Parenting is the best job in the world. But it can also be the hardest.
With a neverending to-do list and 24/7 schedule, parents often find themselves scattered and tired, just trying to get it all done.
But no parent wants to miss those beautiful childhood moments of growth, happiness, and discovery.
So, how do you take care of the basics and still have time to be fully present with your kids?
As the old Apple commercial says, “There’s an app for that!”
Technology can be a lifesaver for stressed parents. Whether you need to find an afternoon activity, book a last-minute babysitter, or simply calm your mind after a long day with the kids, there really is an app for everything.
We’ve gathered 20 of our favorites to help you balance it all.
For the past two decades, tech companies in Silicon Valley and beyond have competed for their share of a budding market.
More valuable than cold cash, gold, or stocks in the latest hot startup, this market doesn’t deal in any kind of traditional currency.
It’s the attention market.
With the advent of the Internet and handheld devices that allowed us to surf online at all times of day, a user’s attention– what app they’re using, how long they’re staying on that app– has acquired significant economic worth for anyone able and willing to build an app, service, or simply a website.
And so the war for attention began.
Maybe that’s a bit over the top, but tech companies most certainly have a lot of muscle in the way of millions, even billions, of investor dollars being put towards figuring out how to capitalize on and hook more of people’s attention for the profitability of their venture.
Is it really all that bad?
But wait– is that all this is? Are tech companies just trying to profit from us and we’re being used by pawns for economic gain?
There are definitely some questionable practices going on. Some have criticized social networks for what could be seen as manipulative design practices. However, that’s only part of the story.
Within this booming tech revolution are many bright spots as well, things that have made many of our lives better. Much of which many of us couldn’t imagine living without.
Plus, as we’re about to find out from tech psychology and design expert Nir Eyal, techniques used for the purpose of drawing consumer’s attention are as old as Fruit Loops (Okay, maybe a little older than that), and no one’s ever seemed to mind them. That or the bright red stop sign on your street corner.
3 Lessons from Author Nir Eyal on Building Positive Habits with Technology
Recently on TFM podcast episode #35, Nir Eyal is a writer, consultant, speaker, and expert on the intersection between technology, psychology, and business.
He’s been dubbed “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology” by M.I.T. Technology Review, and for good reason.
Persuasion: Getting someone to do something they want to do.
Coercion: Getting someone to do something they don’t want to do.
Persuasion involves a kind of convincing nudge. Take a Coke commercial, for example.
They always make that bottle of Coke look like the most incredibly delicious thing ever. You practically want to jump out of the house and go straight to the store to pick up a bottle.
Coke is something you like. You’ve tasted it before and you enjoy drinking it. Coke knows this and they gear their advertisements in a way that entice you based on this knowledge.
That’s persuasion, and it’s far more common than you think.
Even the stop sign on your local street works the same way. It’s designed in a way to catch your eye when you’re driving by (the bright red color, reflective surface), influencing you to stop.
Smartphone apps and other newer technologies are designed in a similar way. Colors, intuitive design, sounds (see: Pavlov’s dog), and other persuasion techniques are used to hook users and keep them coming back to the app, be it a social network, mobile game, or other.
But coercion is different (and unethical)
Coercion is when someone, or something, get you to do something you don’t want to do.
Think about the pushy salesperson that’s so relentless you eventually give in and buy whatever they’re selling just to get them off your back. Afterward, you can’t shake that uncomfortable feeling– like you were just used.
Some argue that the persuasion techniques smartphone apps and other new technologies are utilizing ride dangerously close to coercion.
However, we all get value, be it connection, entertainment, or functionality, from the apps we use. And we use them because we enjoy the value we get from them. And, well, software companies use them because they work.
Using persuasion tech to build positive habits with technology
Ultimately, it’s unrealistic to think that we can just dump technology. Our smartphones and things like social media have become tightly bound to how we operate and communicate in daily life.
You could argue that tech companies need to be a bit more compassionate with their design practices. However, your best bet of making a difference in the quality of your life as it pertains to your tech use is to look at your own habits.
The first suggestion many will make is a tech detox. However, a tech detox doesn’t work, says Eyal, as we just end up coming back and gorging before moving right back into our old habits with technology.
Therefore, we need to learn how to use technology in a healthier way. We need to look at our tech habits.
Start paying attention to when you use what device, what you use it for, and how often you use said app or scroll through said website.
