TIME How-To

6 Secret Tricks For Photographing Fireworks With Your Phone

Fireworks Light Up Skies Over New York City On The Fourth Of July
Kena Betancur—Getty Images People watch fireworks light up the sky over New York City on July 4, 2013 in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Get ready for the Fourth of July

Firework photography is like the fish that got away. Every summer (or New Year’s Eve), you think you’ve finally mastered your smartphone camera chops to snap a magnificent cascade of falling sparks, only to be left with a camera roll full of blurs.

But this year, with just a little advance planning, maybe you’ll finally reel in the big one, whether it’s a golden horsetail, a fiery chrysanthemum, or a sparkling peony. (Those are all firework effects, not fish names.)

Here’s how to take great fireworks photos with just your smartphone:

1. Turn off the flash

Your smartphone will automatically turn the flash on, because — in case you didn’t notice — you’re standing there in the dark. Don’t let that happen.

“The flash is only going to illuminate things that are within five to 10 feet of you,” says Tony Northrup, a Waterford, Conn.-based photographer and author of How to Create Stunning Digital Photography. “Maybe you actually want to light people up in the foreground, but if you do that, it’s going to under-expose the shot . . . the fireworks will end up too dark.”

So, in that case, try to get their faces lit with a light that’s behind you (and most importantly, the camera).

2: Turn off the HDR

HDR, or high dynamic range, seems like it would be a good idea for capturing fireworks’ rich color. But in this instance, it’s going to trip up your shot, says Northrup. A way to shoot photos using multiple exposures that helps to reduce contrast (and dark, night shots are full of contrast) HDR is bad for fireworks because they’re a moving, morphing subject. As a result, when the camera captures the multiple exposures to blend the fireworks together into one HDR image, they won’t match up. So, like the flash, be sure to turn this setting off.

3: Create a long exposure

The longer your shutter is open, the more light gets exposed to the photo sensor. Applying that to fireworks, Northrup likes to create an exposure for as long as five to 10 seconds, timing the shot by starting right before the incendiary explodes. With a pro-level camera, this is easy to do, but the default app on your smartphone may not provide these kinds of controls.

Third party apps, like the free A Better Camera for Android and the $.99 Manual on iOS, can give you these capabilities with a minimal learning curve. Still, I recommend buying one at least a day before fireworks time, because they can take some getting used to. And having a tripod is pretty much essential for long exposure photography, too.

4: Shoot more than just the sky

If you want a great photo of some fireworks, Google Image Search can set you up with one. So run a query and dazzle your friends with the kind of shot you could never capture (because, frankly, you didn’t). But if you really want to photograph the bursts before your eyes, shoot more than just the sky. Northrup suggests photographers try telling a story with their shots.

“You could crouch down behind your kid and shoot the back and side of their face, as they’re looking at the fireworks,” he says. “There’s a bit of story — here’s a kid looking at fireworks — and that’s a hundred times more interesting than just a firework.”

7. Use a selfie stick

What was that incredible boom? No, it wasn’t an M-80 exploding in the sky — it was people’s heads exploding at the thought of a professional photographer recommending one of the worst gadgets of the year.

“I know people revile these things, but I actually like them,” says Northrup. In fairness, he recommends that people use a selfie stick to take unexpected shots, like getting a good angle over a crowd. He also suggests using the selfie stick as a monopod — a one-legged tripod — to help steady your shot. This is important when shooting in low-light situations, because the more you move the phone while the shutter is open, the blurrier the image will be.

6: Edit your shot

No one takes a perfect shot from the get-go, not even the pros. Northrup himself does a bit of editing to his smartphone photos to make them look better. For fireworks, he recommends reducing the contrast and making the shadows brighter. If that washes the color out, adjust the saturation slightly, but not too much. And, of course, crop the photo for maximum effect. All these things can be done with the Android and iOS photo software, but if you want to get more hands on with your picture, try Snapseed, a free photo editing app available on Android and iOS.

Bonus tip: Shoot video instead

It might seem counterintuitive to shoot video when you’re really looking to wow people with a photograph, but if you’re posting your pics on Twitter or Facebook, your media will stand out more if it’s moving. Facebook and Twitter now offer automatically playing movies, so a short five to 10 second clip of some falling fireworks would be perfect for the social networks. Also, you can also pull a frame out of the movie file to make a still photo, if you decide you’d like one of those instead. After all, fireworks all about the grand finale — and by that I mean how many likes and re-tweets you get.

TIME advice

How to Make Quinoa

Turn the delicious ancient grain to fluffy perfection

This article originally appeared on CookingLight.com.

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TIME advice

How to Remove Every Type of Stain

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From ink to wine

A bad stain can ruin your day, or worse, your favorite piece of clothing. But, it shouldn’t be that way. Most stains are removable — it’s all about smart treatment know-how (plus a little patience and elbow grease). We asked Carolyn Childers, Handy’s chief home officer, to give us the 411 on tricky common stains, from ink to grease to coffee.

Turns out, toothpaste doesn’t need to be dealt with immediately, but you should rinse coffee stains with cold water as quickly as possible. We’ll never stop drinking wine on our white rug, sipping coffee in the car, or putting mustard on that dog at the ballpark — but thanks to these expert tips, our future stains won’t know what hit them.

