Balancing Technology

Aug 5, 2014 by

I received a great email from a beautiful and intelligent (assuming) reader named Valerie.  She was referencing a post about camping and asking about the the balance of technology with her teenage and younger kids and wanted my input.  Here is some of what I responded with:

I love camping with my friends, family and all the kids in that group.  That said, those kids pictured in the Orange Roll Recipe are not mine.  They belong to a close friend of mine, but I have known them their entire life and we’ve been camping many times together.  That said, my first kid is only 10 months old, so we have not yet had to struggle with the proper use and limits of technology in his life yet, but we are already starting to.

I don’t want us to use the TV as a baby sitter or have him be one of those children that can’t go out to eat, or be anywhere without an iPad and be constantly entertained.  That said, he loves his Baby Einstein videos and I don’t want to judge those parents as not having been in their shoes yet.

I love technology.  It’s been my work and hobbies for many years now and I am loving the amazing things it allows us to do.  That said, like any tool it can be abused and misappropriated for unhealthy purposes.  Just this month I’ve given up playing a video game I’ve been realizing I spend a little too much time playing.  It’s about finding a balance.

childhood

I recently found this image on my Facebook feed and it resonated with me.  While I love technology, I am SO grateful to grow up without a lot of it.  I’m so happy I got to run and play in the woods and didn’t spend time staring at a tablet.  Now I did have a Nintendo growing up, and learned how to use a computer from a very young age, which I also love, but I really do cherish the “play time” I had with friends riding bikes and running around the neighborhood until the sun went down.

I hope we set appropriate boundaries with our son with technology.  I hope he has a wonderful curiosity about technology and wants to know how it works and how to make it work instead of just consuming or playing games.  That is the struggle I see ahead of us and the balance I hope to strike.  I’m already suggesting to my wife and mother not to let him play with their iPhones as he will be clamoring for such devices soon enough.

I don’t enjoy seeing families with all their kids head’s buried in their devices all the time.  I hope we don’t become one of those families, yet I must acknowledge we are living in a different time.  I can’t even imagine how pervasive and cheap such devices will be when my son enters school.  I’m all for using technology to empower our lives.  I hope they find a way to use it in the classroom to help the children learn more and more efficiently, but I hope it doesn’t come at the cost of robbing their childhood of real playtime outdoors with friends and just their imaginations.  I foresee us setting strict limits on screen time vs outdoor play time.  I hope to take my son camping often and all over so he can learn to appreciate the great outdoors and all it offers.  I hope we can find the right balance of using technology to empower our lives and not wasting it away consuming nonsense.

So what is your balance with technology?  Do you take a technology Sabbath and put the phones away for a while?  Do you limit your own or your kids screen time?  I would love to hear what ideas and solutions you’ve implemented in your house.

Ben…

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Clean up Facebook

Nov 19, 2013 by

I’ve talked about the idea of filtering out unnecessary information before and have preached it to my friends and families.

Recently one of my friends texted me this:

I deleted everyone but friends and family from Facebook.  Everyone!!  Feels good.

If your Facebook feed is feeling a bit cluttered it might be time to clean it up.  Now you don’t need to go as far as she did by removing everyone but friends and family, but it may be time to filter out some of the noise.

First, clean up your pages you’ve liked.

If you’ve signed up for some random contest or just liked hundreds of pages and websites over the years your feed might be full of stuff you don’t have any interest in seeing any more.  Get rid of anything you don’t care to see anymore.

hide pages

 

Second, clean up your friends.

You can do this one of two ways.  You can actually remove them as friends and if they are an asshole, then you should.  The alternative is to keep them as  a friend, but you don’t have to see everything they post.  Hide all the posts from friends you don’t want to see anymore.

hide friends

I am ruthless with this.  Everyone has those certain things that people post that annoy them.  If you post nothing but hey-look-at-me self shots, you’re out.  If you post nothing but whoa-is-me I need attention posts, you are gone.

I want to see my close friends and see the fun and interesting things they have going on in their lives.  I hide all the rest.

YOU are in control of what you see.  Make it worthy of your time and energy.