Get clarity about what your tech vices are– those things you just can’t seem to live without– and work on curbing your use.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it all on your own. Companies such as Facebook have started moving away from measuring success based on time on app. Instead, they’re now beginning to measure user well-being (how they feel after using the app).
2. Understand the internal and external triggers that cause distraction
It’s clear that we can, and should, use technology in a healthier way. The way that newer technology is designed, though, makes that difficult.
We’re being hit with constant distractions via our smartphone: social notifications, text messages, reminders, etc.
However, while these should be dealt with, Eyal argues that it’s not these external triggers but the internal ones that are the real problem.
According to Eyal, there are two types of triggers:
External triggers: These include a ping from social or a text message, a phone call, or anything else that prompts you to take action now.
Internal triggers: These are the emotional states which cause us to want to distract ourselves such as loneliness, fear, frustration, boredom, and fatigue.
External triggers, Eyal says, aren’t inherently bad for us. Rather, it’s how we respond to them that matters.
Dealing with external triggers
“If you plan to pick up that phone call and that’s what you scheduled and then that external trigger moves you towards traction… it helped you,” says Eyal. “But if that phone call interrupted the focused work you were doing and now you’re doing something you didn’t plan to do now, it’s moved you towards distraction.”
The first step, he says, is to analyze these various external triggers– the pings and rings– to understand how they’re affecting you.
“Two-thirds of people who own a smartphone never adjust their notification settings,” says Eyal. Simple actions like this can help us take positive action towards controlling these external triggers and living a more intentional lifestyle.
Getting to the root of the problem with internal triggers
“Internal triggers are these prompts to action that come from inside our own heads,” says Eyal. These, Eyal says, are the real issue and often the cause of our susceptibility to external triggers.
“Distraction starts from within”
“The icky-sticky truth that we don’t like to acknowledge… is that so much of what we do is driven by these uncomfortable emotional states,” he continues.
We run from fear by indulging in YouTube videos or scroll forever through Twitter
Binge on Netflix to distract from our loneliness
Seek out feel-good sensations when we’re bored, like mobile games or checking on our friends on Facebook
And we break down and succumb to virtually any vice when we’re exhausted.
Distractions are a way for us to numb uncomfortable feelings, and we’re skilled at avoiding them at all costs.
“You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it distracted you from.”
The problem is, “If we don’t tackle these internal triggers and find ways to cope in a healthier manner,” Eyal says, “we will always be distracted.”
3. Focus on traction vs. distraction
Discovering what your internal and external triggers are is a big part of the puzzle, but what else can you do to build more positive habits with technology?
To be more mindful with your tech use, Eyal suggests focusing on traction vs. distraction.
Traction is intentional, it’s when you’re doing the things you planned to do. In other words, you’re moving forward (hence traction).
Distraction is self-explanatory– it’s when your pulled away from intentional action (hence distraction).
How to move from distraction to traction
The goal, Eyal says, is to figure out how you can make distraction less likely and traction more.
For example, one of the simplest things you can do to live a more mindful life and take control of your technology use is to plan your day. Surprisingly, “only about 1/3 of people actually plan their day,” says Eyal.
Ultimately, if you don’t put down on our calendar what you plan to do, you can hardly say you were distracted. You need an intentional plan for traction before anything.
In addition to planning your day, Eyal suggests you make a pact with yourself to remove distractions.
To that end, there are a ton of apps already on the market that can help you live a more intentional life, like work focus app Forest and Time Guard (Apple), both of which Eyal personally uses and recommends.
“This is why I really bristle when people say that technology is addictive and that it’s irresistible or hijacking our brain,” says Eyal. “This gives us the impression that we’re all somehow addicted, that we’re all powerless.”
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, Eyal says. There are countless tools and techniques out there that you can use to take control and live more intentionally.
If you’ve ever been concerned about the psychological impact of our society’s increasing obsession with technology, Dr. Larry Rosen has studied it from every angle over the past 30 years.
You might be wondering what there was to study back in the late 1980s! Even then, as computers made their way into homes and workplaces, Rosen began to recognize and study signs of “technophobia.” In fact, his first publication TechnoStress: Coping with Technology @Work @Home @Play was published in 1997.
But with the exponential growth of personal technology like iPhones and social media, fear has been replaced with anxiety and distraction due to our constant connectedness. That’s been the focus of his research over the past decade.