The Culprit: Grease
The Remedy: Sprinkling baby powder

When a late-night pizza stop takes a dark turn, clean up the grease stain by covering the spot with clear liquid dish detergent and rub in gently. Next, rinse with white vinegar diluted with water. You can also try applying a small amount of baby powder to grease spots and gently rubbing until the mark is gone. For stovetop stains, a trusty Brillo pad paired with a little water and baking soda works wonders.

The Culprit: Ink
The Remedy: Spraying hairspray

Splotchy fabrics are trending, but exploding pens are never a good look. Use a clean cloth dampened with a mix of water and a small amount of liquid laundry detergent to blot away the stain (never rub it in!). Then, throw it in the washing machine on the hottest setting the fabric type will allow. “Hairspray has also been shown to dissolve ink, making it easier to come out of fabrics before throwing in the wash,” Childers says.

The Culprit: Wine
The Remedy: Add a splash of club soda

Vino is close in chemical makeup to blood stains, so the removal process is also similar. “Beyond using the cold water or a salt paste trick, you can also do a diluted vinegar soak using one part vinegar to two parts water. If a soak isn’t possible (like a carpet wine stain), try pouring club soda on the stain as a more powerful lifting alternative to just water, and then use salt if the stain still hasn’t come off,” Childers says.

The Culprit: Grass stain
The Remedy: Pre-treat with detergent and avoid heat

The key here is getting to the stain before it goes into the wash. “Grass is one of those stains that has a bit of everything: natural oils and dyes, proteins, starches, and sugars from the plant world, not to mention there’s usually an earth pigment associated with it,” says Akemi Ooka, method’s senior director of formulation (a.k.a. formulatrix). “While method 4X concentrated laundry detergent cleans stains very well on all kinds of clothing types just by using it as directed in your washer, if you have a really stubborn stain, the product is also an excellent pre-treater. Just apply a small amount of detergent on the stain, rub it in, and then wash as usual. Finally, to avoid setting the stain with heat from the dryer, line-dry the item for the best result.”

The Culprit: Blood
The Remedy: Apply a salt and cold water paste

Like most stains, deal with this one pronto. Hot water will cause stains to set, so use cold water to dab away at the spot. For particularly delicate fabrics (like silk shirts or sheets), try using a paste of salt and cold water. “The slightly rough texture of the salt combined with its natural dehydrating properties works gently enough to loosen blood stains out of fabric,” says Childers.

The Culprit: Toothpaste
The Remedy: Apply detergent diluted with water

Toothpaste is great for your pearly whites, but not so much for your button-down shirt. Take a cloth or sponge (that has been dampened with a few drops of detergent diluted with cold water) to blot away the stain. “Toothpaste is also one of the only stains where immediate action isn’t necessary. Often times it’s easier to let the toothpaste dry up before treating the stain, since this prevents further smearing on the fabric,” says Childers.

The Culprit: Mustard
The Remedy: Apply a clear detergent and water mixture

For a fresh stain, take your sponge and dampen with a mix of cool water and a teaspoon of clear detergent. Blot from the outside of the stain into the center until the stain lifts. For a dried-on stain, scrape off as much of the mustard using a dull knife or similar scraping tool, and try blotting out the stain (using the same detergent and water mix) from the backside of the fabric rather than directly on top of the stain.

The Culprit: Coffee
The Remedy: Use a powdered detergent, cold water, and vinegar paste

If it’s a fresh spill, cold water should be enough to do the trick. First, use a paper towel to absorb as much of the spilled coffee as possible. Then, run cold water over the stain. “Make sure not to scrub,” says Childers. “It runs the risk of making the stain spread.” You can also use a mix of powdered laundry detergent, cold water, and distilled white vinegar to form a paste that is gentle enough to remove the stain without damaging fabric.

The Culprit: Perfume
The Remedy: Sponge with white vinegar

So sweet — and deadly when you accidentally spray the collar of your silk shirt. Immediately take a sponge dampened with cold water and apply it to the perfume stain to avoid permanent setting. If some staining remains, carefully try sponging on a diluted solution of white vinegar and water. “Soak the garment in a bucket filled with lukewarm water for half an hour to an hour before putting it through the washing machine,” Childers says.

The Culprit: Chocolate
The Remedy: Soak in a bucket

Rub laundry detergent into the stain and let it sit for up to five minutes, then give it a pre-soak in cold water for another 15. Finish by putting the item through a regular cycle in the washing machine.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

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TIME psychology

How to Remember What You Read

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Train your brain

A great place to start with book retention is with understanding some key ways our brain stores information. Here are three specific elements to consider:

  1. Impression
  2. Association
  3. Repetition

Let’s say you read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, one of our favorites here at Buffer. You loved the information and want to remember as much as possible. Here’s how:

Impression – Be impressed with the text. Stop and picture a scene in your mind, even adding elements like greatness, shock, or a cameo from yourself to make the impression stronger. If Dale Carnegie is explaining his distaste for criticism, picture yourself receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace and then spiking the Nobel Prize onto the dais.

(Another trick with impression is to read an important passage out loud. For some of us, our sensitivity to information can be greater with sounds rather than visuals.)

