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.
When you read the latest headlines, you’d think technology is the worst thing to happen to couples since… well, ever. After all, it takes our attention away from our partners, right?
Not so fast. It’s not all bad news. Marla Mattenson has a different perspective, and it’s quite empowering.
Technology and Relationships: Better Together?
Marla is an accomplished relationship & intimacy expert who specializes in coaching entrepreneurs.
With her background in neuroscience, she uses pattern recognition to reveal the negative habitual responses couples experience and how to change them.
In her work with busy, tech-dependent professionals (and through personal experience), she began to see how technology, when used intentionally, can be a powerful tool to resolve conflict, build intimacy, and add a playful element to relationships.
Marla’s exciting insights about technology and relationships were the focus of her conversation with Robert Plotkin on the Technology for Mindfulness podcast.
Here are four practical tips from Marla on how to transform both your relationship and your business by using technology mindfully.
Four Ways to Improve Your Relationship Using Technology
1. Send supportive messages throughout the day (but at the right time)
The hustle of building a business often means long days at the office and frequent travel.
Technology is the perfect way to stay in touch. But for most of us, our daily messages are more practical than loving.
“What time are you getting home?” and “Did you thaw the chicken?” aren’t what Marla has in mind.
Instead, she recommends adding some playfulness and support to let your partner know you’re thinking of them.
Tell them they’re gonna rock that big meeting with investors
Send a funny meme if they’re low on energy and need a laugh
Record a ten-second video message to tell your partner how awesome they are and that you miss them
Or simply send a sweet emoji
Marla adds one crucial caveat: send your messages at the right time. Share your calendars so you can see when your partner has downtime. After all, sending a high-five emoji for their big investor meeting isn’t as helpful when their phone pings right in the middle of it!
Knowing each other’s calendars helps you stay in sync with their daily challenges and offer thoughtful support at just the right time.
2. Keep track of meaningful conversations – and act on them!
Another way to stay in tune with your partner is to take note of important things they say.
Whether it takes place within an everyday chat or a deep, soul-searching conversation, they’re sharing their interests, hopes, and dreams. It might be:
People they miss and want to see
Places they want to go
Items they would love
Experiences they want to have
Marla suggests keeping track of these on your smartphone as they happen.
Your partner may already be on to their next project, wishing they could make time, but you can set things in motion… and surprise them!
For example, perhaps you’re driving by a restaurant, and they mention how much they’d like to expand their horizons when it comes to food.
You could hop on Yelp right then and make a reservation for somewhere you’ve never gone.
Feeling heard is tremendously powerful in a relationship. Technology can help you remember these little details, so you can show them you’re always listening.
3. Use technology to diffuse emotionally charged moments
Despite your best efforts, you won’t always be in sync with your partner.
When conflicts happen, typical relationship advice is to stay away from technology. After all, your partner might misunderstand.
A famous study by UCLA researcher Albert Mehrabian showed that we overwhelmingly react to others not by the actual words spoken, but by their body language and tone of voice.
This might seem like a valid reason not to use technology when you have a conflict. But Marla takes a different approach.
She and her partner Julian decided in advance that during an argument, they can only send connecting, positive messages. Nothing mean or insulting that they’ll regret later – or that will add fuel to the fire.
There are two benefits to this:
Staying connected – You’re not completely blocking communication. For many couples, closing off contact altogether triggers feelings of abandonment, making them feel worse.
Committing to kindness and love – Even though you may not like the person at that moment, you’re remembering that you do love them, and you’ll get through this difficulty.
Marla also added an insightful tip: When you’re angry and not ready to talk, just send an emoji. Something as simple as a heart will show your partner that you love them, but you need space.
By intentionally choosing how you’ll use technology during a conflict, you can avoid saying (or texting) hurtful words in the heat of the moment.
4. Bonus for brave couples – reflect negative statements back to your partner
Speaking of hurtful words, Marla also shared a practice couples may want to use if something negative slips out, whether or not you’re in the midst of an argument.
She cautioned that it requires a lot of trust and vulnerability, but the rewards can be significant.
If you say something that impacts your partner in a negative way, give them permission to text it back to you. This is a form of reflection.
However, by using technology, it’s especially powerful because the words are devoid of all body language and tone of voice.
When you read it, you can perceive how harsh or unpleasant it was for your partner to hear.
Naturally, this requires a bit of bravery. Your partner must avoid “taking the bait” and responding negatively. You need to be open to seeing an ugly part of yourself. And vice versa.
To see if you’re ready, have a loving conversation about how you can both dedicate yourselves to the truth, no matter how difficult, rather than feeling comfortable. For many entrepreneur couples, personal growth is a common goal. Practices like these bring you closer to your partner and help you both grow into your best selves.
Use technology to improve your relationship
When you’re intentional about both, technology and relationships don’t have to be competing priorities.
Ready to put these tips into practice? Marla welcomes questions and comments!
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, there’s an instant message on the bottom of your screen.
Then you hear your phone ping and think, “Is that the sound of a calendar reminder or just a reply on my social media post? I’d better check before I start working…” And so it goes.
In today’s notification-obsessed world, it’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.
