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!
Working From Home: The Best To-Do List For Healthcare Professionals
You look to the left and you see a pile of dishes that needs cleaning. You look to the right and you see a pile of laundry that needs folding. You get a little hungry, and your refrigerator is just a few steps away.
At home, there are a number of distractions you face. Add your professional life into the mix, and things are sure to get complicated.
Working from home — especially if it’s your first time — can be extremely daunting. You may also be trying to homeschool your kids, care for your aging parents, or coexist with your spouse (who may also be working from home) — all while trying to manage your workday.
Minor things can become rabbit holes that turn a 5-minute task into an hour-long one, and before you know it, your day is gone. Plus, let’s face it — you’re probably not getting a full 8-hour workday when your kids, your spouse, your parents, and your dog are taking up your time.
Working from home requires focus. You need to have a tried-and-true approach to going head down and tuning out all of those other things that may be calling for your attention — and that can be challenging without structure.
In order to be successful, focus on what can realistically be accomplished and have a plan for each day. Here’s how to make that happen.
The Importance Of A To-Do List
I used to just braindump all of the tasks I needed to finish into a typical list format, but I (thankfully) no longer use that to guide my daily tasks. Trust me when I say that you will benefit from structure and grouping than a slew of to-dos.
A randomly thrown-together to-do list doesn’t group tasks that require similar brain activity. And by using one, you can end up feeling very scatter-brained when you bounce from one task to another when those tasks require different modes of thinking.
For instance, if you need to plow through emails, plow through emails. It’s not usually productive to shift from emails to invoices to a team meeting then back to emails.
The original idea for this organized to-do list came from my colleague, VP, Client Strategy, Rebecca Steurer. She’s a planner (that’s why she’s the strategist on our team). She came up with an original draft that, when I looked at it, immediately changed my life.
She grouped her tasks into similar categories on one sheet of paper, and magically, it made my day look doable. It made all of my mountain of things to get done look like they could be accomplished.
I’ve since modified it for people in an administrative role where you have such a mixture of things to do every day. You just need structure to move through that mixture.
Also, I’ve included categories that are more personal. It’s important not to forget your personal goals because let’s face it, those don’t stop just because you have a mountain of work tasks to get done. You still need to stay on top of your health, you still need to eat, you still need to have positivity to keep you grounded.
So, without further ado, here’s the template for the best to-do list geared towards healthcare professionals.
Looking for ways to increase productivity at work? We can help! Contact CareContent to let us take the education piece off your plate.
When Your Employee’s Personal Crisis Become Not-So-Personal, Support Can Go A Long Way
From managing workloads to putting out fires to watching your employees shine — you’re frequently called on to navigate your employees in plenty of work-related situations. But sometimes, you may need to guide an employee through a personal crisis — especially if it begins to impact their work.
Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or a family member’s illness, one of your employees is bound to face a challenging time in their life. How you handle this situation is an important test of your leadership.
It’s critical to be sensitive as your employee takes care of their emotional needs, but it’s also important to keep workflow moving. Your clients aren’t going to stand by idly as your employee takes some extra time off.
Finding the right balance between support and work can be difficult, but it’s essential to avoid more — and often avoidable — complications.
Here are 4 ways to support your staff during a personal crisis — without sacrificing productivity.
1. Check In With Your Employee Regularly — But Respect Their Privacy
Whether you noticed your employee walk into the office without their normal pep in their step or they came directly to you with their personal crisis, checking in with them will go a long way in making them feel supported.
Once the loss, diagnosis, or other major life event passes, your employee may be left with emotional after-effects, such as feelings of sadness or depression. A simple check-in from time to time lets them know you care about them — and not just about their work output.
Regular check-ins have another less obvious benefit — they can help you keep an eye on how their crisis is affecting their work. You can ask them if they’re feeling overwhelmed and determine what level of assistance they might need to avoid frustrating work delays down the line.
These check-ins don’t have to be formal, scheduled meetings. You can drop by their desk periodically (when other employees aren’t around) or send them a brief email to let them know you’re available if they need anything.
That being said — keep in mind that you’re their boss, not their therapist. Don’t pry unnecessarily into their personal life and make them uncomfortable in the process.
2. Provide Accommodations When Necessary
Everyone’s human — and it’s important to remember that when one of your employees is facing a challenging time in their life. They’re probably trying to navigate the work-life balance like never before, and you may need to give them a little extra flexibility for the time being.
There are a number of ways to provide temporary flexibility for your employee, such as:
- Reducing their workload
- Allowing partial or full work from home options
- Providing alternate work hours
- Allowing periodic breaks throughout the day
Try to get creative with these accommodations. Consider your team’s workflow and what unique opportunities you may be able to provide.
Offer up some of these options when you think they’re necessary rather than waiting for your employee to approach you. They might not know that these accommodations are available — or they may be too nervous to ask.
If any other employees need to take on extra duties during this time, make sure to acknowledge and reward their contributions in order to avoid a disgruntled employee who feels underappreciated. A day off when things get back to normal — or even a simple “thank you” — can mean a lot.
Make sure you know what you can provide before actually offering any accommodations. Your company may have strict guidelines about time off and workloads, and it could make things worse if you provide flexibility, only to take it away.
3. Establish A Clear Timeline And Expectations
If you can allow your employees some flexibility as they manage their personal life, by all means, do. But remember that you’re running a business, and there’s a limit to how much flexibility you can provide to maintain productivity.
Consider the needs of your team and how much work others can absorb. Also, look at what projects can be moved around to accommodate your employee.
Once you have a good gauge on how much flexibility you can provide, communicate that to your employee. Let them know that you support them taking the time they need — but you also need them to fulfill their obligations to their job eventually.
Try to remember that they have a lot on their plate, and a discussion about deadlines right away might feel overwhelming. You may want to wait a day or two before having this discussion.
It may be a good idea to let the rest of your team know what this timeline looks like so they’ll know when to expect things to go back to normal. The waiting game is no fun — especially when you’re working overtime.
If you have a healthy relationship with your employees, it’s normal to want to provide extensive accommodations. This is particularly true when it comes to smaller companies and startups. However, you have just as much of a responsibility to your other employees to make sure no one gets burned out.
4. Connect Your Employee With Other Resources
You may pull out all the bells and whistles to make sure your employee feels supported and cared for, but sometimes, they may need more than you can — or should — provide.
If you have a human resources department, connect with them as soon as you learn about your employee’s situation. This is the type of situation they’re there for, and they can guide you through a potentially delicate situation. HR can even provide you with a script or talking points if you’re not sure how to have a particularly tough conversation.
There may also be outside resources that you can direct them to, as well, such as non-profits that give money to families battling cancer or programs that provide rides to doctor’s appointments. HR may keep a list on hand — or a simple search on Google may do the trick.
Be Supportive — And Be A Boss
When an employee is facing a tough time in their life, empathy is imperative. If you can provide them some extra support, that can go a long way toward building respect and understanding in your relationship and even your team.
At the same time, boundaries and guidelines are critical. It’s important not to let employees take advantage of your kindness or weigh down the rest of the team.
The line between support and productivity may be fine — but it’s certainly there if you look hard enough. Once you find it, you’ll encourage a healthy environment and build a work family that can be counted on.