Life just tends to get a bit rough sometimes. Even if there’s nothing explicitly going wrong at any given moment, the normal grind of daily responsibilities, chores, and expectations can end up wearing us pretty thin, to the point where we’re pretty ready to throw our hands up in the air and have a minor breakdown.
Part of this stress is just the inevitable cycle of ups and downs that comprise the human experience. Some of it is due to the way our lives are structured in the hectic 21st Century, where internet, tv, and smartphones all keep us permanently hooked into the neverending flow of information and obligation.
Luckily — whatever the cause of your personal stress and irritation — technology can also offer you some soothing solutions. Even if you run a software development company and are pretty sure you know your way around the block, these life-aiding apps are worth looking into.
Calm — for learning to meditate and keeping up a routine daily practice
There are many meditation apps out there — some more modern, and some more esoteric than others. Calm is one app which strikes a brilliant balance between the structure required to make progress in learning a skill, and the easygoing and fee atmosphere that defines the clearheaded mindfulness meditation is meant to inspire in the first place.
With the Calm app, you can enjoy a series of restful backgrounds and side effects, benefit from short “Daily Calm” meditation sessions focused on different themes, and even listen to soothing sleep stories to help you doze off promptly at night.
Then there’s the database of meditations. These are broken into individual sessions and “courses”. You can do any number of courses at the same time, and switch between them without any hassle, but it’ll generally be in your best interest to see a course through promptly once you’ve started it.
An intuitive calendar feature shows you your best and current meditation streaks, and nudges you gently to stay on track.
Meditation has been demonstrated by scientific research to be effective at enhancing calm and feelings of wellbeing. With the Calm app, you can start enjoying those benefits pretty much immediately.
Habitica — for forging positive habits (and breaking bad ones)
Habitica — formerly known as HabitRPG — is the perfect nerd-friendly solution for anyone beset by bad habits and an inability to properly stay focused on the task at hand.
Habitica “gamifies” habit-mastery in an intuitive and deeply fulfilling kind of a way. You have a pixel-art virtual avatar, equipment for him or her, a shop to buy new items from, gold, levels and experience points.
The way the app — or game — works is that you create tasks across three different category sections. “Habits”, “Dailies”, and “To-Dos”. Completing tasks in each of these areas will reward you with experience and gold.
“Habits” are, well, your habits. You should include both habits you want to reinforce and habits you want to undo, here. For a positive habit, every time you perform it throughout the day you can click a plus button for a boost of XP. For negative habits, you press a minus button and lose health. The idea here is that you combine positive and negative reinforcement to re-shape your habits and guide you towards a better, more uplifting lifestyle.
“Dailies” are recurring tasks that you need to perform on a daily basis. “To-Dos” are one-off tasks that you need to achieve in general.
If you struggle with mastering your routine and habits, maybe turning your life into an RPG could be the ideal solution.
Nozbe — for getting tasks out of your head and into a system
Nozbe is a project management app based on David Allen’s world famous “Getting Things Done” productivity system. The essential philosophy behind the system is simple; humans are very good at coming up with ideas, but not good at remembering them. Trying to keep all of our goals and tasks stored in our heads, therefore, is a quick road to stress, under-performance, and disaster.
Nozbe deals with these issues simply and intuitively. Every idea you have that seems significant should be turned into a rough task or entry in your “inbox”. When you have a free moment, you should process your inbox, delete irrelevant or non-actionable tasks, and turn those which are actionable into “projects”. Once turned into projects, these tasks then move to a separate panel.
For each project, you then add tasks that must be completed in order for the project itself to be completed. Then, for each project, you select a “next action” out of all the available sub-tasks.
These selected “next actions” then appear on a “priority” panel.
So, in a few simple steps, you’re able to collect your tasks, categorise them, and identify the next actionable step you should be taking. It’s a real load off the mind, so to speak.
YNAB — for managing your budget on the go
Financial issues are perhaps the single biggest source of stress out there, and having to page through stacks of old receipts to identify your spending habits and plan your budget going forward isn’t any fun.
You Need a Budget — or YNAB — is a browser and app-based service that follows the principles of zero-based budgeting, and allows you to stay on top of your spending, and manage your finances, virtually effortlessly. Transactions can be automatically imported from your online banking to YNAB, or can be entered manually, either while at home or when out and about.
Your income appears as a “to budget” amount which you then assign to different categories of your choosing, such as “parking”, “fun money”, or “bills”.
By planning how each penny of yours is assigned, and then tracking your expenses to make sure you’re sticking to the script, YNAB can remove a lot of the uncertainty and worry from your financial life.
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