Association – Link the text to something you already know. This technique is used to great effect with memorization and the construction of memory palaces. In the case of Carnegie’s book, if there is a particular principle you wish to retain, think back to a time when you were part of a specific example involving the principle. Prior knowledge is a great way to build association.

Repetition – The more you repeat, the more you remember. This can occur by literally re-reading a certain passage or in highlighting it or writing it down then returning to it again later.

Practicing these three elements of remembering will help you get better and better. The more you work at it, the more you’ll remember.

Focus on the four levels of reading

Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Read a Book, identifies four levels of reading:

  1. Elementary
  2. Inspectional
  3. Analytical
  4. Syntopical

Each step builds upon the previous step. Elementary reading is what you are taught in school. Inspectional reading can take two forms: 1) a quick, leisurely read or 2) skimming the book’s preface, table of contents, index, and inside jacket.

Where the real work (and the real retention begins) is with analytical reading and syntopical reading.

With analytical reading, you read a book thoroughly. More so than that even, you read a book according to four rules, which should help you with the context and understanding of the book.

  1. Classify the book according to subject matter.
  2. State what the whole book is about. Be as brief as possible.
  3. List the major parts in order and relation. Outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
  4. Define the problem or problems the author is trying to solve.

The final level of reading is syntopical, which requires that you read books on the same subject and challenge yourself to compare and contrast as you go.

As you advance through these levels, you will find yourself incorporating the brain techniques of impression, association, and repetition along the way. Getting into detail with a book (as in the analytical and syntopical level) will help cement impressions of the book in your mind, develop associations to other books you’ve read and ideas you’ve learned, and enforce repetition in the thoughtful, studied nature of the different reading levels.

Keep the book close (or at least your notes on the book.)

One of the most common threads in my research into remembering more of the books you read is this: Take good notes.

Scribble in the margins as you go.

Bookmark your favorite passages.

Write a review when you’ve finished.

Use your Kindle Highlights extensively.

And when you’ve done these things, return to your notes periodically to review and refresh.

Shane Parrish of Farnam Street is a serial note taker, and he finds himself constantly returning to the books he reads.

After I finish a book, I let it age for a week or two and then pick it up again. I look at my notes and the sections I’ve marked as important. I write them down. Or let it age for another week or two.

Even Professor Pierre Bayard, the author of How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, identifies the importance of note-taking and review:

Once forgetfulness has set in, he can use these notes to rediscover his opinion of the author and his work at the time of his original reading. We can assume that another function of the notes is to assure him that he has indeed read the works in which they were inscribed, like blazes on a trail that are intended to show the way during future periods of amnesia.

I’ve tried this method for myself, and it has completely changed the way I perceive the books I read. I look at books as investments in a future of learning rather than a fleeting moment of insight, soon to be forgotten. I store all the reviews and notes from my books on my personal blog so I can search through them when I need to remember something I’ve read.

(Kindle has a rather helpful feature online, too, where it shows you a daily, random highlight from your archive of highlights. It’s a great way to relive what you’ve read in the past.)

It’s not important which method you have for note-taking and review so long as you have one. Let it be as simple as possible to complete so that you can make sure you follow through.

This article originally appeared on Buffer.

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Read next: How to Get Smarter

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Social Media

How to Stop Facebook From Killing Your Data Plan

Autoplay Video Ads on Facebook Twitter
Kai Pfaffenbach—Reuters

Now both platforms have autoplay video ads

Following in Facebook’s footsteps, Twitter introduced autoplay videos on Wednesday — a big day for social media advertisers, but not so much for all those ad-unfriendly users out there.

Twitter’s autoplay feature has begun rolling out on iOS and web with Android to follow, which means that video ads, GIFs or Vines on your timeline will automatically load and play (while muted), according to post on Twitter’s blog. Like Facebook’s autoplay videos, which were introduced in December 2013, Twitter’s feature will likely be a big boost to the company’s bottom line — but also a big drain to some users’ data plans and battery life.

Luckily, both Facebook and Twitter have made it easy for mobile users to disable or limit auto-play. Here’s how:

  • For Twitter (iOS only), first open the Twitter app, and tap on the Settings icon, which is the gray gear-shaped icon near the top-right corner of your profile. Then tap on Video autoplay and either select Use Wi-Fi only or Never play videos automatically.

  • For Facebook (iOS), there’s no need to open your Facebook app. Just tap Settings on your iPhone or iPad’s home screen, and scroll down and select Facebook. Then tap on Settings, and then Auto-play, and select either Wi-fi only or Off.

  • For Facebook (Android), open up the Facebook app, and go to App Settings. Then check the box next to Auto-play videos on WiFi only.

For web, it’s even simpler: just go to Facebook’s Video Settings and Twitter’s Settings to turn-off autoplay videos.

Read next: Surfing the Web On Your iPhone Is About to Get Way Better

TIME Diet/Nutrition

10 Surprising Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Nutritious

vine-tomatoes
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Sometimes canned veggies have an edge over fresh

Modern varieties of vegetables, the ones you see for sale in the produce section of the supermarket, are generally sweeter, starchier, and less fibrous than their wild ancestors. They are also far less nutritious: wild dandelion leaves, for example, have eight times more antioxidants than spinach and forty times more than iceberg lettuce.