Fortunately, technology doesn’t always have to be a distraction– it can also be a tool to help you focus.
10 Mindfulness-based tools to reduce distractions and improve your focus
We’ve gathered 10 of the best mindfulness-based tools that put the power back in your hands. Tools to reduce distractions and help you get your best work done.
These technologies will help you focus by blocking interruptions, removing distractions, getting you in the zone, and reminding you to take short breaks for better productivity. Ready to have a more mindful work day?
Let’s take a look!
Tools to reduce distractions
Our culture often feels the need to respond to everything the moment it arrives, but it’s really not necessary.
Tools like these allow you to pause the continuous stream of information for a period of time, so you can concentrate without interruption. You decide when to check emails, texts, and instant messages– not the person sending them to you.
Regardless of whether you use Windows or a Mac, you can pause notifications on your computer. Microsoft calls it Focus Assist in Windows 10 (known as Quiet Hours in earlier versions).
On your mac, it’s called Do Not Disturb. These tools work for desktop computers, laptops, and tablets. Take time to get familiar with the options, rather than letting the default setting disrupt your day.
Just like the tools above, you can pause notifications on your phone, both Android and iPhone. Many of us are juggling multiple devices – you may have a laptop open, the phone next to you, and tablet across the room.
Make sure you check out all the do not disturb settings available. Otherwise, you might find yourself reacting to whatever technology is making a noise!
Tools to avoid procrastination
We’ve all fallen into that black hole of social media. Whether you love reading about the latest Game of Thrones episode, watching cat videos, or commenting on politics, we’ve all been there.
Two of these tools let you limit access to certain websites or apps for periods of time. The third tool is geared toward writers who want a distraction-free interface to avoid any temptation to stray from their work.
Freedom is a website and app blocker. This tool has some great customization features to make it work for you. You can block only certain sites, the entire internet, or everything except the sites you need.
Freedom also allows you to schedule your blocks in advance – you can even save frequently used blocks so you don’t have to set it up every time. Think you can be sneaky and check your phone to access a blocked site? Freedom can sync blocks across all of your devices.
They offer a seven-day free trial. After that, you can pay $6.99 per month, $29 per year or $129 for lifetime access.
FocusMe offers a similar service to Freedom. Like Freedom, you can block specified websites and apps using a scheduler or as needed.
However, it doesn’t sync across devices (yet). It works with Mac, Windows, and Android – iOS is coming soon.
FocusMe has some additional features like break reminders and a built-in Pomodoro timer.
This is a popular productivity technique that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. FocusMe is a nice all-in-one tool if you’re trying to be more mindful and productive.
At the moment, their Android version is free. For Mac and Windows, it’s $6.99 per month, $30 per year, or $119.99 for lifetime access.
Focus@Will is a unique music streaming service. They offer specially curated and produced music tracks designed to improve your focus.
They claim, “Scientists have discovered that depending on your personality type, there is a specific type of music that when engineered just right, puts your brain into a flow state making you hyperfocused and exponentially more productive.”
Based on their research, they assign types of music based on a questionnaire you answer when signing up. However, you can listen to any of the music in their collections. Focus@Will offers a two-week trial, then it’s $89.95 per year.
For some people, music can be distracting in and of itself. You might prefer a little background noise instead.
Noisli is a site that allows you to create your own set of background sounds by combining clips from rain, water, wind, and more.
As one user says, “Perfect for working to — enough background noise to help me concentrate but not distracting enough to prevent me from being able to read or write. I love being able to layer the sounds and change the volume simultaneously as well!”
Do Nothing for 2 Minutes is brilliantly simple. It displays a countdown timer for two minutes on top of a peaceful nature scene. If you move your mouse or touch the keyboard, it will start again. Available for free on any browser.
Time Out promotes a similar idea – that you need to pause throughout the day. However, it has more features.
The default settings offer a “Normal” break (typically for 10 minutes every hour) and a “Micro” break (a brief pause of typically 15 seconds every 15 minutes). This helps you remember not to tense up too much for long periods. You can change or remove either kind of break, or add new ones.
Available on the App Store for free or you can make a donation.
Use these tools to reduce distractions and get your best work done
You don’t have to be a victim of constant interruptions.
Use these tools to reduce distractions as well as maximize your focus, so you can get your best work done.
Are there any others you’ve found that help you reduce distractions and improve your focus? Let us know in the comments!
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.
As mindfulness in the West is picking up and taking off as a popular movement, I’m getting the feeling that many people are being introduced to it as a purely intellectual and mental practice. After all, the word “mind” is in mindfulness.
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.
Last week we talked about how and why we need to recover from tasks in our daily life and we covered, recovering from work and technology. I challenged you to take on both of these, did you try it? How did it go? Did you notice a difference in your stress or sleep?
Today we’re moving on to the other 4 areas of our lives that we need to learn to recover from: people, fitness, food, & being awake.
You’re about to start cooking dinner when you have a question about the recipe… 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 apps… By the time you’ve finished checking everything out you’ve completely forgotten why you originally grabbed your phone in the first place.
Does that sound like something that’s happened to you? It’s probably happened to most of us!
The 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:
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.
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.
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:
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.