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Author: Ginni Saraswati

Positive Affirmations Around Social Media Reactions


Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are designed to not only enable but encourage people to provide feedback about content posted by others. This might take the form of a like, simple thumbs up or down, text, or something more sophisticated like a text or video response.

If you’ve ever posted content online, then you know just how enticing it can be to check how many people have liked what you’ve posted. Continue reading Positive Affirmations Around Social Media Reactions

Scheduling Downtime into Your Calendar

Although electronic calendars, software, and the internet were supposed to make it easier than ever to schedule meetings, people arrive late, reschedule them, or miss them altogether more frequently these days.

Here are just a few of the reasons why I think we are more disorganized, late, and stressed out about our calendar:

    • We are now able to contact people at the last minute if we need to cancel or reschedule.
    • We often schedule meetings without having our calendars in front of us.
    • The sheer number of appointments, devices, and calendars that we have to stay on top of can be overwhelming.
Today, I’m going to focus on just one of the many ways that you can address this problem in your life: Consciously and explicitly insert downtime into your calendar between your scheduled appointments.

Account for Travel Time

The first reason to schedule downtime may seem obvious, but I’m always surprised by how many people don’t take it into consideration. People rarely put any travel time between appointments, and if you do that, you are setting yourself up for failure.

This is worth it even if you have back-to-back appointments in the same building, as it still takes time to travel from one meeting to the other. You need to gather up your things only to then set them up again in the next room.

The simplest way to put downtime into your calendar is to leave empty space in between your meetings. If you’re new to this habit, I would suggest specifically putting the travel time into your calendar as an appointment. Most operating systems now have a travel time feature you could use to that end.

Less Stress, More Productivity

Taking downtime into consideration can prove beneficial in a number of ways:

    • Having to create that appointment will encourage you to think consciously and realistically about how much time you really need to travel instead of mindlessly assuming it. When you create that travel time appointment, you’re going to need to decide how long to make it, which gives you time to pause and think about it.
    • You can set yourself a reminder that you need to start traveling by a certain time, which will ensure that you get moving when you need to.
    • Putting the downtime into your calendar will increase your likelihood of giving some serious thought as to whether your previous or next meeting is going to be long enough to fulfill its purpose.
If you’ve really put some thought into budgeting your time and considering unexpected delays, you’ll be more punctual and less likely to worry about the state of your appointments. Your anxiety will be reduced and you may have actual downtime in between meetings.

These are all mindfulness and stress reduction side effects. Scheduling downtime will also help you get better over time at estimating how much you can get done in a day. Many of us tend to schedule too many meetings to the point where there’s not enough time to be in them. This can create assumptions that lead to rescheduling and cutting meetings short, which then induces stress. 

It’s important to be realistic about what we can accomplish with the time we have in a day and to schedule accordingly. Ultimately, downtime will help increase your productivity and reduce your stress.

De-Cluttering Your Desktop


The so-called “desktop metaphor” has been around on personal computers for about 40 years and is still the dominant way of visually organizing information. It was originally designed to emulate a physical desktop on which you put folders, files, and other types of documents and devices.

Regardless of how you feel about computer desktops, they can become cluttered just like a physical desktop, which can be distracting, stress-inducing, and hinder your productivity.

If your desktop is filled from top to bottom with icons, are you aware of whether just glancing at that desktop hundreds of times throughout the day causes any feelings of stress? Perhaps you catch an icon for a document you’re working on out of the corner of your eye. It may cause a thought or worry about how you’re going to complete that document. The thought may be fleeting and you may only be semi-aware of it. However, consider the cumulative impact of having so many experiences like this throughout your day just because of how many times you are looking at that desktop.

Here are a few tips you can follow to remove the clutter from your desktop.
Continue reading De-Cluttering Your Desktop

Scheduling Time to Respond to Emails

Staying on top of your email inbox can feel like a daunting and never-ending task. Although I don’t have any magic solution to this issue, the tip I’ll share today has helped me cut through the clutter much more efficiently, allowing me to stay focused on real work and thus have much more time during my work day.

Here is my suggestion: Put emails that you receive onto your calendar so that you respond to them at scheduled times.