So doing what you can to maximize the nutrients in the vegetables you eat is important—but it turns out that many common cooking habits are actually making vegetables less nutritious. Did you know you should wait 10 minutes before cooking chopped garlic? Or that broccoli is one of the most perishable vegetables in your crisper? Investigative journalist Jo Robinson spent 10 years combing through the latest research on nutrients in vegetables and fruits for her book, Eating on the Wild Side, and her evidence-based tips for storing and preparing vegetables will change the way you cook.

When you hear “nutrients,” you may only be thinking of vitamins, such as vitamins A and C, or minerals like calcium and iron. But vegetables are also a source of phytonutrients, the powerful antioxidants that plants produce in order to protect themselves from harmful UV light or damage from scavenging insects. “What [the scientific community] is discovering is that consuming these phytonutrients plays the same role for us, ” Robinson told me. “It protects us from external and internal threats.” Lycopene in tomatoes, resveratrol in red wine, and anthocyanins in blueberries are just a few of the phytonutrients scientists are excited about, and their names may be familiar to you.

Research on phytonutrients is relatively new, which is why tips about how to make the most of them in the kitchen are not yet common knowledge. Time to change that! Here are 10 ways you may be unknowingly making your vegetables less nutritious.

1. Buying fresh tomatoes instead of canned.

Cooking tomatoes makes them more nutritious, and the longer you cook them, the better. Heat changes the lycopene into a form our bodies can more readily absorb and—surprise!—canned tomatoes are much higher in phytonutrients, thanks to the heat of the canning process. Tomato paste, being more concentrated, is even better.

2. Storing lettuce wrong.

You might think that damaging your vegetables before storing them is a mistake, but when it comes to lettuce, tearing the leaves triggers a protective blast of phytonutrients that you can take advantage of by eating the greens within a day or two. Lettuce that is torn before storing can have double the antioxidants of whole lettuce leaves.

3. Boiling spinach—or any vegetable really.

You may have heard that boiling vegetables is a no-no because water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C leach out of the food and into the cooking water, but you might not know that boiling also reduces the antioxidant content. The difference in spinach is especially dramatic: after 10 minutes of boiling, three-quarters of its phytonutrient content is in cooking water, not in the vegetable itself. (Of course, if you consume the cooking liquid, as you do when making soup, you consume all the nutrients in the water as well.)

Steaming, microwaving, sautéing, and roasting—cooking methods that don’t put vegetables in direct contact with water—result in more nutritious vegetables on the plate.

4. Eating your salad with fat-free salad dressing.

We’ve known for a few years that you absorb more of the nutrients in salad when you eat it with fat, but the type of fat can make a difference. Most commercial salad dressings use soybean oil, but extra-virgin olive oil is much more effective at making nutrients available for absorption. Unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil is even better, as it contains double the phytonutrients of filtered.

5. Cooking garlic right after chopping it.

If you mince a clove of garlic and quickly throw it in a hot pan, you consume almost no allicin, the beneficial compound that makes garlic such a health star. That’s because the enzyme that creates allicin is not activated until you rupture the cell walls of the garlic—and is quickly inactivated by heat. Just two minutes in a hot pan or 60 seconds in the microwave reduces the allicin in just-chopped garlic to almost nothing.

Letting the chopped garlic sit for 10 minutes before exposing it to heat gives the enzyme time to do its work, so your finished dish contains the maximum amount of allicin. Using a garlic press is even better than mincing, as it releases more of the compounds that combine to create allicin.

6. Throwing away the most nutritious parts of the vegetable.

Most American recipes call for only the white and light green parts of scallions, but the dark green parts have a higher concentration of phytonutrients. Instead of throwing out the nutritious tops, you can ignore the recipe instructions and toss in the green parts as well, or explore recipes from elsewhere in the world—such as Chinese scallion pancakes—which utilize the entire green onion.

Beet greens are another often-discarded vegetable part that we would be better off eating; they have more antioxidants than the beet roots, which are already high in phytonutrients. Try cooking and eating the greens alongside the roasted roots in recipes like Warm Golden Beet Salad with Greens and Almonds.

And don’t forget vegetable peels, which often contain a higher concentration of antioxidants than the rest of the vegetable. Try roasting them and eating them like chips!

7. Eating potatoes right after cooking them.

Many people avoid white potatoes because they are a high-glycemic vegetable, spiking blood sugar after eating. But chilling potatoes for about 24 hours after cooking converts the starch in the potatoes to a type that is digested more slowly, making them a low-glycemic vegetable. So potato salad chilled overnight is a low-glycemic food, as is a cooked, chilled, and reheated baked potato.

8. Cutting carrots before you cook them.

Cooking carrots whole and cutting them up after they are cooked keeps more nutrients in the vegetable. And speaking of cooking, carrots are one vegetable that is better for you cooked than raw—cooking helps break down the cell walls, making the nutrients easier to absorb.

9. Buying broccoli florets, instead of a whole head.

Broccoli looks like a hardy vegetable, but from an antioxidant standpoint, it is shockingly perishable, quickly exhausting its stores of powerful phytonutrients after harvest. “I call it one of the ‘eat me first’ vegetables,” says Robinson. One study found that after 10 days—the time it took to get the vegetable from field to supermarket produce section—broccoli lost 75 percent of its flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) and 80 percent of its glucosinolates, the compounds in cruciferous vegetables that are associated with numerous health benefits.