Your TSA for this week is to clean up your Facebook timeline.  Filter out the noise and make it interesting again and of course like the TrulySimple page for more great stuff like this ;-)

Ben…

TSA = Truly Simple Actions The goal of the TSA project is to improve your life and help make this world a better place, one simple action at a time.  Take time this week to do this one simple thing. Previous TSA’s: 

 

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Keep in Contact

Apr 22, 2013 by

This one’s an awesome two-parter.

I was chatting with my friend Rhett the other day and he mentioned that he liked my post on 5 Ways to Simplify Your Email and he also mentioned he just upgraded his phone and despite the people transferring over all his info, he still lost half his contacts.

Keeping up with friends and family these days has never been easier.  We have Facebook, and Twitter and all sorts of ways to text, call or reach out to our loved ones.  I created a Facebook group for my dads side of the family ,as it is very large and spread out, so we could all keep in touch.  I love all the ways technology makes it easy for us to keep up with those we care about.

That said, it can be a total nightmare when you lose your phone if that is the only place all your contacts are kept.  So this post is first about keeping your contacts in a safe place so they are not at risk to be lost forever if you lose your or upgrade your phone.  The best way I have found to do this is to keep all of my contacts in my email (gmail) account and then sync those to my phone.  That way when I get a new phone I can just sync all of my contacts at once and I can never lose them.  They are always online and I can access them anywhere I have internet.

So the first part of this Truly Simple Action for this week is to get all of your contacts out of your phone and into an online service where they can be kept safe.  I recommend Gmail, but other email clients may work as well.

You can do this one by one, but that does not sound like a fun way to spend an afternoon, so lets let the computer do the work.  If you have an IOS device, here is a simple guide to getting your contacts to sync between your phone/tablet and gmail.  If you have an Android phone or tablet, since those are already running a Google OS, it should work by default, but here is some info to help if you need it.

Once your contacts are in sync you can create one on the phone and it should sync over to gmail to keep it safe in the cloud.  Isn’t that nice?  Be careful, because the sync works both ways.  If you delete a contact on your phone, it will delete on gmail too.  Once they are all on gmail, you can get on your computer and do a little contact cleanup as it is much easier to do with a keyboard and mouse vs trying to do it all on a little touch screen phone.

Now that all your contacts are safe, part two of this Truly Simple Action this week is to use them.  Go through your contact list and reach out to a few old friends this week.  Out of the blue, just send them a note or give them a quick call and tell them how awesome they are.  Such a simple idea, but sometimes we don’t do it enough.  The awesome feeling both you and they will get from this will amaze you.

So keep your contacts safe, and use them.

Ben…

Truly Simple Actions The goal of the TSA project is to improve your life and help make this world a better place, one simple action at a time.  Take time this week to do this one simple thing. Previous TSA’s:

 

 

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5 Ways to Simplify Your Email

Mar 18, 2013 by

We all get bombarded with too many messages every day. From commercials and billboards, to text messages and emails, we have information coming at us all day long. Heck I have 7 or more email addresses, but I have setup a simple system to where I only see a few emails per day of the hundreds I receive.

When it comes to your inbox you are in control of what messages you receive and how and when you see them, so its time to take control and simplify your digital life and clean up your email box.

Your Truly Simple Action of the week is to take control of your inbox.  Here are 5 simple ways to do just that.

Unsubscribe Ruthlessly

First you need to unsubscribe to every email that is not providing you value. If you aren’t getting valuable information from the emails coming into your inbox, stop getting them. Every email you get from a company has an unsubscribe link in it somewhere. They are usually at the bottom, but can sometimes be a little tricky to find. Go through your inbox this week and as you get emails in that you no longer wish to receive, simply unsubscribe from them. Do this each day this week. By the end of the week you should have at least 90% of the unwanted emails stopped. This is a quick and easy process that only takes a few seconds per email and you only have to do it once.

Filter, Filter, Filter

Next, when you are getting emails you really want to get, it’s time to filter them appropriately. I’m using Gmail as my email, but most email clients offer this same functionality. If yours does not, switch to gmail.

