Screen Time That Actually Helps: Apps To Keep Your Sanity And Productivity In Check
It’s probably safe to say that most people are going a little stir crazy these days. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing due to COVID-19 have Americans spending much more time at home. For some, this may lead to extra time spent scrolling through social media or a favorite news app.
While these can certainly keep you “in the loop,” there’s a fine line between being well-informed and over-informed. It may be tempting to watch every update regarding the spread of coronavirus, but that may actually leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
The Impact of Excessive News Coverage During A National Crisis
After the September 11 attacks, research showed that watching repeated news coverage actually triggered post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in people who were nowhere near ground zero.
Source: Next Avenue
Whether you have extra time on your hands or you’re feeling overwhelmed working from home along with homeschooling and other added responsibilities, news apps may be your go-to form of distraction. However, there are plenty of other smartphone apps that can help you pass the time while keeping your sanity in check during this particularly stressful time.
Here are some apps to help you relax, manage your time, or even just have a little fun.
Meditation can reduce anxiety and depression, as well as improve concentration — and this is key during social distancing, working from home, and, of course, a national pandemic.
- Headspace: One of the most well-known meditation apps, Headspace offers hundreds of options ranging from full-blown meditations to mini-meditations to meditations for children.
- Free starter pack with 10 days of 10-minute meditations, $12.99/month, or $69.99/year
- Calm: Guided sessions range from 3 to 25 minutes and allow you to choose your focus, such as gratitude or mindfulness.
- Free, with in-app purchases
- Insight Timer: Choose meditation options based on time and style (body scan, anxiety-reducing), or even just put on the timer with no guidance.
- Free, with in-app purchases
Offering mental benefits like reduced stress, increased calmness, and sharpened concentration, yoga is a common approach to improving mental wellness. Plus, it provides physical benefits at the same time, such as increased flexibility, strength, and energy.
- Glo: Over 4,000 yoga classes are available on demand with helpful filters like level, duration, or necessary props. Plus, this app includes meditation and Pilates classes as an added bonus.
- Pocket Yoga: Ranging from 5 minutes to an hour, these classes are taught by an animated instructor and require zero internet access (after you download it). Plus, you get access to a pose dictionary that breaks down every pose so you know you’re doing it right.
- $3 (one-time purchase)
- 5 Minute Yoga: Exactly what it sounds like, this is your go-to quick yoga fix, so you can do one 5-minute yoga session between virtual meetings or create your own yoga flow by going through as many sessions as you want.
As businesses are encouraging their employees to work from home whenever possible, many workers are experiencing a drastically different workflow than pre-COVID-19. Plus, plenty of parents are finding themselves with new responsibilities regarding homeschool or caring for children.
Though working in your pajamas may be nice, this new normal can cause some challenges when it comes to time management and productivity.
- Todoist: By swapping your sticky notes for Todoist, you can clear up mental (and physical) space by putting tasks into this advanced to-do list tool. It allows you to prioritize items, assign tasks to others, and make fun charts of your productivity.
- Limited free option or $36/year
- Stayfocusd: Available on a variety of devices, including iPhone, Android, Mac, and Windows, Stayfocusd blocks distracting websites for set times or once you’ve reached a certain limit (like 30 minutes of Twitter).
- Trello: Perfect for teams that have recently transitioned to working from home, Trello is a project management team with boards, lists, and cards that allow you to organize, prioritize, and get work done on a highly-visual platform.
- Limited free option or starting at $9.99 per user/month
CareContent’s Work From Home To-Do List
Not an app, but this is our Founder/CEO’s own creation — and her favorite way to get things done while working from home.
Every once in awhile, it can be helpful to get away from it all for a little bit. So close the work computer, turn off the news, and get lost in the world of these fun, mindless, and sometimes silly apps.
- Cat Piano: Yes, this combines the sound of cats with piano playing, which is great to channel your inner pianist (or cat-lover) — or create a video to send to your other bored friends at home.
- Free, with in-app purchases
- Action Movie FX: Shoot your own video and add special effects, like alien death rays or car crashes.
- Free, with in-app purchases
- Houseparty: Get your friends together for this group video chat that allows you to play Pictionary, trivia, and card games together (while remaining physically apart).
- Free, with in-app purchases
- Viridi: Whether you have a green thumb or not, Viridi allows you to care for succulents in real time — without the mess or stress.
- Two Dots: It’s like Connect the Dots — only more colorful and portable. This is truly a mindless but fun way to spend your time at home.
Whether you’re seeking relaxation, productivity, or a bit of an escape, there’s an app for that. As you’re adhering to important social distancing protocols, you’re stuck at home for the time being — and there’s no time like the present to explore the endless world of apps.
Interested in creating content for your healthcare website for the COVID-19 pandemic? We can help!
3 Ways To Increase Productivity — Yours And Your Team’s
You have 20+ items on your to-do list, looming deadlines, calendars packed with meetings (which will lead to more to-do items), colleagues asking for your feedback, people asking you for status updates on projects, and important personal life events to attend to (doctor’s appointments, kid’s school events).
Does this sound familiar to you? It does to me, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the sea of competing demands on your time.
Time is the one nonrenewable resource. We feel like we don’t have enough of it, but when we have more of it, we find ourselves frozen, unable to make good progress towards our growing to-do list. Here are 3 tips on how to make the most of your time.