Cutting the broccoli into florets doubles the rate of antioxidant loss, so in addition to buying the freshest broccoli you can find and cooking it right away, you should choose whole heads rather than the bags of pre-cut florets.

10. Cooking beans from scratch and discarding the cooking liquid.

Dried beans are some of the most phytonutrient-rich foods out there, but the big surprise is this: canned have more antioxidants! If you prefer from-scratch beans, let the beans sit in the cooking liquid for about an hour after cooking to reabsorb some of the nutrients that have moved into the liquid. And try using a pressure cooker to cook beans; one study found that beans cooked in the pressure cooker had more antioxidants than those cooked with other methods.

This article originally appeared on The Kitchn.

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TIME Food & Drink

This Is the Best Way to Make a Hamburger

Easy tips for perfectly grilled, juicy burgers all summer long

 

This article originally appeared on Southern Living.

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TIME Smartphones

15 Tricks For Getting Way Better Smartphone Battery Life

There's no reason your charge should run out before bedtime again

In theory, modern smartphones can last hundreds of hours on a single charge.

Hundreds of hours, that is, until you actually start using the things. In practice, today’s top phones will squeeze out about 20 hours at best. In the chart below, note the more realistic estimates for battery life in popular phones.

While “Talk Time” traditionally means “number of hours you can chat on your phone on a single charge,” the figure doubles as a rough approximation for “any active use,” such as texting and web browsing.

But even these numbers are inflated. Manufacturers love to use pristine laboratory conditions in order to advertise great numbers, most of which won’t match real-world use. This is why your brand new Samsung Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 might still be running low an hour or two before dinner.

With that in mind, we rounded up research across the web and tested both Android and iOS phones to pin down battery saving tricks that actually work. Along the way, we’ll point out a few myths about smartphone batteries, from ideal charging cycles to the truth about closing apps.

Notes: this list will cover battery saving techniques for both iOS and Android (sorry, Windows Phone). In a few cases, we’ll mark a tip as specific to either iOS and Android, but most apply on both platforms.

This guide is current as of Android Lollipop and iOS 8. If you’re using a previous version of either OS, the menus and options may be a bit different.

1. Start by deleting apps you haven’t used in months

Closing apps

Closing apps on iOS and Android

As we’ll see later on this list, pesky apps that run in the background, track your location or send you push notifications can end up being a big drain on your battery. Each of those problems can be addressed individually, but why not just delete those dozen apps you used once in 2013 and haven’t touched since? It’ll save you a lot of trouble as we move along this list.

On Android, go to Settings —>Apps. Select the app you want to disable, and tap Uninstall.

On iOS, tap and hold any app, then tap the X in the top left corner. (Note that you can’t delete several of the standard, Apple-made apps in iOS.)

2. Disable background app data for all non-essential apps

Background data settings

Background data settings for Android and iOS

Many apps run in the background, even when you’re not using them. This makes sense for things like email and social media, where you might want to know the minute you get a new message or comment, but do you really need your games, notes, and music players gobbling up battery resources 24/7?

With iOS, you can turn off background data on an app-by-app basis. Go to Settings—>General—>Background App Refresh, and select apps to turn off.

With Android, you can “restrict background data” for each app. Go to Settings—>Data usage. Tap on your app of choice, then scroll to the bottom to restrict background data on cellular networks. (Note that this setting can also save you from accidentally going over your data plan threshold.)

3. Don’t obsessively close apps

Don't close apps

Closing apps on Android and iOS

For years, “close all your apps” was the most popular battery saving tip in the world of smartphones. Ironically, it can actually make your battery life worse. When you leave an app open in the background, then access it a little later, your phone is smart enough to let you pick up where you left off, with minimal harm to battery life. However, if you keep closing and re-opening the same apps all day, you end up taxing your phone a whole lot more than necessary. It’s a little like turning off and starting up your car every time you hit a stoplight.

In theory, quitting an app you use only once per week can save you a very small amount of battery. For the dozen apps you use on a near-daily basis, however, you’re only hurting yourself. So don’t worry about it. Your phone will worry about it for you.

4. Disable notifications for most apps

App notifications

Disabling notifications on iOS and Android

Many apps will automatically send you “push notifications,” so-called because the app will notify you of things throughout the day, unsolicited.

It’s time to stop the madness. On iOS, visit Settings—>Notifications, and turn off notifications for all but your most important apps. Sure, you want your text messages to come through on your lock screen, but do you really need every MLB score from across the league? You can even customize your notifications down to where they appear, from banners to sound alerts to the lock screen. The fewer, the better.

On Android, go to Settings—>Sound & notification—>App notifications. From here you can block notifications for individual apps entirely, or set priority filters for receiving fewer notifications overall. Add it all up, and you’ll get more battery life with fewer disturbances.

5. Tell your phone to check for new email less frequently (iOS)

Email fetching on iOS

Email fetching on iOS

One big battery life offender could be email. In the past, email was a real drain, when your phone would have to check to see if you had new mail constantly throughout the day. Fortunately, most modern email clients push messages to your phone, meaning that your device must only expend power when you actually get a new message.