If that sounds completely crazy to you, let me clarify. First, I have a few recurring appointments on my calendar for responding to emails in certain categories. These include:
  • Accounting- and bookkeeping-related emails such as invoices I receive from vendors.
  • Messages from potential new customers.
  • Emails related to marketing tasks.
  • Small miscellaneous questions that I receive from my clients.
The common thread between these categories is that the emails don’t require an immediate reply. Also, they aren’t typically part of a longer conversation — a single response will do the trick. This combination of qualities makes these types of emails work really well with my calendaring system.

Granted, this may not suit urgent emails quite as well. So if you think that calendaring your emails won’t work for you, perhaps it’s because you’re thinking about certain types of emails that aren’t fit for your calendar. Step back for a minute and consider whether you frequently receive the types of emails I’m talking about. Your categories may be different than mine, but if they’re similar in nature, then read on.

1. Pick Your Categories and Put Recurring Appointments on Your Calendar
Choose times that would make sense for you to respond to emails in those categories. Think carefully about the timing. Some categories might require you to have appointments every day of the week or even multiple times a day. Other categories might only require a weekly appointment.

Consider how frequently you really need to respond to emails in each category and put in the minimum number of appointments per day/week that you will need. Set up the appointments to repeat according to a schedule that you think will work for you.

2. Be Disciplined
Whenever you check your inbox, you must be very diligent about not responding to any emails within your calendared categories. Instead, add them to the next appointment for that category.

Personally, I use Microsoft Outlook, which makes it very easy to just drag and drop emails directly onto calendar appointments. Just open the appointment, drag an email onto it, and it will attach there. It’s that simple. You could also type notes next to each email in the appointment to give yourself some guidance or context about how to respond to it.

I’m sure you will find it hard to resist the temptation to respond immediately, so expect this to happen and remember that it will take practice to create the habit.

3. Stay Focused
When the time arrives for each of your scheduled email appointments, you must be disciplined about opening that appointment and staying focused on responding to all of the emails without switching to other tasks. Try doing it a few times and see how it feels.

In my experience, I typically feel very satisfied by how efficiently I can get through a large number of emails in each category. There are many reasons for this, and one is that I find it easier to keep my mindset focused on a particular topic (ex. accounting or marketing) and respond to a bunch of emails in that category rather than switching back and forth between different ones.

Another reason is that many of the emails in the same category often relate to the same topic or project, and as a result, I can easily keep all of the information about that topic or project in mind while responding to all of the emails.

Moreover, I’ve often found that by waiting to respond to emails, some of them become unnecessary to address by the time I get around to them. Maybe someone else responded to them. Waiting to respond can sometimes eliminate work that I would have had to perform if I responded immediately.

4. After You Respond to Your Emails
When you’re done responding to all of the emails in one of your appointments, it’s important to return to not responding to emails in that category until your next appointment. Begin the process again.

Give this a try and see how it works for you. Some aspects may not work for you immediately, but instead of giving up on the process entirely, tweak it to see if you can make it work better for your particular situation. For example, you may need more or fewer appointments. You may need to change your email categories. You may need to change your stance on which types of emails you will respond to. All of this will depend on your own situation, demands, and preferences.

I hope you find this helpful and your email productivity increases!

Finding the Joy in Anticipation Beyond All the Communication

A while back, I heard someone say that technology has brought about the end of anticipation. Before the internet, when we went to visit a family member or friend who lived far away from us, we had a lot to talk about and catch up on since the last time saw each other.
Continue reading Finding the Joy in Anticipation Beyond All the Communication

3 Easy Ways to Form a New Tech Habit


On this blog, we often provide tips for how to make more mindful, productive, and efficient use of technology. It’s easier to describe what to do than to actually create and engage in the habit of doing it. Suggesting that you don’t use your smartphone immediately upon waking up in the morning or within an hour of going to bed doesn’t make creating and following that habit easy to do. 

Today, I’ll offer three pointers that will improve your chances of forming a new and enduring technology habit.

Ease into It

Many of us try to create a new habit by just engaging in it directly. For example, if you want to practice not using your smartphone for an hour after you wake up, you might try going cold turkey right away. I’ve found that this approach often results in failure, as it doesn’t help change my behavior or reinforce the intended behavior.

