social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2019

Posts tagged Calendar and ToDo Aids

Sometimes the following trick helps me both code notes (or task lists) and grabs my attention when the ignored task list is floating around on my desk or becomes part of the wad of notes, receipts, and other small pieces of paper that accumulate in my pockets. I review the wad of paper regularly (hopefully finding it before I put the pants or shirt in the laundry and being transformed to lint in the dryer).  This little trick is used by people who make sketchnotes for a living (see the wonderful books by Mike Rohde on sketchnoting). Sketchnoters — because of their business and professional audience — tend to use a more subtle and artistic version of what I do (after all their audience is wearing suits while my audience is me wearing shorts and an old T-shirt). Same principle though.


[Star Trek may have incorporated the following idea into some of its episodes.]



The thick-thin pens are called Fude de Mannen by their manufacturer Sailor and fairly inexpensive. A much more elegant and expensive option that does the same thing is any Sailor fountain pen with a Zoom nib. You can also do the same shift between thick and thin inexpensively with a Noodler’s flex pen or many calligraphy pens (the Japanese ones are best and brush pens work even better) or much more elegantly and expensively with either a Pilot Falcon pen or any Pilot pen equipped with an FA nib. I have no commercial relationship to any of these companies. The odds of finding any of these pens in a brick-and-mortar store in the USA are fairly low but they are available widely on the Internet with many coming directly from Japan (yup, they ship anywhere).


I use different writing implements to vary things, color code, and even slow myself down (like the decorative fonts do) in order to increase the time for memory encoding, to build in uniqueness that grabs attention, and to amuse myself (I am easy to amuse).

Many of these “tricks” are the same as those as used in mind mapping without the most important feature of structuring, restructuring, and formally associating many ideas.

The next logical step after these kind of notes is mind mapping which I strongly endorse. On the other hand, some people just want to takes notes and may not want to take the time to carefully think through them or organize their thoughts, and for those folks at least remember this.

&&& the purpoSe of noteS is to REmemBER in parT because the noteS are MEMOR(Y)able and you pay more attention to them ***

While I cannot prove this, it is my guess that these techniques will also be useful for those with memory and attention problems like normal aging, cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD. But all of these conjectures require empirical research to substantiate and are just WAGs (Wild Ass Guesses) on my part at this time.

Here is a technique I would try with someone with cognitive impairment. It might also work well with a child, an elder, or anyone else in-between who needs a little help with organization and planning. A caregiver can prepare a mind map or you can prepare one for yourself.

I find the size of standard business envelopes (#10 in the USA) to be just about perfect as a daily information catcher. You can write your schedule on the front and slide the envelope in a pocket, small bag, or the inner pockets of most men’s jackets either unfolded or folded. And since this is an envelope, throughout the day as you pick up receipts, reminder cards for your next appointment with the dentist, a flyer about a concert and all the other little tidbits of life that get lost in your pocket and end up in the clothes washer you can insert them into the envelope and have a good chance of not losing some important information.

Using a mind map instead of a list on the front of the envelope can engage the user, permit color coding, and makes it easier to remember the content.

Takes a couple of minutes.

Yup boss, I have the receipt from lunch.


  1. I printed the mind map on an actual business envelope and then scanned it. The green paper was just a background for the scan.
  2. You can use any style you like for the mind map. I chose a font designed for individuals with dyslexia just to illustrate tailoring the content and style of the map to the individual using it.
  3. This mind map was designed in iMindMap. If you wish you can add clipart or photos to the branches; typically I would not just because of the small size of the envelope. Bright colors can substitute for images to engage attention and color code sections.
  4. One can change the map simply by crossing out information that has changed and making notes on the map with a pen.

I think that this can be a very good technique for a paid or family caregiver of someone with cognitive impairment. Prepare the envelope in the morning or preceding evening and go over it with the patient when it will be used (mornings are preferable). I did not put the person’s name on the envelope since the front or inside may contain private information (names of doctors and similar information like medication reminders). I would not put medications in the envelope as they fall out too easily. It may be useful, however, to carry a small amount of paper money in the envelope. Also a standard card with the the caregiver’s first name and telephone-email may prove helpful should there be a health or other problem.

Click the image to expand it.

Scan2014  26


Every year around this time, I go out and buy a new external hard drive, copy all of my computer files onto it, set the file to “read only,” and then archive it. The drive contains my memos, years of email, 14 drafts of manuscripts from 15 years ago, data from projects long completed, jokes I receive by email, contact information for hundreds of business acquaintances I will never hear from again in my retirement. It also contains copies of all my photos (many duplicates and out-takes) in a very disorganized state.

I invest in religiously saving this information even though a high percentage is junk that should be eliminated from the digital attic. I think there is some value in preserving this stuff, if only to reduce my anxiety that something got lost.

My personal insights, feelings, events big and small, interactions with people, history, memories of Mom and Dad, and all of the stuff that makes life worthwhile and important. HHhhmmm. Doesn’t need to be organized because I will remember all of that really important stuff.

IDIOT. If there is anything that should be backed up it is ME, not a bunch of outdated and stoopid memos.