That said, if your email is blowing up throughout the day, or if you’re using a non-standard email service that doesn’t support push email, your phone could still be losing power to a barrage of incoming messages.

The first solution is to tell your phone to check email less frequently—say, only once every 30 minutes. The second solution is to go full manual, only allowing your phone to check for new mail when you manually open the app. Either option can be accessed within the same menu.

On iOS, go to Settings—>Mail, Contacts, Calendars—>Fetch New Data. Turn off “Push” and select your preferred frequency at the bottom of the menu. (Remember, if you don’t get that much email as it stands, it’s probably best just to leave “Push” on.)

6. Turn off location services / reporting

Location services

Location settings on Android and iOS

Like background data and push notifications, location services can be a quiet killer, draining your smartphone battery behind the scenes. You’ve probably already realized that GPS navigation sucks the juice right out of your device, but this makes sense: after all, your phone is working constantly to track your spot on the map.

Less obvious are location services in apps like Facebook and Instagram. These social media apps keep your exact position in mind so they can tag every post, status or photo with the corresponding city or neighborhood. If you value battery life more than geo-tagged posts (or better yet, if you find geo-tagged posts a little creepy), turn off location services.

On iOS, go to Settings—>Privacy—>Location Services. You can either turn them all off at once, or turn them off individually. For instance, you might only leave location services on for utility apps like Maps, Passbook and Weather.

On Android, go to Settings—>General–>Location. Then use the big switch to turn location reporting off. (Just keep in mind that Maps will have to ask you permission to temporarily turn Location Reporting back on whenever you use navigation features.)

7. Turn off auto brightness and dim the screen

Brightness settings

Brightness settings on Android and iOS

If the first six steps haven’t solved your battery issue, it’s time to get a little more serious. You might like to view your 5.5-inch, multi-million-pixel display at full brightness, but that’s a guaranteed recipe for draining your battery fast. Even your phone’s auto-brightness feature will sometimes overdo it on luminance, meaning you could be losing precious hours of battery life.

Try dimming your display just a bit and living with the change for an hour. You’ll be surprised how quickly your eyes adjust.

On iOS, go to Settings—>Display & Brightness. Turn off Auto-Brightness, and then dim the display using the slider.

On Android, go to Setting—>Display, and turn off Adaptive Brightness. Then tap on Brightness level and adjust to your preference.

8. Turn off vibrations

Vibration settings

Vibration settings on Android and iOS

We tend to think of a vibrating phone as a low-key alternative to a noisy ring, but when it comes to battery life, ringing is a lot less taxing than rumbling. If you want to squeeze out a bit more battery life, consider turning off vibrations entirely.

On iOS, go to Settings—>Sounds, and then switch off the two vibrate toggles at the top of the menu.

On Android, use the volume toggle to turn down the ringer, and you’ll see a menu pop up at the top of your screen. Here, you can either turn off all notifications for a custom period of time, or only receive “priority notifications,” based on your personal preferences. Either one will end up having a positive effect on battery.

9. Turn down sleep / auto-lock duration

Sleep settings

Sleep and auto-lock settings on Android and iOS

Your phone’s single biggest battery drain is the display. Ideally, you want your display off whenever you’re not looking at the screen. The problem is that we often leave our phones’ displays on accidentally, in little moments throughout the day, even when we’re done using them. No matter how conscientious we are with your sleep/wake button, we’re going to forget from time to time.

The solution is a low screen timeout. Set your device to turn off its display after just one minute (or on Android, 30 seconds) and you can save a whole hour of wasted screen time per day.

On iOS, go to Settings—>General—>Auto-Lock.

On Android, go to Settings—>Display—>Sleep.

10. Turn off Bluetooth

Bluetooth settings

Bluetooth settings on Android and iOS

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless technology that allows your smartphone to connect with other devices. It’s great for quickly sending files (ex: Apple’s AirDrop), connecting to your car’s sound system, or other close-range applications (ex: using your smartphone as a remote for a TV). While Bluetooth isn’t quite the battery hog today that it was two years ago, it’s still a drain on juice.

If you’re not using your smartphone for sending files, connecting to your car, or interacting with other devices, consider flipping Bluetooth off. There’s a good chance you’re hardly ever using it anyway.

On iOS, swipe up from the bottom of your screen and tap the Bluetooth icon in the middle.

On Android, go to Settings—>Bluetooth and toggle it off.

11. Use dark backgrounds on Samsung or Motorola phones (Android)

If your phone has an AMOLED display, using primarily black backgrounds can save you a solid hour of battery life per day. Instead of rendering black pixels, AMOLED displays are smart enough to simply leave black pixels off altogether, meaning that your phone’s display must power fewer pixels throughout a day of use.

Most of Samsung and Motorola’s most popular phones use AMOLED displays, while most other manufacturers do not.

12. Don’t worry so much about fully charging and fully depleting your battery

Empty battery

Empty battery symbol

You’ve probably heard the classic advice about charging batteries: let your battery drain all the way, then charge to 100%, and repeat. The idea is that you are teaching your battery to ‘remember’ its full charge capacity, rather than confusing it with periodic, inconsistent charges.

