hbrHBR IdeaCast
Harvard Business Review

At my first office job, I delighted in instructing my co-workers to address me only as the “bad boy of business,” showed up in a swimsuit on one occasion, and kept a fake fur possibly made out of carpet on the back of my rolly chair at all times. While I still firmly contend that these core professional standards and practices were AMAZlNG for quarterly revenue market PowerPoints (?…not a thing, really and TRULY not a thing), I’ve upped my “biz whiz” techniques even further, thanks to this straightforward and pragmatic podcast. You will NEVER hear the host, Sarah Green, or her fascinating guests use a string of jargonistic drivel like I did just above! Instead, the show breaks down the most nebulous-seeming detriments to my productivity, like how to schedule my workload most effectively and how to maintain true zeal and avidity for my chosen tasks instead of being like UGH FUCK THIS I’M LAYING THIS FUR/RUG ON THE FLOOR AND TAKING A NAP UP ON IT. More specifically, HBR taught me to prioritize my own tasks in the morning, rather than responding to emails, because that makes you feel HUNTED all day. I also learned to treat work as its own reward (I know—CAPITALISM!—but I truly love what I do, so…) and how to be a kinder colleague. They impart all these wisdoms (bizdoms!!!!!!) in succinct, comprehensive 30-minute episodes. Now that’s what I call a quarterly revenue market PowerPoint. —Amy Rose

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 10.44.47 AMHeadspace

I’ve tried a bunch of different meditation methods, but I haven’t stuck with any of them…until a friend raved about a guided meditation app called Headspace over dinner, and the next day I set out to try it. Once you download it, there are 10 10-minute meditations to complete over the space of 10 days. It seemed super down to earth, and harbors a real “no pressure!” *shrugs shoulders* approach, so I shrugged my own shoulders and settled into an upright position in my chair to listen. They’re all about focusing on breathing, on the body, and on accepting and acknowledging thoughts, but not letting them affect you. The dude who narrates them is called Andy, and he has a pleasant British accent.

Headspace is an easy, low-maintenance way to start to incorporate meditation into your daily life. The first 10 sessions are free, but the rest, well…they cost money. Initially, a subscription seems expensive (about $70 for a year) but I justify it by thinking, You can’t put a price on your wellbeing!, and, I truly feel as though the meditations have been helping me feel calmer and more collected. Worth it! —Minna

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 10.47.19 AMDuolingo

I first downloaded Duolingo for my iPhone a couple of years ago when a friend told me about it, and I thought it would be a good way to refresh myself on the French I learned in school. The app (which can also be accessed through your internet browser on their website) teaches you how to read and write basic phrases in other languages and gives you points every time you complete a level. It’s like a video game, except instead of Mario defeating the threat of Bowser, you are defeating the threat of miscommunication!

After using it idly for years to review French words I already knew, I was playing around with it one night when I couldn’t sleep. I realized I could take a break from French and beginning a new language course. There was nothing stopping me from learning any language in the world!!! (OK, or one of the 10 available for English speakers on Duolingo.) I started learning Spanish. Then German. Then Dutch. Then Danish. I became obsessed.

You won’t become fluent in a new language through duolingo alone, but I see it as kind of a gateway drug to expanding your mind. It’s a great first step in getting the sense of how a new vocabulary works. It unlocked a curiosity within me about the languages of the world and led me to seek out more resources from the library. It also inspired me to start researching more countries and sparked a serious case of wanderlust. Am I telling you that Duolingo is the best? Let me put it this way: If Duolingo were a person, I would elope with Duolingo and for our honeymoon we would go to every country and communicate with ease. I know these aren’t starred reviews, but I’m going to give Duolingo a million stars anyway; étoiles, as we say en francais. Viva Duolingo!!!!! —Anna F.

rachelMSNBC Rachel Maddow

I live life on the edge, man—and by the edge, I mean, I don’t have cable. In these futuristic times we’re living in, it’s easy to get away with not watching TV because there are things like apps and podcasts to fill those needs. As a huge politics nerd, I’m so, so addicted to the Rachel Maddow podcast because it allows me to enjoy her nightly show without watching MSNBC. The podcast plays back an audio recording of the previous night’s program, so when I listen to it in the mornings, I can get caught up quickly on the most important news.

Listening to her podcast is much more interesting than reading the news online, because her enthusiasm comes through in her delivery: She’s full of jokes and puns and the occasional laughing fit when the world is particularly absurd. I’ve learned so much about governmental policy through her show because she explains it in such awesome depth with an infectious enthusiasm. Her reportage is top-notch: She breaks down incredibly complicated policy into easily understandable, factual information (sort of an outlier in cable news!), along with superbly investigated pieces that span all sides of the political spectrum. While she is best known for her cheerfully wonkish approach to politics, she also delves into environmental news, foreign policy, and takes a special interest in national security.

The Rachel Maddow Show is my single best source for the news. I am so delighted that is is available to everyone free of charge, so we can all get our learning on! As an added bonus, she covers election nights on her program, and nothing is more exciting than listening to her report on election returns. I have watched two presidential elections with her, and wouldn’t get my coverage anywhere else! —Meagan

Sporcle, Inc.
In my college’s Political Studies lecture on decolonization in Africa, my professor announced that there was no way we could pass if we didn’t know every single capital city. Our continent is huge, and we were expected to know the name and position of each country when presented with a blank map—as if I weren’t panicking about this assignment already! Luckily, my tutor told us about Sporcle, an educational site she pretty much lived on when she was trying to get her geographic orientation together. Not only did it help me do really well in the course, but Sporcle is a site that I go back to often. It has all these cool quizzes and trivia games in different categories, with timers and multi-player options—I spend most of my time on the site playing the hip-hop quizzes. You’re able to search for what you want, and if you really, really want to, you can create your own quiz! How awesome is that? —Nova

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 12.34.25 PMStop, Breathe & Think
Tools for Peace

Studies suggest that short periods of mental relaxation might boost your ability to learn and retain information in the long run. Since the last time I wrote about the calming benefits of meditation, I’ve found an extremely helpful app called Stop, Breathe & Think. You first “check in” by dimming your screen and closing your eyes for 10 seconds to get in touch with yourself, then you assess your mental and physical state, and finally, you choose one to five more specific mood descriptors from a long list. Based on what you’ve input, Stop, Breathe & Think will deliver a selection of appropriate five- to 10-minute meditations designed to calm and center you before you go back to hitting the books. Sometimes when you’re working hard, the best thing you can do for your giant brain is give it a rest, and Stop, Breathe & Think is definitely a great (and free!) option. —Meredith

littleLittle Alchemy
Little Alchemy
This scientific game app has taken over my life. At its start, the game gifts you four elements: air, earth, fire, and water. The aim of the game is to combine elements to make new elements and products. For example, combining fire and water makes steam. From there, steam + ? = ??? The goal is to create all 520 products, which include Christmas trees, double rainbows, and the internet. Many of the results may catch you off guard (see: Medusa; lightsaber), but there’s nothing like being able to throw your head back and cackle, “I created life!” Warning: In fierce competition with my coworkers, I once sat in my room for four hours straight in order to create as many products as possible (I’m stuck at 438). This may happen to you. Little Alchemy is a creative brain workout that will make you laugh as you question your knowledge on how everyday items are scientifically composed. —Tyler ♦