Try easing into a habit like this: On the first night, start out by not using your phone for the last five minutes before you go to bed. That should be much easier than an hour. Practice that for a few days, a week, or until you feel like that habit is ingrained and does not need to be practiced. Then increase the amount of time and keep expanding the habit in that way.

By easing into it, you may find that you’re more likely to create the habit than if you try to bite off the entire task from the beginning. Start with a smaller, more manageable version of it and increase it over time.

Make It Easy on Yourself

When I try to create a new habit for myself, I often do it in a very austere kind of way. This can work if I pose some structure around it, but it can be quite boring. Other than the reward of feeling like I’ve accomplished my goal, it doesn’t really have any other positive associations.

With that said, there’s a wide variety of ways to make it easier to create the habit. For example, these are all things I’ve done and you can try:

  1. Enlist the help of your friends, family, and coworkers to support you. Maybe they can provide reminders for you.
  2. Use technology to set a reminder to do or not do something.
  3. Associate a positive feeling with this new habit. Focus and draw your attention to that positive feeling.
You may worry that these tricks are crutches. If you ask friends to remind you of something, you may feel like you’ll rely on them. And if they stop reminding you, you may stop engaging in the good habit altogether. On the flip side, sometimes we can do things to help us create a habit and supports for the habit, and once the habit is ingrained in our minds and bodies, we no longer need those initial supports to keep the habit going.

Be creative when thinking about what you might be able to do to help you form a new habit. Make it as well as the trigger for engaging in it fun if that benefits the process.

Pay Attention to How You Feel Each Time After Engaging in the Habit

So, you’re practicing not using your phone before bed. Maybe you set an alarm 15 minutes before bed to remind yourself not to use your phone. When that 15 minutes is over, pay attention to how you feel now that you have not used your phone. Bringing my attention to how I feel after I’ve practiced this actually helps that habit to form better. It’s a way to bring mindfulness to the formation of a new habit to help enforce it.

Bear in mind that you can apply these tips to any kind of habits. I hope you find them helpful for any change that you are seeking.

Turning Off Your Work Mind

Do you find that it’s hard to turn your work mind off even after you stop working? Is the “end of the work day” concept foreign to you because you keep your nose so close the grindstone? Many of us find ourselves in this situation — particularly with smartphones, laptops, and mobile internet enabling us to stay connected at all times.

Those of us who work from home can find it especially difficult to create boundaries between work and personal life. Here are some suggestions for doing just that.

1. Try to develop a regular work schedule.
This allows you to get into the habit of starting and stopping work at certain times of the day. It doesn’t have to be a traditional schedule. Just find what works for you. It can even include several different periods of work on different days. The key is doing your best to schedule certain regular times for starting and stopping work, creating a habit in your mind through repetition.

2. Develop starting and ending work habits/rituals.
These are certain actions that you perform and thoughts that you have to transition your mind into and out of work mode. They could be as simple as stopping and pausing for 5 or 10 seconds and thinking about what you’re going to transition into. You might say it out loud or in your mind to engage your focus. It could be something as simple as arranging things on your desk or simply starting work. No matter the tasks, these should help you make the mental transition to and from work.

Rituals are found in several other traditions. For instance, when you walk into a Japanese martial arts school, you pause and bow at the threshold before entering. At the beginning of each class, there is also a bowing ceremony. I was always taught that one of this ritual’s purposes is to help us reach a more focused mental state.

These tips have something in common: They help to create and enforce mental boundaries between work time and non-work time. I think these boundaries have always existed, but it’s particularly important these days to intentionally create them because they’re missing in the way that many of us work. Technology makes information and communication available to us at all times and in all places. Many of us can work without going into an office, with different people, and on different projects. Obviously, this situation suffers from a lack of boundaries.

If we want to have them in our lives, we have to create them ourselves through force of habit.

Here’s another resource that could help: Shutdown Rituals: Leave the Work Stress at Work.

How Older Technologies Can Keep Us More Mindful



Our culture strongly promotes the idea that the newest technology is always the best. That belief is spread by its makers with their own incentives for encouraging us to always buy the latest version of every product. However, sometimes using older technology can be better in terms of reaching our mindfulness goals.

Today’s tip is to not automatically reach for the shiny new toy. Instead, be aware of your options so you can make wise and mindful choices about which technology to use in any particular situation. 