Some ideas about archiving ME. Think about archiving YOU. I suspect this will be a very valuable exercise for both of us even if the “Big D” (dementia) is never an issue. Why not fight back against the possible Big D?

Click on image to expand.


In the past I have blogged about my suggestion that Public Health students learn to use methods like mind maps and other visualizations to make health brochures and posters more informative and compelling to the public. Here I am going to show some examples.

The information in this post derives from very credible web sites. [As a note, much of the information about Alzheimer’s disease and “normal” or typical aging appears to be accurately derived from the public domain information put online by various departments of the US government.]

For each image, click to expand.

The American Medical Association has this very informative page on its web site.


I believe that the following mind map is better for explaining the information.

Typical Aging or Dementia

[I acknowledge the fact that various mind map “artists” can make this map more visually appealing and I see this as a first draft.]


The Alzheimer’s Association has posted this professionally valid information on its web site designed in a way as to be compelling through its high density of high quality warnings.


The “problem” with this brochure is that it is “too dense” for me (and probably anyone else without a professional background in medicine) to be able to understand and remember the information. How about including this graphic as a third page (ideally as the ENTIRE page 2) in the brochure. I would bet that the outcomes from the  extra understandability and memory retention for this critical information would prove to far offset any additional printing costs.

10  Warning  Signs of  Alzheimer's  Disease

[I acknowledge the fact that various mind map “artists” can make this map more visually appealing and I see this as a first draft.]

In the past few days I have posted about using mind maps and similar tools to “fight back” against cognitive impairment and then in a follow up post discussed some of the tools that can be used to potentially improve your ability to deal with cognitive impairment.

Today I am posting about paying some attention to the methods you use to communicate and remember and make decisions and express approval and make other appropriate reactions to others. What will YOU do If your mind fails due to a degenerative condition, a disease, the luck of the genetic draw, or because you are so dumb you refused to wear a helmet while riding your bicycle or motorcycle, or even due to playing football and huge traumatic blows to the brain while wearing a clearly inadequate helmet over the course of decades.

You are told (but probably tune it out like I do) that you should plan for disasters ranging from total disability or an earthquake or a hurricane or the election of a Tea Party President to such things as the day your dog needs hospitalization.

Did anyone ever tell you that you should considering learning some alternate ways of thinking and organizing your memories and planning than the ones you have used for most of your life.

What’s more important to you, having a few bottles of water in your basement in case there is a hurricane or earthquake in the neighborhood or learning new ways of thinking or remembering or making decisions that you might want to use now or after your memory starts to fail.

Consider yourself being told to look into this before somebody hits you with a car while you are weaving through urban traffic on your bicycle without a helmet or you learn that you lost the genetic lottery and have early stage X or Y or Z or xx or yy or etc.

I am not suggesting that you abandon the way you have thought for the bulk of your life if that style ia effective for you. I am suggesting that in case you have brain trauma from an accident or sports involvement or disease or start cognitive decline due to a brain anomaly, you know some alternate ways to think and store–retrieve information and make decisions using simple techniques.

I have a very well developed set of skills that has allowed me to have a great career. If one of those parts of my brain that produces good results for me is damaged, I want to make sure that I can switch out the bad memory drive (symbolically) in my head for another one. Or I can replace the logic program that got corrupted by damage to certain parts of the brain with a different method of doing the same thing utilizing other parts of the brain.

So here’s the deal. Take a look at the mind map below and see if it helps you recognize that you should start to take stock of all that wonderful data and hardware for processing it that lies in your brain and figure out how you are going to change the logic board and memory drives if you are unlucky and you need to try to make repairs.

Click on the image to expand it.

why you might want to start using cognitive-behavioral tools now and not after significant cognitive decline

I periodically make recommendations of apps on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone that I find exceptionally useful.

For the 2013 “back-to-school-edition” I picked a rather eclectic group of apps that I use all day as a knowledge worker. Are these the only programs I use a lot. No. But these are the third-party apps I use all day, usually immediately start every time I restart my MacBook Pro, and find very helpful in the generation of new content.

These will actually be a fairly controversial set of program choice. I suggest using a fancy text editor rather than a word processing program for all but the final draft (when it should be polished in Word or Pages). A mind mapping program is continuously open on the MacBook and used to develop ideas, remember thoughts, make lists and schedules. An electronic white board or pin board is indispensable to what I do on the computer all day.

The entire suite of programs I suggest in this #mindmap cost less than $200 in their PRO versions as I write this. In all cases, get the PRO versions and skip the freebie, lite versions.

This set of software selections will probably surprise you.

Click on the image to increase its size.


Key Mac Programs for Day-to-Day Use

The second version has identical content to the first one but uses formatting to make the map more “memorable” (or attention grabbing). In visual thinking, small changes in graphics may make large differences in understanding and remembering.

Key Mac Apps for  Day-to-Day Use

In the past few posts I have discussed the new Mac app Scapple. #Scapple is what I would call a “blank canvas” app that can quickly pull information — simple or quite detailed — info forms suitable for much more sophisticated graphic modeling in #mindmaps or #conceptmaps.