There was some truth to this…in 2007. In 2015, most smartphone battery technology is advanced enough not to need special treatment. So instead of running out the door with 50% juice, consider plugging in for 15 minutes before you leave. We promise your battery won’t forget what a full charge is.

13. Pay attention to signal strength

Signal strength

iPhone searching for a signal

When you have a strong LTE connection or (especially) a great Wi-Fi connection, your phone will cruise along as it was intended to—without straining the battery. On the other hand, if you’ve got a single bar, weak 4G and no Wi-Fi in range, your phone will expend tons of juice simply trying to connect with a weak signal.

So if you notice your phone is barely holding on, consider moving (physically) to get closer to a source, or if nothing else, just turn on Airplane Mode. Give your phone a break.

14. Use battery saver (Android)

Battery saver

Battery saver on Android

Most of the recent Android flagship phones—like the Galaxy S6, Nexus 6 and HTC One M9—have battery saving modes that can extend the life of your device by another dozen hours, even if you’re already under 20%.

Go to Settings—>Battery and click on the three dots in the upper right corner.

Battery saver performs several of the earlier tips on this list all at once, by limiting vibrations, location services and background data. Email and other apps will also sync less frequently.

Airplane mode

Airplane Mode on Android and iOS

15. Airplane mode

If all else fails, there’s still good old Airplane Mode. It might render all your phone’s best features useless, but it’s guaranteed to stop the bleeding. After all, a smartphone gone dumb is still better than a smartphone gone dead.

Read next: 3 Things You Really Should Know About Mobile Payments

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TIME psychology

How to Get Smarter

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Wouldn’t you like to know how to get smarter? Of course.

I’ve looked at the science on the subject many times in the past and there are some simple methods — like, believe it or not, exercise and even chewing gum.

But is that really going to move the needle over the long haul? Research shows that IQ isn’t all that valuable without a little discipline behind it.

So what’s going to really make a difference? Learning.

Cool. But learning new stuff takes time. And you’re busy. But what if you could pick up new skills super fast?

Ah-ha. Now we’re on to something. However, I’m no expert at this. But, luckily, I know a guy who is.

Tim Ferriss is the bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek. And he’s also an expert at learning new stuff fast. In fact, his new TV show, The Tim Ferriss Experiment, is about just that.

In the various episodes Tim tackles all kinds of skills from poker to rally car racing to chess — and then puts his new talents to the test. (He picks up the language Tagalog in 4 days and then does an interview in Tagalog on Filipino TV.)

So what can Tim teach you about accelerated learning? A lot. And all you have to remember is a simple acronym:

“DiSSS”

Those are the four steps: Deconstruction, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes. Tim explains in this video:

I’ll break down the steps for you below. Okay, let’s get learnin’.

1) Deconstruction

Picking up a language? Oh god, that takes forever… Wrong.

Every skill has parts. To learn effectively you need to break it down into the key elements. This makes something that may seem overwhelming and divides it into manageable chunks. Here’s Tim:

The D is deconstruction. You’re taking a complex skill like learning a language, tactical shooting, or swimming and breaking it down into components. For swimming you would have arm movement, leg movement, different strokes, etc. Try to break a skill down into 5-10 pieces.

(For more on the 8 things successful people do that make them great, click here.)

That’s pretty straightforward. But here’s where Tim’s expertise really helps…

2) Selection

Most classes or books start you out from the beginning and gradually build you up. That’s nice if you have a lot of time. You don’t.

We need to be smart about where we put our energy and focus if we want to make progress quickly. Forget what is fundamental and ask yourself what is most important to get to competency. Here’s Tim:

The first S is selection. That’s doing an 80-20 analysis and asking yourself, “Which 20% of these things I need to learn will get me 80% of the results that I want?”

So when learning a language, Tim doesn’t bother with the typical basics. He looks at what the most frequently used words are and studies those first.

That Spanish class taught you the word “Father” in the first week. But how often do you really talk about Dad? Here’s Tim:

You can become functionally fluent in any language, in my opinion, in 6-12 months. But you can do it in more like 8-12 weeks just by choosing the 1500 highest frequency words. What you study is more important than how you study it. Rosetta Stone is not going to help you if you’re studying the wrong words.

This jibes with the research. When I spoke to Sports Gene author David Epstein about how world class athletes train, he said the same thing: “The hallmark of expertise is figuring out what information is important.”

And what’s the first thing academic research shows helps undergraduates get better grades? Yup:

Learning occurs best when important information is selected from less important ideas, when selected information is organized graphically, when associations are built among ideas and when understanding is regulated through self-testing…

(For more of what top athletes can teach you about being the best at anything, click here.)

So you know what’s important. What’s next?

3) Sequencing

This is the thing most teachers, classes and books get wrong.

Not only do they not focus on what’s important but they don’t work on that stuff first. Here’s Tim:

The next S is sequencing. That’s just putting things in the right order. Putting things in the right progression, that’s really the secret sauce that is missing from almost any instructional book, DVD, video, class, etc.

When Tim was learning chess from champion Josh Waitzkin (whose life was the basis for the film “Searching for Bobby Fischer“) they did things the opposite from how most chess instruction works.