I’ve given a few specific examples, but I encourage you to apply the same principle to all aspects of your life. Focus your attention on becoming aware of any opportunities to use older technology or no technology at all when you want to get something done.

Writing the Old-Fashioned Way

Most of us do nearly all of our writing on devices. When was the last time you wrote an actual letter to someone? Using pen and paper is just one of the writing options you should explore:

    • I often write first drafts of longer things such as essays or work memos by hand. I find it easier for me to dump out my ideas without distraction or editing that way.
    • You may also want to try some of the distraction-free word processors that we’ve mentioned before if you want to stay more focused while writing. They show you little more than a blank screen so that you can stay focused on the words you are writing and not the toolbar, menu, or any other visual elements.
    • Some authors have even switched back to using old-fashioned typewriters for their novels and other books — or at least their first drafts.
Try out different options and see what works best for you.

Although I use an app on my phone to keep track of my tasks, sometimes I find it more effective to quickly jot them down on a small piece of paper so that they’re easier and faster for me to find and look at as I move from task to task.

Efficiency and focus are not the only reasons you might want to try using older forms of technology for writing. If you want to convey a personal and heartfelt message to someone (such as a thank-you or condolences for a loss), many people find it more meaningful to receive that kind of message in hand-written form than by email or even a pre-printed card. 

You may find that writing out the message longhand helps you focus not only on the content of what you’re writing but the feeling behind it. You might experience that feeling more deeply than you would on a device.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Now I’ll use the flip side of writing: reading. While I do an incredible amount of reading on devices, scientific research confirms that attempting to read anything longer than a paragraph on a modern device’s screen can be extremely frustrating and counterproductive. This is in large part due to the number of distractions that our devices present to us while we are reading.

The good news is that many other options are available to us, and they don’t all involve giving up on technology completely.

For reading books, I have an older black-and-white Kindle that only shows me the text of the book. This is a much more pleasant and calming way to read, and it helps me absorb more of what I’m reading than on a smartphone or computer. 

Think about the size of the screen that you use to read different types of messages too. I don’t know anyone who’d want to read a long piece on an Apple Watch. On the other hand, a smartphone can be a great way to read text messages. As a general rule, most people find it easier to read longer works on bigger screens, but try out different options to determine what works best for you.

I don’t want to suggest wasting paper at the expense of the environment, but in some cases, I print out documents to read them on paper — particularly if I need to provide the author with feedback on what has been written because I find it both easier to stay focused on what I’m reading and to jot down notes on paper than on a word processor. Despite all of the advances with screens and document software, I still find it easier to quickly glance back at previous parts of a document on paper than on a screen. 

When I’m done, I either scan the document with my hand-written edits or type the edits into the document on a word processor.

Consider Your Options

Writing and reading are just two examples of how many different technological options are available to help you avoid the common trap of automatically turning to the latest technology or whatever technology you happen to be using at the moment.

We all tend to engage in that kind of technological inertia or let it dictate which technologies we use and how we use them. But if we apply some mindfulness to pause, step back, and reflect on what our intention is for the task at hand while considering our options, we can then make a conscious choice based on our intention and understanding of our current situation.

As a result, we will be less likely to rush ahead automatically and more likely to engage in that task in a way that is not only more productive but also more satisfying.

How to Prioritize Responding to Important Messages


Have you ever planned to respond to a particular message and then found yourself replying to new ones as they arrive? Of course you have. We’ve all done it. Continue reading How to Prioritize Responding to Important Messages

How to Mindfully Use Your GPS


I have no natural sense of direction. As a result, I think the GPS is one of the greatest inventions in human history. I rely on the GPS on my phone to get me almost everywhere and appreciate it not only because of its obvious purpose but also because it reduces the stress of driving, walking, and traveling to new places. It gives me the confidence to go places on my own that I normally wouldn’t try to travel to without a GPS. 

At the same time, I’ve become aware of how overly reliant I’ve become on my GPS and how I tend to use it in a way that does not necessarily help me become engaged with, aware of, and attuned to my surroundings.

I’ve recently tried to start applying mindfulness to my use of the GPS, and here’s what I’ve noticed and learned so far.
Continue reading How to Mindfully Use Your GPS