#Scapple is a very quick way to generate timelines. Data can be complex or simple, long or short. Boxes can be easily aligned (automatically) along a timeline horizontally or into vertical categories or both.

A brief example to document one of my current television “addictions.”


Elsewhere on this site you will find blog posts on a much more elegant way to develop timelines of great beauty and utility in the imindmap computer program. Scapple is good for very quick drafts that contain much reference information. With a little care, relatively clear and useful timelines can be made in less than 5 minutes.

Note: The key to “pretty” and clear time lines is to master the alignment menus. Practice for 10 minutes and you will see how much clarity you can add to a draft timeline with a few clicks.

The annotations on the mind map below listing my contact information were made with Napkin for the Mac. a fairly inexpensive app quickly mastered. Easy to make just about any image (graph, chart, pdf, photograph) — whether created by you or another individual — communicate more effectively. After all, who hasn’t drawn on a napkin or the back of an envelope or a photograph or an illustration in a book? [I’m trying to help you refrain from marking up the expensive original of one of those Ed Tufte books or create some new content suitable for presenting or posting.]

Click on the image to zoom.

Napkin 4

In the past, I thought it was quite ironic that the “pad” apps on the iPad were kind of junky. In the most recent updates that has changed. I now find that there are three great choices. Each is inexpensive. Here’s what I think.

Click on the image to zoom.

3 Legal Pads for  the iPadiPhone

Write the equation on the screen, the app uses handwriting recognition to translate it, and up pops the answer.

The following examples were all generated on an iPhone 5. The diagrams are the output from the calculation (easily stored as photographs or emailed). Landscape orientation is much easier to use than portrait orientation.


The following figures show is a sequence of calculations. The equation is altered by adding extra calculations to the equation.





Cool. Fast. And big attention getter in a meeting. You too can be the coolest nerd.

This figure shows my current core set of apps. I use these about 90% of the time when I am on the iPhone (in addition to the built-in apps). This set of apps permits you to do some pretty advanced calculations, manage tasks, write longish memos, clean up your pictures, use social media, show movies, take notes, and store web pages for later reading.

Who woulda thought in 1967 that tricorders would exist during the lifetimes of my high school friends and I; cell phones did not become available for another 20 years, and the original scientific calculator was released about 1974.

Now half of the adults around me in a college town look like Spock staring into his beloved tricorder (about 8 times the size of an iPhone). A lot of them seem to have about the same degree of social intelligence as Spock as they stare at the machines in restaurants with their friends.

Without further ado, a look at what is on my iPhone.

iphone 5 apps daily core set

Keyword Board

iphone 5 apps: daily core set photography perfectly clear media amazon instant video youtube netflix mind mapping imindmap social media tweetbot pinterest tweetings word press blog task management due clear magazine zite pocket © 2013 g j huba other scan myscript calculator calcbot wolfram alpha notes draft skitch fastfinga3 evernote ia writer day one

I love to read end of year lists each December. I love to make them too.

I worked on a PC exclusively for 25 years. Two years ago in retirement I tossed the PCs and bought a Macbook Pro. The consequence of having this cool new machine with an operating system that actually worked was that I had to rethink how to use current creative software to replace all of the (Microsoft) bloat on a PC.

This is my list of my favorite apps. Note that I use my Macbook for “professional” activities like writing and surfing the web and blogging and social media and my digital photographs. I do not do games nor software that looks like it was designed for five-year-olds.

You can zoom by clicking on the image.

I use the paid or pro versions because the extra features are useful to me. You might be able to get by just fine with a free or minimal features version.

Huba Mac Recommendations  2012

Day One is a small Mac-iPad-iPhone for journaling. It is a very simple app that elegantly reminds you to make journal entries at time intervals you select throughout the day. It handles pictures very well (taking pictures with an iPhone/iPad or using images from the camera roll). I have tried dozens of these kinds of apps over the years including just adapting standard word processing programs.

This is the only journaling app that I have ever been able to motivate myself to use on a regular basis.

It strikes me that this could also be a very good program as a lab notebook or data analysis notebook in that major issues can be typed in with automatic timelines, pictures, etc. While it does not have a built in sketching routine, you can always do a rough sketch on a piece of paper and photograph it as part of the entry with an iPhone or iPad camera.

UPDATE: In December, Apple chose Day One as their app of the year for 2012.

UPDATE 2: February 6, 2013. I like this app more than ever. I frequently use the synching between Mac and iDevices and it works very well and seamlessly. It is possible to import old photographs and (if the photo has a standard date entry) the photograph will automatically land on the correct date page of the journal.

One of the very best apps on my Mac is Fantastical. You use it conjunction with the default Apple calendar. Want to make a calendar entry in the future? Just type “Bob next Thursday at 4pm.” Or type “Bob every Thursday at 4pm until 4:20pm.” Or “Bob every 25th day of month at 2pm.” Or Bob “On the Thursday after President’s Day in 2015 from 4pm until 7pm.” Mac, a couple of bucks. If you synch your calendars via iCloud, the appointment will be on your iPhone and iPad before you can open the calendar. Got it? Get it. Saves huge amounts of time and also removes an obstacle to calendaring. I’ve been using it for months and would never take it off my MacBook.