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Category: Mindfulness

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

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.

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

Apple and Google’s Digital Health Initiatives


Both Google and Apple recently announced major initiatives to address the problems of digital distraction, stress, and anxiety. These will affect all of their products.

Each of the companies has a different name for the department responsible for the initiatives. Apple calls it “Digital Health” whereas Google calls it “Digital Well Being.” Right at the top of Google’s Digital Well Being webpage, it says, “Great Technology should improve life, not distract from it.”

A Great Message

The initiatives are going to include a variety of features for their products, like an enhanced version of Do Not Disturb and other ways of giving users more control over how and when they’re interrupted or distracted by their devices. Some features will provide you with in-depth, quantitative information about how frequently you’re using your phone and what you use it for.

I think the details of these initiatives aren’t as important as the magnitude of the message Apple and Google are sending. 

Like most companies on the internet, they have based a significant part of their business model on distracting people and encouraging them to maximize how much time they spend on their products and devices.

The launch of these company-wide initiatives is a pretty groundbreaking and historic event for two of the big five tech companies. The fact that they’ve decided to create and make major announcements about these initiatives shows that they are taking the problems seriously enough to invest in shifting their direction to enable people to live more balanced technological lives.

A Shift in Direction

It’s clear that some of the features of these initiatives will help people to spend less time using the devices and apps that Google and Apple make and sell. They must have decided that this would be more helpful to them overall from a business perspective.

I’m sure part of it was in response to increasing demand from individuals and businesses to address the problems of constant distraction and overuse of technology. Some of it may have been the result of a desire for people to use their devices in limited ways rather than not at all to avoid distraction. I don’t know what all of the reasons were behind these decisions. To a certain extent, they don’t matter to me.

In the end, it’s certainly a positive that these two huge tech companies have taken the initiative to display that they care about the well being of their users. I applaud Google and Apple for taking these steps and moving their future technology development plans in a direction that will give people more transparent information about how they’re using their products and more power over how they use them.

With all that said, both companies have previously taken other steps to address digital addiction and all of the issues we discuss on this blog. Let’s stay mindful of how they implement these major initiatives in response to our needs.

How Social Media Has Poisoned Us



This blog post was inspired by an article published by The Guardian on April 9.

While the write-up isn’t strictly focused on technology, that topic is still explored and the content is worth addressing.

Continue reading How Social Media Has Poisoned Us

Positive, Negative and Neutral Posting on Social Media


We all know that the image people portray of themselves on social media is highly selective and curated. People often post only the information that paints them in a positive light and makes them seem as interesting as possible. As a result, their social media lives don’t always reflect their full reality.

Continue reading Positive, Negative and Neutral Posting on Social Media

Turn Off Autoplay for Videos


Do you ever find yourself binge-watching on YouTube, Netflix, or any other site/app on which you view videos? It’s so easy to get lost in the content and then wonder where the time went.

To minimize this issue, turn off autoplay so that when you’re done watching one video, the next one doesn’t start automatically.

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