The first part of prioritizing is knowing your queen bee role (QBR). A queen bee in a colony has one singular, important job that only the queen bee can do — to lay eggs. The way our team uses this analogy is that each of us has a queen bee role, and one person’s role isn’t more or less important than another’s. We’re all needed — just in different ways.
The importance of the QBR is that it’s something that we are solely responsible for. And if we don’t do it well, the whole colony suffers. So take time to reflect on what your queen (or king) bee role is. and protect your time to focus on these tasks.
The Eisenhower Matrix can help you prioritize tasks and take the right action. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a commanding general during WWII and President of Columbia University, led NATO forces, and served two terms in office as the President of the United States. He was known to be highly organized and productive (How else could he accomplish all he did in one lifetime?).
His gift to those of us who want to be as productive as him is the Eisenhower Matrix.
Grouping tasks into four quadrants determines your course of action.
Quadrant 1 (Top Left) – Urgent, Important = DO
These are the items that are highest priority and are part of your queen bee role. They are time sensitive and something best completed by you.
Quadrant 2 (Top Right) – Not Urgent & Important = SCHEDULE
These are items that are important for you, but not needed right away. Be sure to set realistic and specific deadlines for when to complete these. The more realistic and the more specific the deadline, the more likely it’ll get done on time.
Quadrant 3 (Bottom Left) – Urgent & Not Important = DELEGATE
These are items that are time-sensitive but are either not important or part of your QBR. The latter half of that statement is where you need to do some honest self-reflection. If you like to be in control (like me), it may be hard to consider moving tasks into the bottom left (delegate). The thought goes something like this, “This is not part of my queen bee role, but I’ll just do it real quick because I know how; it’ll be quicker and easier than explaining it to someone else.”
But if it’s an urgent task that can or should be done by someone else, then pass it along to the right person. This may be hard at first, or you may need to train someone in a new task, but in the end, it’ll be worth it. And you’re giving opportunities for others on your team to contribute.
Quadrant 4 (Bottom Right) – Not Urgent & Not Important = DELETE
If tasks fall into this category, get rid of them and free yourself up for more important tasks.
2. Manage Your Time / Check-in Before Diving In
You spend hours on a project. You finally get to a point where you feel great about it. Then when you’re just about done and ready to present your “finished product”, your boss/client/colleague swoops in with unhelpful comments that derail from the point you’re trying to make.
At Atlassian, they call this seagulling.
Seagulling (verb): Where someone comes into your work, poops all over it, and then flies away.
Nothing saps productivity and moral quite like the feeling that you wasted precious hours, days, months, of your life on something that wasn’t appreciated. While you can’t control what people will say or the feedback they will have, you can control when the feedback is given and incorporate different viewpoints before reaching the end of a project.
To avoid this pitfall, we recommend having 3 key check-in points during the project.
In The Beginning – 30%
When you have initial ideas for the project that need to be fleshed out, create a detailed outline or rough sketch and share with relevant stakeholders. Solicit feedback on the concept, audience, scope, and goal alignment.
Be clear with the team that this is not the time to go through with a fine-tooth comb. So, no checking for grammatical errors, sentence structure, or nitty gritty details. That time will come, but right now the focus is to ensure the right direction and approach for the project.
To use a baking analogy, this is when you decide what kind of cookie to make, start gathering the ingredients, and gather the materials you may need, e.g., mixing bowl, cookie cutters, rolling pin, etc.
In The Middle – 60%
When you’re about halfway into the project, call for another round of feedback. This is where the bulk of your work and feedback will occur. Be sure to include all relevant stakeholders at this point, so you don’t run the risk of the dreaded seagulling effect.
This is the time when any and all feedback is fair game. Making grammatical fixes, adding/deleting sections, moving things around, focusing on visual elements and layout, and checking to see that the first round of feedback was considered. At this point, you’re empowered to take feedback and incorporate it to ensure the goals discussed in the beginning are met.
You’ve mixed your dough, rolled it out, and have your cookie cutters ready. At this point, the dough is made but malleable enough that you can easily change the shape, color, or size of your cookie.
Toward The End – 90%
At this point, you’re almost done, but not quite (yay!). You still need to tweak a couple of things, so get the team back together to solicit feedback. This will be the third time folks are seeing your project, so there will be no surprises. It’s time for the finishing touches and not time to change the direction or concept of the project. Ask the team to look through for grammatical errors, sentence structure, and any other last-minute tweaks.
You preheat the oven and do one last check on the shape and size of cookies before popping them in to bake.
3. Minimize Distractions And Say No
The last point on staying productive is nothing new but — pardon me for sounding like an old lady for a moment — nowadays it’s definitely gotten much easier to have hours of your day high-jacked with media and entertainment available on-demand and at your fingertips.
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein wrote a book called Nudge. They define nudges as small changes in our environment that make it easier for us to make the choices we want to make or others want us to make. The world we live in is constantly nudging us. That buzz or beep from your phone, the “You’ll Never Believe This…” link at the end of an article, the “50% off sale” subject lines in your email. All nudges take you down a path where someone wants to take your time, money, or both.
Be aware of the nudges around you, and create an environment that nudges you towards productivity. Turn off notifications on your phone/email while you work, put distracting devices in another room, and work in a library or coffee shop if you’re easily distracted at home or the office.