace room I saw my old treadmill and it gave me the idea to use it to put the wood through the window." Read the rest

Fitness tracker cheating is big business in China

At some Chinese universities, students have a fitness requirement, so that means fitness tracker cheating has become a lucrative business for a few enterprising entrepreneurs. Read the rest

Here's a philosophical look into how to focus intensely

The fine folks at Freedom of Thought share tips on How to Focus Intensely, and it shares a lot of good ancillary insight in the process. Read the rest

What's your ikigai, your reason to get up in the morning?

Rob Bell lays out the basics of the Japanese concept of ikigai, the search for purpose and fulfillment in life. Illustrator Mark Winn created a Venn diagram often used to explain the idea: Read the rest

Tip for preventing burnout: collect information in big buckets, not tiny cups

The folks at Evernote have released a whitepaper called Triple Overload and What You Can Do About It. Triple overload is what happens when you combine data overload, communication overload, and cognitive overload. Here's one tip from the post that makes sense-- collect information in big buckets, not tiny cups:

If you’re trying to throw a piece of paper into a wastepaper basket from across the room, would you rather be aiming for one big target or a dozen tiny ones?

When you’re saving documents, email attachments, and other files, it can be tempting to create a large number of small folders, each with a narrow purpose. After all, you’d think it would be easier to find something if it lives in a folder with a very specific name and few other items.

Actually, the opposite is true. A smaller number of ‘big buckets,’ each containing a large number of files, is quicker to search, easier to maintain, and more convenient to file new items into. That helps you stay ‘in the flow’ and operate at your highest level.

Image: By Milles Studio/Shutterstock Read the rest

How to fold a fitted sheet

If you've ever tried to fold a fitted sheet, you probably know you can't just fold it like a regular sheet. If you are like me, you will just wad it up and hide your shameful attempt in the closet. Here's a woman made of better stuff than me, who has conquered the fitted sheet conundrum. The first video shows you how to fold a fitted sheet without elastic all around the edges, and the second video shows how to fold one with elastic all around the edges.

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Lifehacks from a longevity expert who just died at age 105

Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara died last month at age 105. Over his long life, he helped many others achieve long lives by popularizing annual medical checkups and by sharing what he knew, which was one of his tips for longer living: Read the rest

How to replace yourself with a very small shell script

Data scientist Hillary Mason (previously) talks through her astoundingly useful collection of small shell scripts that automate all the choresome parts of her daily communications: processes that remind people when they owe her an email; that remind her when she accidentally drops her end of an exchange; that alert her when a likely important email arrives (freeing her up from having to check and check her email to make sure that nothing urgent is going on). It's a hilarious and enlightening talk that offers a glimpse into the kinds of functionality that users can provide for themselves when they run their own infrastructure and aren't at the mercy of giant webmail companies. (via Clive Thompson) Read the rest

Alan Henry, editor in chief of Lifehacker, shares his favorite tools

In the latest episode of the Cool Tools podcast, Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Alan Henry, editor in chief of LifeHacker. He's also a recovering physicist, music lover, and self-proclaimed lover of dorky and niche hobbies. Alan told us about his favorite headphones, a cold brew coffee maker, a mechanical keyboard, and a web-based smart to-do list app.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

AKG Q701 Quincy Jones Signature Premium Headphones ($250)

"I'm a bit of a headphone fiend and have far too many pairs, but these are my daily drivers."

Takeya Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker ($20)

"I love my Bonavita for my morning hot cup, but this takes the cake in hot weather!"

Das Keyboard 4 Professional Mechanical Keyboard ($162)

"I 'love' keyboards, and own way too many, but this is the perfect blend of mechanical feel and not-too-noisy for writing and work that won't drive officemates batty."

Todoist

"A no-frills, cross-platform, web-based smart to-do list app that has the bells and whistles in the right places, like reminders and apps/integration for just about every other tool you might use." Read the rest

Messy: a celebration of improvisation and disorder as the keys to creativity, play, and work

Tim Harford's Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives plays to Harford's prodigious strengths: the ability to tell engrossing human stories, and the ability to use those stories to convey complex, statistical ideas that make your life better.

How to Pack for Any Trip is like a Marie Kondo book for travelers

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

How to Pack for Any Trip

Lonely Planet

2016, 160 pages, 7 x 4.7 x 0.5 inches (softcover)

$12 Buy a copy on Amazon

I’ve bought many a travel guidebooks from Lonely Planet before jumping on a plane, but this is the first I’ve seen from the adventure publisher that guides you before you leave the house. Reminding me of Marie Kondo and her magical ways of tidying up, How to Pack for Any Trip helps the traveler learn to pack efficiently and clutter-free. (The packing section even says, Kondo-style, that “the liberation of decluttering is magical.”)

With modern clean graphics, this pocket-size book (about the size of my wallet) teaches us how to choose our luggage, decide what to bring, pack lightly, fold – or roll up – our clothes, organize a backpack, and how to pack with kids. It also has a section on how to pack for different landscapes, such as large cities, the snow, campsites, beaches, the mountains, jungles, and deserts. Fun, useful, and just released last week, this book is a no-brainer for anyone planning to pack for a weekend trip or a month-long adventure.

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Parent Hacks: 134 truly useful tips that parents of young kids will use

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids

by Asha Dornfest

Workman

2016, 272 pages, 5 x 0.8 x 7 inches (softcover)

$(removed) Buy one on Amazon

In 2005 Asha Dornfest, a new parent, launched the blog Parent Hacks as a way for parents to share tips that make raising young children less nerve-racking. This book has the 134 best tips from the blog. Here are a few examples from the On the Go section:

#116 Write your phone number on your kid’s belly.

#113 Strap ankle weights to a lightweight stroller to keep it from tipping.

#110 Line your car’s cup holders with cupcake liners.

#118 Use adhesive bandages to baby-proof hotel room outlets.

Other tip themes include pregnancy and postpartum, sleep, food and mealtime, organizing time and space, and getting dressed. Craighton Berman’s clear illustrations make it easy to understand most tips at a glance. If you or someone you know is pregnant, this book is essential reading.

(Read Cory's review of Parent Hacks, too!) Read the rest

How to remember the top 10 things to bring when you leave the house

One of my all-time favorite books is Ron Hale-Evans' Mind Performance Hacks, by Ron Hale-Evans, which has 75 practical tips for becoming a better thinker. I highly recommend it, as well as his follow-up book, Mindhacker (co-written with Marty Hale-Evans)

The first tip in the book is a classic, but I suspect many people don't know it. It's a way to make a mental list of ten things. You can use this method to create a shopping list, a packing list, an errand list, or anything else that has ten things or less.

To start using this technique, you first have to remember 10 key words. Once you memorize these words, you can use the same ones for the rest of your life. Here they are:

1 :: gun

2 :: shoe

3 :: tree

4 :: door

5 :: hive

6 :: sticks

7 :: heaven

8 :: gate

9 :: wine

10 :: hen

Notice that the words rhyme with the number they are associated with. You probably have them memorized already.

Now, take each item on your list and pair them with a keyword by visualizing the two words in a weird (and therefore memorable) way . Here's how Ron uses the keywords to remember what he needs to bring with him when he leaves his house:

1 :: gun :: medication

I never leave the house without this. I imagine a gun firing pills scattershot in all directions.

2 :: shoe :: keys

I imagine the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe trying to open the front door of her giant shoe with her keys while dozens of her children are tugging on her skirt.

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