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Author: Robert Plotkin

Podcast Episode #4: Interview with Dr. Susan Maushart, Author of The Winter of Our Disconnect

We’ve just posted the latest episode of the Technology for Mindfulness Podcast, where Dr. Susan Maushart, author of The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale, joins host Robert Plotkin for a discussion about how she and her three teenage children went technology-free in their home for six months.

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Podcast Episode #03: Interview with Dr. Judson Brewer, Author of The Craving Mind

We’ve just posted the latest episode of the Technology for Mindfulness Podcast, where Dr. Judson Brewer, Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness, joins host Robert Plotkin for a discussion about Dr. Brewer’s recent book, The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits, which describes how our technology habits share many of the same neurological origins and traits as drug and food addictions, and how we can use mindfulness to break these harmful habit loops.

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Podcast Episode #02: Interview with Maggie Jackson, Author of Distracted

maggie-jackson-smallWe’ve just posted the latest episode of the Technology for Mindfulness Podcast, where author Maggie Jackson joins host Robert Plotkin for a discussion about how technology can distract us and what we can do about it. Jackson is an award-winning author and former Boston Globe columnist known for her penetrating coverage of social issues, especially technology’s impact on humanity. Her essays and articles have appeared in publications worldwide, including the The New York Times, Business Week, Utne, and on National Public Radio. Her acclaimed book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, jumpstarted our global conversation on the steep costs of fragmenting our attention. Jackson’s first book, What’s Happening to Home? Balancing Work, Life and Refuge in the Information Age, examined the loss of home as a refuge. Find more info on Maggie Jackson at maggie-jackson.com.

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Smartphone Liberation — MIT, February 10

Tomorrow I’ll be leading an interactive session at MIT called “Smartphone Liberation.” In the session I’ll guide attendees through a series of guided meditation exercises using their smartphones, with the intention of helping us to become more mindful of how we interact with our smartphones. Although most mindfulness training requires you to begin by turning off and putting away your smartphone, in this session I ask that you bring your smartphone with you so that you can engage with it directly and, we hope, a bit more mindfully by the end of the hour. The event is on Friday, February 10 from 12pm-1pm at MIT, Building 66, Room 144. Hope to see you there!

Five Ways to Practice Mindfulness Without Meditating

Zen stonesThe term “mindfulness” is often used hand in hand, or even synonymously, with “meditating,” and for good reason–mindfulness meditation is one of the most longstanding and widely-used techniques for practicing mindfulness.  It isn’t, however, the only way.  In Buddhist teaching it is said that there are 84,000 doors to enlightenment.  Here I’ll mention just five:

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Taking Control of Notifications to Take Back Your Attention

notificationsReceiving a reminder of an upcoming meeting or task from our smartphones can be a great way to remember to be somewhere to get something done on time.  All too often, however, our smartphones beep, flash, and vibrate at us every few minutes to provide us with information we don’t really need.  And we know that regaining our attention after such a distraction can take ten minutes or more, particularly if we were engaged in deep thought when interrupted.

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A Preemptive Strike in the Battle Against Messaging Fatigue

Do you feel like you spend more of your day responding to messages than living?  Do you need to turn off your smartphone at work and A Preemptive Strike in the Battle Against Messaging Fatiguehide in a closet just to get “real” work done?  If so, you may be suffering from messaging fatigue.

One source of this ailment is the need–whether perceived or real–to respond immediately to messages we receive. We feel that if someone sends us a message and we don’t respond immediately, something horrible will happen–we’ll lose a customer, damage a friendship, miss out on an opportunity.

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Making Email Slow Again

When I first began to use email in earnest, while a student at MIT in the early 1990s, writing and reading emails had much the same email-iconfeeling as writing and reading handwritten letters.  By far the easiest way to write an email was to go to one of a small number of computer clusters on campus and log in to a computer terminal.  The people I sent email messages to were few and far between, and they also had relatively infrequent access to an email-enabled computer.  So if you sent an email to someone, you expected that they might not read it and respond for at least a few days, if not much longer.  All of this encouraged the writing of messages that were relatively long and that provided information that could be quite out of date, much like a handwritten letter.

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Set Your Intention, See Your Intention

Set Your Intention, See Your IntentionSetting a clear intention is one of the most important parts of mindfulness practice.  At the beginning of the day you might set an intention to act respectfully towards everyone you interact with, to be grateful for what you have, or to exhibit generosity.

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A Technological Trick for Avoiding Mindless Meetings

mindless meetings

A good meeting can energize people, refocus a team, and strengthen interpersonal connections.  A bad meeting can suck the energy out of a room and leave everyone feeling frustrated and exhausted.  No wonder that corporate meetings are the bane of office workers and are an endless source of humor for comedians and sitcom writers.

