Improving our work/life balance can seem like an impossible task. While technology can help us to reconnect with old friends, it can also make it tricky to switch off outside of office hours as the lure of ‘just one more email, and I’ll be done for the night’ has us checking our inboxes during our precious time resting, recharging, or spending time with loved ones.
If you struggle to find a healthy balance with technology or worry about the potential side effects of using it so often, you aren’t alone. One study from Duke University uncovered that, whilst an increased use of technology can be linked to problems with attention span, behaviour, and self-regulation problems amongst adolescents, using technology can also have positive effects, including decreasing reported symptoms around depression and anxiety.
Psychologist, Dr Peter Baldwin from The Black Dog Institute looked into the role technology can play in transforming our mental health, claiming technology is already transforming mental health faster than anyone expected.
We share eight pieces of technology, apps, and websites that can help boost your mood, keep you motivated, and inspire you to stay on track.
If you’ve ever felt stressed because your office is too noisy, or distracted as you may have had trouble blocking out the loud chatter or music around you, trying a white noise app can be a good way to clear your mind and stay focused. Rain Rain lets you mix together a combination of 25 free sounds to create your own custom ambient background noise. Used by over 3,000,000 people around the world, it’s not only good for shutting out the background noise whilst in a busy work environment, it can help you fall asleep more quickly.
If tracking group projects or timelines is causing you unnecessary stress and strain, Trello can be a great, visual way to keep everything in one place. Available as an app or in your browser, Trello allows multiple team members to track their parts of a project from start through to completion.
Providing space for comments, discussions, and handy tick lists (who doesn’t love a check-box?) as well as plenty of customisation options, Trello can take some of the stress out of shuffling through spreadsheets and shared to-do lists to keep all of your shared tasks in one, handy place. If you tend to work solo, this handy little app can also be a great way to track your own progress, giving you a much-needed boost on days where it feels like you’ve made little progress but you’ve actually been more productive than you realised.
While scrolling through social media isn’t usually the most conductive activity to staying focused and on-track, Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration when you are feeling bogged down or aren’t sure where to start. No matter what you do for a living, Pinterest can be a great place to flick back to for new ideas or save articles, activities, or inspiring stories to come back to later.
Acting as a virtual pinboard, if you’ve got a spare 10 minutes between tasks or before a meeting that you aren’t sure what to do with, browsing on Pinterest may actually be more beneficial than you think. Whether you’re saving motivational quotes for future hard days or finding inspiring articles to improve your creativity and boost your confidence, Pinterest has something for everyone.
If you work remotely or your colleagues are rarely in the office at the same time, Slack is a great example of how technology can help us feel more connected. A bit like a hub for sharing work, project progress, and keeping your chats (both work-related and off-topic) all in one place, Slack allows you to message each other and keep up with colleagues no matter where you are.
Different chats can be organised into channels by projects, topics, teams, or whatever works best for you. Everything is searchable, and each channel will let you know where you last left off (so there’s no need to waste time scrolling to try and figure out what you’ve missed).
No matter how passionate we are about what we do, we could all do with a little extra boost of inspiration and motivation from time to time. Podcasts can be a great way to hear first-hand how others have gone through personal development, taken the leap towards freelancing or set up their own business. They can also offer great tips and anecdotes around how others have managed to re-adjust their routines to put self-care and well-being at the forefront of their priorities.
We’ve shared nine inspiring and motivational podcasts to get you started. If you’ve only got time to check out one of these great shows, the TED Talks Daily podcast is a perfect listen for daily commutes. Bringing the latest TED and TEDx talks to listeners each and every weekday, if you don’t have time to sit down and watch these speakers through YouTube, the TED Talks Daily podcast is a great way to hear thought-provoking ideas, personal experiences, and groundbreaking research on just about every subject out there.
Smart devices and home assistants
The likes of Google Home and Alexa may seem a little gimmicky at first, but once you start getting into the swing of using them they can be invaluable tools. If inspiration strikes whilst you’re busy at home and you don’t have time to stop and pull out your laptop, you can leave yourself a verbal note via your virtual assistant with just a few words, or start a new to-do list you can gradually add to as ideas come to you.
Worried you may forget an appointment, or to return a call? Set a reminder for a specific time and activity, eg: remind me to call the office at noon next Friday, or set a recurring reminder such: as remind me to email my business coach every Thursday.
Home assistants can help with a variety of tasks, from searching for answers online to setting alarms, adding new events and checking your calendar to blowing off steam with jokes or even a quick relaxing game of Trivia.
Turn your commute into time to learn something new, catch up on unmissable reads, or see old favourites in a new light. While many of us love to read, we don’t always have time to squeeze it in around our busy schedules. Listening to audiobooks via platforms like Audible allows us to turn dead space such as rush hour traffic into an opportunity to relax with a soothing tale, boost our motivation with a self-help book, or discover something new with a fascinating non-fiction audiobook.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option or aren’t sure you want to lock in with a regular audiobook subscription, there are a number of other options including Audiobooks Now, Nook Audiobooks, Downpour, Scribd, and more.
If you struggle to stay focused and present in the moment, the Forest app can be a handy little tool to help you put down your phone and get back to the task at hand. Gamifying the task of not checking our phones, with Forest, you simply plant a tiny tree when you want to focus. You choose how long you want to have a break from your phone (between 10 minutes and two hours) as you plant the tree. If you try to open or use your phone before the time limit is up, the tree will be unable to grow and will warn you that if you continue, it will die.
The more trees you plant, the more points you earn towards planing a real tree. You can also grow your own forest within the app that you can see as a visual reminder of your progress focusing in the moment over the past days, weeks, and months. Through using this mindful app, over 325,000 trees have already been planted by spending the virtual coins that users have earned through putting down their phones.
If you are looking for a cute, visual way to stop scrolling through social media or checking just one more Whatsapp message while you should be working, Forest is a great way to keep focused whilst earning points towards giving something back.