Open Your Mind With Mental Notes

Are you stuck on a project and you can’t seem to finish it? Maybe you’re creating a new product and can’t seem to find a direction. If so, meet Mental Notes, a little box of goodness designed to find creative solutions to problems. More specifically, the box houses 50 cards each featuring an aspect of human behavior based on research from game design to neuroscience. Some of the cards include themes like curiosity, reputation and limited choice. I chose to use limited choice for today’s example because of how applicable it is to many situations.

When you first open the box you will notice the cards definitely have a game-like feel to them, sort of like a playing card game. The layout of the card is simple to follow: the top featuring the title in bold, in our case “Limited Choice”. Underneath the intent is listed, there are 4 intents used throughout the cards: persuasion, memory, attention, and understanding, and in our case we have “Persuasion”.   While there are no formal grouping to the cards, each card contains one (or more) keywords conveying how the card can be used, which helped give me direction when I used the cards. I now know that our card “Limited Choice” should be used to persuade people to use our product. Under the intent we are given the definition in italics, in our case, “We’re more likely to make a choice when there are fewer options“, which instantly made me think about simplifying my project because maybe I”m trying to solve to many problems at once. The definition can be used in many different ways, for example if I was trying to sell a product maybe I should offer fewer version to make it easier for customers to decide. The power in the game lies within the many different ways people can perceive the cards, because since there is no right way to use the ideas you are free to apply the them to any problem you encounter. The middle displays a small drawing which ended up helping me tremendously by showing the idea in a visual representation (a big plus for all of the visual learners out there!). In this case, the image showed several people in line for a buffet, which of course featured few selections. If nothing else, the images intrigued me to read about the image, because my eyes tend to glaze over if all I see is text. Lastly, the card features Application Ideas at the bottom, which shows some advice or asks questions in order to start your brainstorming. In this case, the card asked us, “For each page of your website, how many choices do you offer? Can this be reduced?”. As I read the card I could already feel my mind going in a different direction. If your ever stuck all you really need to do is close your eyes, pick up a card and ask your self “How can I use [card] to [goal], and you will starting thinking different too.

In my opinion, Mental Notes is the kindle you need in a meeting. They help start the fire that is brainstorming and can take your project (and mind) in new directions. The creator of Mental Notes Stephen Anderson is a passionate design consultant who speaks and writes about his customer experiences. He has spent the last several years developing Mental Notes because he felt “In the midst of a busy project, it can be all too easy to focus on the essentials and lose track of the nuances that distinguish great products”.

If you aren’t lucky enough to already own a set, then I only have one question for you readers, Where do you find inspiration for your projects? If you answer this question below you will automatically be entered for a chance to win your own copy of Mental Notes! This is our month’s book club giveaway (yes, we know this technically isn’t a book, we are just going mental!). Let the comment love commence!

5 Tips to Keep You Safe On that Next Road Trip

Summer is here and along with it high airfare prices, leaving many families opting to drive to their next vacation spot. We all know to drive safely but sometimes situations like flat tires, bad weather, and sick children are out of our control.   The first step to ensuring safety on your next get-a-way is to plan. Having the resources and planning to deal with the unexpected is the best way to protect you and your family and most importantly, to get back to the reason you’re traveling, vacation! There are 5 simple tips to keep in mind while traveling. The linked text will take you to a “how-to” page describing the mentioned action.

1. Check Your Car

The first step and arguably the most important is to make sure you car can safely drive to your destination. This includes tire pressure, engine oil, wipers and wiper fluid, battery, and radiator coolant.   This is especially important if you have an older car.  Even if you drive your car everyday and it seems to run fine, it might not be able to handle the distance of a road trip.

2. Bring an Emergency Car Kit

If you failed to follow rule #1 or something unexpected like a flat tire occurred, it’s vital you have emergency car kit on board. Like a first-aid kit for your car, this could save you in desperate situations. Tools to include are:

– Duct Tape: Can temporarily fix a broken window wiper, hold glass together, mend a broken hose, etc….

– Tools: Wrench, Screwdriver, pliers, and a socket wrench.

– Booster Cables: To jump a dead battery

– Emergency Flashlight/Flares: To see around at night, and attract help.

3. First Aid Kit

If your car was damaged or broken down, there is a good chance you will have to wait sometime before help arrives, especially on road trips where help is hundreds of miles away. If you are driving with multiple people, like children, safety should be the first priority. It’s is important to have an adequate first-aid kit on hand to help if there are any injuries. Bandages, antibiotic cream, aspirin, ice-packs, alcohol wipes, and a first aid instruction book, are some basic materials you should have.

4. Don’t Just Pack a Picnic

Just because you brought road snacks doesn’t mean you can survive off them for several days. Many people will bring food that goes bad if not kept in ice, and during the summer the heat will turn these foods stale quickly. Snacks like trail mix are good but you can’t assume you are prepared because you have some food.

– Naturally, the first thing you will think of is water. It is important to have back up jugs or bladders of water at about a 3 gallon per person per day ratio.

– Energy Bars: powerbars, granola bars, and my personal favorite, cliff bars.

Dehydrated food: While they might not be consumed at all during your trip, these meals can easily be made on a pinch, and are light/small enough to be packed into your trunk.

*Emergency food/water you pack should be considered off limits unless of an emergency. If you include the food you plan on eating with your emergency food, you won’t have nearly enough food to survive for multiple days.

5. Know the Road

Do you know multiple ways to get to your vacation? With construction and traffic you might be forced to take an alternate path. Make sure you plan your trip through Google Maps and bring an atlas, so in case you can’t get internet, you have a back up copy. Also make sure you know the nearest town/city to find help at all times during the trip. This doesn’t have to be a boring task, plan your route with the intention of seeing cool sites and having fun but always be aware of your surroundings.