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Take a Break to Stay Focused

stay foucsed

The workaholics among us (I can count myself in that group too much of the time) often feel that taking a break is a sign of weakness, or at least will reduce our productivity.  In reality, and perhaps counter intuitively, taking breaks can help you to rejuvenate and regain your focus, and thereby increase your overall effectiveness and productivity, whether the work you are doing is physical, mental, or a combination of both.

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Protecting Yourself Against Yourself: Blocking Apps for Focus

screenshot focus

Although we’d all like to have such a high degree of self-control that we don’t need any external aids to keep ourselves focused and present when using technology, in practice we can all use a little help.  There are a variety of apps you can use to resist technological temptation by making it impossible (or at least very difficult) to succumb to that temptation.  Some good examples are:

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Technological Distractions are a Bug, Not a Feature

Technological Distractions are a Bug, Not a Feature

I can’t count how many times I have heard the following responses to a complaint about how technology can distract us:

  • “You can’t turn back the clock.”
  • “If you find it distracting, just turn it off.”
  • “It’s the price we pay for the benefits of technology.”

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Pokemon Go: Does “Augmented Reality” Augment Reality?

pokemon-go

The term “augmented reality” refers to technologies — like Pokemon Go — that superimpose characters and other objects on images of the real world.

But does “augmented reality” necessarily augment reality?  The term “augment” connotes an improvement, not just an addition.  Just consider that in the last few weeks Pokemon Go has been reported to:

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Wisdom Films for the Modern Age

Wisdom Films for the Modern Age

I just attended a session at Wisdom 2.0 called, “Wisdom Films for the Modern Age.”  We may not think about film as a form of technology anymore because we are so familiar with it, but film and the various mechanisms for distributing it are technologies that act as amplifiers.

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The Future of Transformation: How Can Technology Assist Awakening Wisdom?

 

The Future of Transformation: How Can Technology Assist Awakening Wisdom? by Robert Plotkin

This morning I attended a session at Wisdom 2.0 entitled, “The Future of Transformation: How Can Technology Assist Awakening Wisdom?”  Here’s some highlights.

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Time to Vote for Technology For Mindfulness on the Wisdom 2.0 “People’s Stage”

We have an exciting update to share. I am applying to appear on “The People’s Stage” at the upcoming Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco this February. Check out my one-minute video contest entry.

 

There are about 100 entrants, but only four will be selected to appear on stage. Help me become one of them by casting your vote!

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Mindful Gratitude

grateful

 

In keeping with the holiday season, today’s post is a simple reminder to set an intention to be grateful. If I were to represent the topics of my thoughts over the course of a day as a pie chart, the biggest slice usually represents things to do, with a tiny sliver dedicated to things to be thankful for. Furthermore, thoughts and feelings of gratitude often come and go fleetingly, without my mind resting on them and giving them the attention and focus they deserve.

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Presentation on Apps for Focus and Mindfulness at MIT

MIT Radius Mindful Group

 

I will be giving a presentation tomorrow (Tuesday, November 17) on apps that can help to promote focus and mindfulness at MIT (Room 4-270), as part of the Radius “Hack Your Mind” program.  There has been a boom in mindfulness apps over the last year or two, which makes this an exciting time to give the presentation.

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Mindful Technology Tip: How to Control Interruptions

Distraction technologyDo you find it hard to remain focused and mindful in the face of a constant barrage of interruptions from your devices: smartphone ringing, email notifications blinking, text messages chirping?  Fortunately there are a variety of ways to configure your devices to limit when, where, and how they interrupt you.

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Review: Focus@Will Uses Music to Help You Stay Mindful

Focus@Willmindful technology  is a web site that plays music designed to increase the amount of time you can stay focused.  I started using the site a few years ago, after seeing two of the site’s founders, Will Henshall and Dr. Evian Gordon, give a presentation about the site at one of the Wisdom 2.0 conferences.

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Guest Blog Posting on Everyday Mindfulness: Mindfulness Lessons from the Martial Arts

Guest Blog Posting on Everyday Mindfulness: Mindfulness Lessons from the Martial Arts

 

I’ve had the privilege of writing a guest blog posting on Everyday Mindfulness entitled, “Responding Not Reacting: Mindfulness Lessons From The Martial Arts.”  In it I describe some lessons I have learned about responding rather than reacting from my training in martial arts over the years.  In particular I thought it would be interesting to explore how an action can be a response even when it is immediate, in light of the fact that I often hear it said that responding is about pausing before taking action.

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Gmail Offers Anti-Mindlessness Insurance

Google Gmail recently finalized its “Undo Send” featureGmail, which enables you to recall an outgoing email up to ten seconds after you hit “Send” on it.  The feature works by delaying the sending of the email for ten seconds, so that if you hit “Undo Send,” the email will not be sent in the first place.