Robert Plotkin had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Rosen on episode 23 of the Technology for Mindfulness podcast about what he’s learned from his years of research and how the fields of neuroscience and psychology can help us engage with technology in a healthy way. Here are three key insights we gleaned from their conversation on the psychology of technology.
Are you one of those people with 30 tabs open at any given time?
Do you find yourself checking Instagram or absent-mindedly responding to someone on Whatsapp when you should be working?
Don’t worry, we all do it.
As soon as you hear the ping of a notification, it’s incredibly easy to wander off and lose valuable time during your day.
But what if you could remove all those attention suckers when you’re trying to do your best work? And easily switch back when it’s time to communicate or play?
It’s possible — and easy to do with multiple desktops.
Learn what they are, why they’re so helpful, and how to set them up for yourself in a way that maximizes not only productivity but focus as well.
Continue reading How to Use Multiple Desktops to Maximize Focus
The concept of mindful technology is edging its way into the mainstream as more and more people want to break free of unhealthy digital habits.
Pete Dunlap, Founder of Digital Detangler, is poised to help with this uniquely modern problem. He empowers individuals, schools, and businesses to transform their digital environments for greater well-being.
You might think mindfulness at work is impossible these days. With constant connectivity comes constant interruptions, right?
But it doesnâ€™t have to be that way.
Many of us never stop to consider that we can control our notifications, settings, and reminders.
Sure, you might change a few things when you get a new phone or download an app. But when was the last time you thought critically about whether theyâ€™re really working for you?
In this post, we’llÂ talk about how you can create a work environment thatâ€™s conducive to mindfulness.Â That includes easy tips, smart tools, and helpful resources to move you from frazzled to calm.
Your coworkers will be asking for your secret, so be sure to share!
Continue reading How to Manage Your Technology Notifications for a Mindful Workday
You sit down at your computer, ready to tackle your day. And then it happens.
A notification pops up – you’ve got three new emails. Before you can open them, thereâ€™s an instant message on the bottom of your screen.
Then you hear your phone ping and think, â€œIs that the sound of a calendar reminder or just a reply on my social media post? Iâ€™d better check before I start workingâ€¦â€ And so it goes.
In todayâ€™s notification-obsessed world, itâ€™s harder than ever to focus. Distractions like these can really add up.
Not only do you lose time reacting, but it also takes time to refocus. In fact, according to a study from the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after being interrupted.
For many of us, the holidays are a time when we spend precious connected moments with our loved ones. We may also engage in sacred rituals associated with these holidays. Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays â€” or even if you don’t celebrate them specifically â€” this may well be one of the few times during the year when you can enjoy the presence of your family and friends in person and celebrate your relationships together. Continue reading Social Media: Taking a Break
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are designed not only to enable but encourage people to provide feedback about content posted by others. This might take the form of a like, a simple thumbs up or down, text, or something more sophisticated like a text or video response.
If youâ€™ve ever posted content online, then you know just how enticing it can be to check how many people have liked what youâ€™ve posted.
For those of you who are old enough to remember what it was like to attend a meeting before the internet, the only opportunity to speak to that person was at the scheduled appointment. I remember when I started working as a lawyer and I was going to meet with a client. What would I do? I would prepare! Continue reading Let’s Start Planning for Meetings as if There’s No Internet
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.
Have you ever watched a tennis sequence in which a player serves and the receiver runs in reaction to the serve and then hits the ball back off balance? Throughout the exchange, the server stands firm and is seemingly dictating where and when the receiver moves.Â
Since I write and teach about using technology mindfully, many people assume that I’m somehow naturally gifted at that practice. Â They believe I’m always focused at work and never struggle with distractions when I should be doing something more productive. In fact, when I tell people about my work in this field, they get embarrassed and think I will look down on them because of how poorly or distractedly they use technology. Continue reading You Use Technology More Mindfully Than I Do
Do you ever feel like your smartphone is calling to you even when itâ€™s just sitting in your pocket not doing anything? When your phone beeps, vibrates, or buzzes, do you ask yourself, â€œWhy is my phone doing this to me?!?â€
When you pick up your phone, how often are you using it to actually do what it was first intended for? How often are you actually talking on the phone? And I donâ€™t mean talking via text, or email, or some other form of digital communication. I mean actually talking. Picking up the phone and calling someone.
Work is a place that we can easily feel stressed and overwhelmed. Maybe you have multiple projects going at the same time or an impossibly short deadline that your boss wants you to meet. Itâ€™s happened to all of us at one point! The key to keeping calm under all this stress? Mindfulness.
