Productivity

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About ten years ago, I went to a New Year's Day brunch party. Frankly, I hadn't really wanted to go. That particular time in my life was a low point; I'd just gone through a breakup and was feeling unusually forlorn, and I wanted to wallow at home. But the hostess was a good friend and she had invited other interesting, cool people to a good restaurant... so I dragged my feeble, mildly hungover self downtown.

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Ah 2017, the year fake news took over our timelines, and the attendant hand-wringing took over our lives. It's not as if we needed more things to disturb us on Facebook -- we've been FOMO-gnashing our teeth to dust for a decade, after all. As this year comes to a close, I encourage you to gird yourself for the certain onslaught to come. Take two seconds and install News Feed Eradicator for Facebook, a Chrome extension that does exactly what it says, and in so doing, will preserve the teensy shred of sanity you have left.

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Christmas is over, and it's time to start buying for yourself again. Consider treating yourself with a gift that will keep giving for years to come: upgraded computer components. These are minor upgrades you can install yourself (no repair shop required) and will save you so much time over when writing, shopping, or just waiting for your ageing PC to boot up, you'll wonder why you spent so long with a spinning disk in your computer.

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From apps that manage your subscriptions to ways to keep your phone alive when the battery has seen better days, the tips and tricks you can use to get the most out of the technology you use on a daily basis are all right here, and 2017 was chock full of 'em. Start 2018 on the right foot with some of Lifehacker's best tech posts of the year.

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Most people are interested in getting something done. But maybe you aren't. Maybe you just want to feel productive, or efficient, or hard-working, without having to actually accomplish something. You can't just start doing that. First you need to plan, and first you need to plan to plan.

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This past weekend, I decided to take two four-year-olds -- my daughter and her friend -- to see Coco, Pixar's new movie. But before leaving the house, I happened to read the tweets. The many, many tweets. There were warnings, outcries, and rage-induced petitions regarding the 21-minute long Frozen "featurette" that plays before the film. It's called Olaf's Frozen Adventure, and according to those who've endured it, it's bad. Excruciating. "In addition to representing the worst elements of the crass commercialization of Christmas, the songs were lacklustre, the plotting is painfully cliched, and Olaf is annoying as shit," tweeted one viewer. Another wrote: "Even my 6yr old girl was like -- "how LONG is this??!" Many said that they were so confused, restless or irritated that they almost walked out of the theatre.

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Stories have shapes. Any story you tell works best if you recognise its shape, then strengthen that shape. This applies to a story of any length, whether you're putting in your 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month 2017, or honing your favourite party anecdote, or even marketing something, including yourself. It even applies to Hemingway's famous six-word story, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

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Brian Fox is a titan of open source software. As the first employee of Richard Stallman's Free Software Foundation, he wrote several core GNU components, including the GNU Bash shell. Now he's a board member of the National Association of Voting Officials and co-founder of Orchid Labs, which delivers uncensored and private internet access to users such as those behind China's firewall. We talked to him about his career and how he works.

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You have a problem. You gather a group of smart, creative people and say, Let's brainstorm. Together, you bounce around a bunch of ideas, whittling and honing them until you arrive at it: The Solution.

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Waking up is hard to do. Getting a good sleep can be tough, and this can lead to feeling less than refreshed when you wake up in the morning. Falling asleep and waking up are brain processes we don’t fully understand, but research suggests these transitions are a lot more gradual than the flip of a switch.

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Whether you're doing some Spanish homework or exchanging jokes with your French-speaking amoureux, nailing spelling in a foreign language is pretty important if you're trying to get your point across without looking like a dunce. Adding accents is easy now, thanks to improved keyboard controls on nearly every device. No matter what phone, laptop, or desktop you're on, you can add accented characters pretty easily, as long as you know where to look.

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We all suffer from the brain's ability to trick us into believing things that aren't true. Our own eyesight, the sense that guides us as we move about the world and allows us to gather information, can't even be trusted. To rely on your senses alone is a costly mistake.

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Chrome/Safari: If you want a gentle reminder not to waste time online - without investing in a full-featured paid app such as Freedom - try Nothing on the Internet, an extension for Chrome and Safari that turns off all the content of the web, leaving a zen-like expanse of empty wireframes.