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Series: What Mindfulness Means to Me, Robert Plotkin

In an effort to share a range of perspectives on the meaning of mindfulness and to facilitate a discussion about this important topic, we are posting a series of short essays by different contributors on “What Mindfulness Means to Me.”  Below is our founder, Robert Plotkin’s view of what mindfulness means to him.

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Electric Toothbrushes: A Tool for Mindfulness?

Electric Toothbrushes: A Tool for Mindfulness?

  I started using an electric toothbrush about a year ago after scoffing at them for many years. Now I love it. What I didn’t expect was that it would both provide some good mindfulness training and also encourage mindlessness.  Let me explain.

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How to Vacation Mindfully

Phone on beach, mindful technology

 

It was easier to “get away from it all” on vacation before smartphones and the Internet. Our ever-present devices now blur the line between work and vacation, making it more important than ever that we be actively mindful on our vacations, lest our precious time away from work become little more than a week-long telecommute, leaving us feeling like we need a vacation to recover from our vacation.

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A Sneaky Way to Eliminate Technological Distractions at the Dinner Table

Have you ever sat down with your family for dinner, only to be faced with the glare of smartphones from everyone at the table?  If so, then Dolmio Australia claims to have a technological solution to the problem:

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iPad Update a Step Back for Mindfulness?

Apple recently announced that iOS 9 for the iPad will allow two apps to be displayed side-by-side simultaneously.  This feature, like every multitasking “improvement,” is being promoted as a way to enable users to be more productive, so why do I find myself feeling sad that Apple didn’t continue to hold the line against the “everything, everywhere, all-the-time, simultaneously” philosophy that consumes device and operating system design all too often?

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5 Tips for Using Technology More Mindfully

phone

 

We all complain about how technology distracts us and makes it harder to be mindful. Now is the time to stop moaning and take charge. Here are five tips for using technology to help you be more mindful.

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Smiling Practice at a Legal Conference

This weekend I am attending a legal conference with 10,000 intellectual property attorneys from nearly every country in the world.  It is a great opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and to begin to form new relationships.

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“Hack Your Mind” Series on Mindfulness and Technology at MIT

I have had the pleasure and privilege to take part in organizing a series of events on science, technology, and mindfulness at MIT under the banner of “Hack Your Mind.”  The series was organized by Radius (formerly the Technology and Culture Forum) in partnership with Community Wellness at MIT.

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Nattch Offers a Social Networking System with Reduced Distractions

Nattch is an online social networking system that only allows users to post updates about their actual lives–no links to other information on the Internet allowed.  The goal is to limit posts to information about users themselves, and to eliminate the clutter and temptation of links to external–and usually irrelevant–information.

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Too Bad Law Firm’s Mindful Email Policy Was Just an April Fool’s Joke

The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges sent an email to its employees on April 1 stating that electronic messages would not be transmitted by the firm’s servers late at night or be delivered to employees while on vacation.  Seems like a reasonable and respectful way to counter the constant need for connectivity among professionals, in an effort to reduce stress and improve health and well-being, right?

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Why is Facebook like Crack? How technology sucks us in and how mindfulness can help us step out

Judson Brewer, MD PhD, Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness, will be giving a presentation at MIT on Friday April 17, from 12pm-1pm in Room 66-144 on how mindfulness can help break us out of addictive patterns in connection with Internet use.  See full details below.  Sponsored by MIT Radius.

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David Levy Teaches Course on “Information and Contemplation”

University of Washington Professor David Levy teaches a course entitled, “Information and Contemplation,” in which he guides students through mind-training exercises, such as engaging in only one digital task at a time, to raise students’ awareness about how they use computer technology.  He also begins each session with a short meditation.  Read more about it at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

Mexican Resort Introduces Digital Detox Program

The Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico have introduced a “Digital Detox” program.  If you sign up for the program, a “Detox Concierge” will cleanse your suite of digital distractions upon your arrival, such as by removing the flat screen television from the room, replacing it with classic board games, and taking your personal electronic devices from you and storing them in a safe. I was interested to hear Sharon Brody’s commentary about the program on NPR this morning, which the NPR web site entitles, “Digital Detox Vacation: For Those Who Have Everything–Except Willpower.” 

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Attention as a Resource

Matthew B. Crawford has an interesting piece in the New York Times suggesting that we view our attention as a resource and recognize that “a person has only so much of it.”  “What if we saw attention in the same way that we saw air or water, as a valuable resource that we hold in common? Perhaps, if we could envision an “attentional commons,” then we could figure out how to protect it.”

 

Welcome to Technology for Mindfulness

Welcome to Technology for Mindfulness, where we explore the ways in which technology can both promote and impede mindfulness—with an emphasis on the former. We examine the relationship between technology and mindfulness by reviewing products, revealing research, and posting musings.

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The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

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