When a workplace promotes mindfulness a few changes begin to happen. The entire company culture changes. The workplace begins to attract (and keep) the best employees. And performance within the company improves!
How much time do you spend on your phone each day? I bet itâ€™s probably more than youâ€™d expect! According to a new study, U.S. consumers spend an average of 5 hours per day on their phones. That means that about â…“ of your time awake is spent staring at a phone screen. If you ask me, thatâ€™s a lot of time wasted. And nearly 20% of that time is being spent on Facebookâ€”FOMO, anyone?
Iâ€™ve talked before about how technology is taking over, about how many times weâ€™re â€œaccidentallyâ€ sucked into our phones. Weâ€™re checking our social media accounts, multiple times a day for no other reason that the fear of missing out (FOMO).
I know Iâ€™ve talked about this so many times before, but let me say it again for those of you that are new to the blog or new to mindfulness: technology is taking over our minds.
Whether we realize it or not itâ€™s happening. And a movement that goes by the name of Time Well Spent it looking that help change that! Fighting back against digital distraction. Asking technology companies to create app designs that â€œempower us and reduce pollution to our attention.â€
We’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 technologyâ€™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. Jacksonâ€™s first book, Whatâ€™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.
Youâ€™re about to start cooking dinner when you have a question about the recipeâ€¦ what can you substitute for tarragon? So you pull out your phone to type your question into Google. But what happens first? You see a new text message, notifications from 3 different appsâ€¦ By the time youâ€™ve finished checking everything out youâ€™ve completely forgotten why you originally grabbed your phone in the first place.
Does that sound like something thatâ€™s happened to you? Itâ€™s probably happened to most of us!
No matter which side of the aisle youâ€™re on, if youâ€™re like most people, youâ€™re probably feeling angered or even outraged by the outcome of the latest election. Either youâ€™re upset about who has been chosen to run your country, or all the people that are upset are angering you. Either way, no one is very happy. Not even Donald Trump has been able to â€œenjoyâ€ his presidency win with so much negativity going around. So how can we find a little bit of calm and rationalization at a time when tension and emotions are so high? My answer: meditation.
We all have had those times when weâ€™re feeling a little crunched for time, we have so much to do, but so little timeâ€¦ but what if someone told you that you could get more done in less time? That would be impossible right? Not according to Cal Newportâ€™s idea of â€œdeep work.â€
Distraction isnâ€™t something new, throughout history humans have always been faced with distraction, but today it seems as though distraction has become a bigger issue. But why is that? A large part of it is due to technology, something thatâ€™s supposed to make our lives easierâ€”and often times succeedsâ€”also has the ability to make life harder by being such a huge distractor in our everyday lives.
When a notification pops up on your phone (a feature thatâ€™s supposed to be helpful) while youâ€™re in the middle of an important task, or even in the middle of a family dinner, do you check it? If youâ€™re like most people, then the answer is probably yes, even if for just a moment.
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.Â 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.
Morning rituals are an important part of many peopleâ€™s daily routines, but have you ever thought about evening rituals? Evening rituals can help to put us in a better, happier place at the end of the day and allow us to have a positive memory of the day.
In our previous post Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?, we talked about the two oldest and biggest theories of distraction: spiritual and material distraction. But thereâ€™s a new theory of distraction thatâ€™s been brought to light by Matthew Crawford in his new book â€œThe World Beyond Your Head: Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.â€
Distraction, itâ€™s something that happens to all of us in todayâ€™s modern society. It can be enjoyable at times (scrolling though Facebook while waiting for a flight), but it can also lead to some terrible situations (scrolling though Facebook while driving).
We hate to admit it, but nearly all of us take work home with us, it can be hard to just pack up and the end of the day and leave everything at the office. Whether we literally take home things to do after leaving work, or mentally take work problems home, it happens. Unless your job requires itâ€”leave work stress in the office!
Have you ever sat down with your family for dinner, only to be faced with the glare of smartphones from everyone at the table?Â If so, then Dolmio Australia claims to have a technological solution to the problem:
Apple recently announced that iOS 9 for the iPad will allow two apps to be displayed side-by-side simultaneously.Â 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?
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. Â 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.
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. Â He also begins each session with a short meditation. Â Read more about it at The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico have introduced a “Digital Detox” program.Â 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.”Â
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.” Â “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 â€œattentional commons,â€ then we could figure out how to protect it.”
The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.
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