They didn’t start with the beginning of a chess game. They jumped straight to key moves that are applicable to the majority of interactions on the board. This allowed Tim to hang with top players after only a few days of practice. Here’s Tim:

Josh would basically do things in reverse. He took all the pieces off the board and started training me with King and Pawn versus King. By doing that he was teaching me not rote memorization of openings, but really powerful principles that can apply to the entire game in many different circumstances. Just by giving me a very short tutorial on a few principles with three pieces on the board, I went to Washington Square Park, and I was able to survive three or four times longer than I should have against a really savvy speed chess street hustler.

(To learn how to develop a photographic memory in four steps, click here.)

So you’ve broken your area of study into parts, figured out what is important, and you’re focusing on that first. What’s the final step?

4) Stakes

You won’t get fired from your job if you don’t learn to speak Russian. Your family won’t starve if you don’t master the guitar. And this is why you quit. Because you can.

You need an incentive to keep practicing. Or, even better: a penalty if you don’t practice. Here’s Tim:

Stakes is arguably the most important piece. By stakes, I mean consequences. Some type of reward or punishment to keep you on track and accountable. To prevent yourself from quitting, you need incentives.

So Tim recommends using what researchers call a “commitment device.”

Write a check for $100 to a political party you hate or a cause you are actively against. Give it to a friend. If you don’t achieve your goal or put in the hours, your friend mails the check. Boom. You’re now motivated.

(For more on how to conquer procrastination once and for all, click here.)

Okay, Tim has given us some powerful tools for learning. Let’s round them up.

Sum Up

Just remember this… actually, just remember “DiSSS”:

  1. Deconstruction: Break a skill down into its key elements.
  2. Selection: Figure out what’s important and what gets used most often.
  3. Sequencing: Work on the important stuff, not what chronologically comes first.
  4. Stakes: Use a “commitment device” to make sure you have skin in the game and don’t quit.

And hang out with smart people. Research shows it helps. (In fact, studies show stupidity is contagious.)

So what’s the best way to get started? This is no magic trick. It comes from the heart. The first step is to believe that you can become smarter:

Thinking about intelligence as changeable and malleable, rather than stable and fixed, results in greater academic achievement, especially for people whose groups bear the burden of negative stereotypes about their intelligence.

And learning doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Wanna be smarter? Surround yourself with people who believe in you.

Via The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science:

…Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) did the same study in a classroom, telling elementary school teachers that they had certain students in their class who were “academic spurters.” In fact, these students were selected at random. Absolutely nothing else was done by the researchers to single out these children. Yet by the end of the school year, 30 percent of the the children arbitrarily named as spurters had gained an average of 22 IQ points, and almost all had gained at least 10 IQ points.

Want even more accelerated learning secrets?

In my next weekly email I’ll have powerful insights from Tim including his counterintuitive advice on how to retain skills and the one question he always asks experts so he gets their most valuable lessons quickly. Get it all by joining here.

Join over 185,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Network When You’re an Introvert

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Connecting with people online before you meet them can be really helpful

In today’s workplace environment, we use more technology than ever before. As new businesses become more technology and information driven, the quieter an office becomes. How do we set ourselves apart in a world full of successful and smart introverts?

We become great at networking.

The advice to reach out to others in order to improve the outlook of your business is well-known, but for those who are introverted, it’s much easier said than done. Even if you feel that your strengths lie in being a player behind the scenes, you can still benefit from networking. Here’s how to do it as painlessly as possible:

Network and make connections online

Connecting with people online before you meet them can be really helpful. Connect with other event attendees on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and social media platforms before an event. Connecting prior to meeting allows for you to feel less alone when you arrive. Familiar faces, even if they belong to a stranger, can be really comforting. You can also use this to find new events by connecting with people who are a part of or work at organizations that you belong to.

Talk about your accomplishments

This one is hard for introverts. By definition, introverts often stay in the shadows and seldom celebrate their achievements publicly. It’s not a bad thing to let people know what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished – and talking about these achievements can help you to make connections that you are able to help.

Discuss your goals and ideas

There’s no need to prattle on about 100 different ideas that are floating through your head, but if you’re looking for something to talk about when you meet someone in the industry, bring up an opinion that you have or an idea that is specific to your industry to jumpstart the conversation. Ask the person what their goals are and take time to see if you know anyone that could help them. Sharing your connections is a great way to gain new strong connections.

Don’t overthink it

When you go home, leave your interactions and networking attempts alone emotionally. No need to go over and over what you said, how the other person responded, or whether or not you were well received. Even if you feel like you made a few social blunders, don’t dwell on it. Concentrate your energy on the positive things that came out of your networking attempt and let your mistakes inform your choices next time.

Maintain strong relationships

Every so often, you’ll make a strong connection, and when that happens, it will help you with your networking to maintain that connection and create a solid relationship. This person may be likely to speak up on your behalf, introduce you to others, and make your networking easier. This goes both ways. Make sure to speak for your other connections and listen for opportunities for them as well.

Takes notes

It’s important to remember the faces and names of the people you meet after attending a networking event. When someone hands you their card, look at the card and then at them. When they walk away, type a small note into your phone or on a notepad so that you can remember them later. After the event, send an email to them and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them.

Networking is difficult for anyone and for introverts, it can be painful. However, as you start to make connections, the benefit will soon outweigh the work.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

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