But unfortunately, hiring a personal assistant isn’t likely for most of us.
Instead, let’s take a look at the five most common causes of stress and suggest some specific tools and apps that can help you stay on top of all your obligations and create healthy boundaries.
Stress #1 – Your Kids’ Schedules
The scenarioIt’s Wednesday and your spouse just texted you. “We forgot to send Sara’s permission form for the field trip. Can you drop it off this morning?” Then, a few hours later. “Brian’s soccer practice was canceled and he’s stranded at the field. Do you know another parent who can pick him up?” You sigh and search through your smartphone contacts. When did parenting get so complicated?
How technology can helpNowadays, your kids’ schedule is just as busy as yours. How do you stay on top of homework, sports, sleepovers, music lessons, and the eternal question of “what’s for dinner?” Fortunately, stressed parents have many options when it comes to technology. Let’s look at a few of the apps you can use to keep up with your busy kids.
- Cozi– This popular app has a family calendar, shopping list, to-do lists, recipe section, meal planner, and Cozi Today, which is a daily agenda of everything you need to know. It’s easy to use and you can share it with your kids (if they’re old enough to have their own phone).
- GoKid – With so many other obligations, you can’t always be available to drive your kids to after school activities. GoKid is a carpool app that helps you easily coordinate carpools with other parents.
- 2houses – For separated or divorced parents, this app helps organize your children’s schedules, track expenses, and exchange information concerning your kids, from medical notes to school appointments.
Stress #2 – The Demanding Boss
The scenarioYour boss is emailing you at 8:00 p.m. again. You can feel yourself tensing up as you hear the beep. Since you’re relaxing with your kids, you let it go. But then a text flashes on your phone. She needs the latest version of your project plan to edit before her early morning meeting.
How technology can helpWhen this happens frequently, it disrupts your home life, which can cause conflict and stress. While a discussion about boundaries is probably needed to fully resolve the problem, here are two ways you can use technology to appease your boss – without responding to those late-night messages.
- Shifting to Cloud-Based Applications – When you use tools like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, everyone can have access to the latest documents and make real-time edits. That way, there’s no need to email versions back and forth.
- Implementing a Project Management Tool – If your boss is constantly asking for status updates, a project management tool like Asana, Trello, or Smartsheet gives them an answer – without asking you. You can update it according to your own schedule and your team can check it anytime.
Stress #3 – Too Many Distractions
The scenarioYou’re in the middle of writing an important report and your phone pings. You glance at the notification and then get pulled into a news story. As you return to your document, Outlook flashes at the bottom of your screen. You have five new emails. Better check those first. After fifteen minutes of responding to emails, you think, “wait, what was I doing?”
How technology can helpMany of us feel like we have no control over notifications. And that we’re obligated to respond to messages right away, even when they’re unimportant. This can ratchet up your stress levels without you even realizing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are several ways to pause notifications.
- Email – Inbox Pause by Boomerang allows you to receive emails automatically on a schedule of your choice. It’s part of an email productivity tool called Boomerang, which is available through Google, Outlook, and iPhone. They have a free plan that includes the inbox pause feature. You can also set up an auto-responder to let people know when you check messages and how they can reach you in case of an emergency.
- Computer – Regardless of whether you use Windows or a Mac, you can pause all notifications on your computer. Microsoft calls it Focus Assist (known as Quiet Hours in earlier versions). On your Mac, it’s called Do Not Disturb.
- Smartphone – Just like the tools above, you can pause notifications on your phone. Here are instructions for both Android and iPhone.
- Instant Message – Slack has a Do Not Disturb feature where all notifications and @mentions are paused. Google Hangouts also allows you to mute notifications.
Stress #4 – Complex Health Issues
The scenarioYour aging parent has two chronic health conditions that require frequent doctor appointments, physical therapy, and prescriptions. It can feel like a full-time job to ensure they’re covered for all treatments, confirm dates, and arrange transportation. And that’s just for your parent. You still need to stay on top of healthcare for you and your children.
How technology can helpJuggling complex medical information, health insurance rules, and family schedules can be highly stressful. Take advantage of the many health apps now available to stay organized and informed. Here are some examples:
- healow – By using healow, you’ll have just one username and one password to access all your provider accounts for yourself and your minor children. And with their consent, you can even manage the accounts of your spouse or aging parents. It also has medication monitoring, health trackers, and automated reminders.
- Pill Monitor – For those who take several medications (or act as a caregiver), a medication app can be a lifesaver. Pill Monitor can remind you to take medications, track prescriptions and dosages, confirm side effects and more.
Stress #5 – Money Management
The scenarioYou feel like you’ve covered all your monthly bills, but then you get your bi-annual car insurance invoice. You always forget to account for that. Oh, and Amazon automatically deducted your Prime membership. And your child needs a costume for their play next week. You sigh and pull out the credit card. Looks like we’re going to be short this month.
How technology can helpAre you always wondering if you’ll have enough money? That’s a lot of stress to bear. By using budget and money tracking tools, you can think through all your expenses, plan ahead, and build a rainy day fund in case of emergencies. Here are three tools that can help.
- Mint – This is a free, web-based personal finance tool. You can see all your finances in one place – your income, expenses, debt, investments, and even credit scores. Create budgets with tips tailored to you, receive reminders for upcoming bills, and get warnings when funds are low.
- Personal Capital – Their financial dashboard manages every aspect of your finances. It tracks cash flow and helps you see your spending by account and category. But where it shines is investments. From asset allocation to investing fees, this tool provides clear insight into your investment portfolio. This is particularly helpful if you have multiple retirement and taxable accounts.
- You Need a Budget (YNAB) – This cleverly named app does exactly what it says. It’s a deceptively simple tool that teaches how to budget using their four rules. You’ll assign your incoming money to specific categories, so you’re never short for cash when a big bill comes due.
Technology can help the common causes of stress
In today’s complex, demanding world, many of us experience chronic stress. And this can lead to serious health problems down the road. It’s critical to address these issues early.
If you’re looking for a way to manage the common causes of stress, try one of the apps above, or do your own search. By typing your issue + app into a search engine, you’ll be amazed at the innovative technologies being developed to help fellow humans navigate this complicated world.
And don’t forget – although we focused on “problem-solving” technologies in this post, check out our 10 favorite mindfulness apps if you’re feeling frazzled or want to build more resilience to stress.