Filter all your emails that come from businesses into a few categories. Here are some of the filters I have set up:

  • Stuff to buy – everything that is an ad from a store
  • Stuff to do – events, races, concerts, things happening around me
  • Travel – all my airline, travel emails
  • Restaurants – everything from a restaurant
  • Social – any email from a social network (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc)

You can set up whatever filters make sense for you, but start with a few categories and you can always add more as they make sense.

Now with those filters set up, it’s time to use them. Filter all those types of messages so they get filtered and skip the inbox. Yes I still get those messages, but I don’t see them until I want to see them. This is the key to managing your email. You can still get all the sales emails you want, but you don’t need to see them until you are ready to shop. This is the best of both worlds. When I am ready to buy something I search through my email for some deals or discounts, but otherwise I am not having to look at ads and sales that do not interest me. This also works great for when we want to go out to eat, I can check my restaurant filter and see if any of my favorite restaurants are having any coupons or deals.

Here is how you filter your emails in Gmail

filteremail

Open the email you want to filter.  Click on the More button and then select “Filter messages like these”

createfilter

 

This will start to create the filter for you.  It will automatically filter by the email address and thats what we want.  You can filter by almost anything as you can see there, but we are fine with the email address so click “Create filter with this search”

createfilter2

Next check the box to skip the inbox.  We don’t need to see these messages in our inbox, thats why we are filtering them.  Then check the box to apply your label.  Select the appropriate label or create one.  I filter all my airlines emails into my Travel filter.  Then check the box to apply that filter to all those messages that match that filter.  Then finally click the Create filter button.

That’s it!  This whole process takes only a few seconds once you get the hang of it and you only have to do it once per email sender and then all of those emails will now get filtered for you.

Archive everything

Ok, once you filter out all the business email your inbox should be only getting messages from family and friends. This is a simple and awesome inbox. It should be filled with personal communications of people you actually want to talk to.  This is a good place to be, but we can get better.  Its time to clean out the inbox again.  Don’t worry we aren’t going to delete all your email, we are just going to archive it.  Archiving, lets us get all that email out of the inbox, but saves it for searching later.  You can always go back and find any email you wish, but we don’t need to keep it in our inbox.

This one is easy, simply check the box to select all the mail (1) and then click the text link to select everything (2), and then click the archive button (3).

email archive

This is a clean inbox. Take a moment and revel in its beauty.  Now don’t freak out, all your email is still there and you can search for it anytime you need it, but now you have a clean starting point to which you can be organized.

I archive all of my email every friday.  So at the end of each week, I take everything, and get it out of the way.  A clean slate is a nice way to end the week.

Don’t Push

Now that you’ve got your inbox under control its time to control your smart phone.  Turn off all push functions and notifications for email.  It is YOUR email and YOU are in control of when you want to check it.  Don’t let that little phone push you around and teach you to respond to every beep and buzz in your pocket like a trained monkey.  Turn off push email so your email only comes in when you want it it to.  Second, turn off all notifications so again, you get to check email when you want to.  You are in control!

push

Not in the morning

And one last tip on email.  Do not check it first thing in the morning.  This is hard as you might use your phone as an alarm clock right next to the bed as I do.  I also still struggle with this one, but its important.  DO NOT check your email first thing in the morning.  Just as you are taking control of your inbox, you take control over when you check it.  Checking it first thing in the morning is a really bad idea as it tends to hijack your day and you haven’t even gotten out of bed yet.  When you check your email first thing in the morning you are giving permission to everyone who has emailed you to give you marching orders for the day verses doing what you wanted to do.  You will want to respond to any fire drill you find in your inbox and that is not a good way to start the day.  Don’t check your email.  It will be there later.  Do what you want to do first.  Get done the things on your to do list first.  Those fire drills will be there later and you can take care of them later if they haven’t already sorted themselves out.  Don’t let others dictate your day.

Remember, you are in control.  This is your inbox.  This is your life.

I hope you take some time this week to accomplish this Truly Simple Action and see how these simple rules for email can make your life better.

Ben…

Truly Simple Actions The goal of the TSA project is to improve your life and help make this world a better place, one simple action at a time.  Take time this week to do this one simple thing. Previous TSA’s:

 

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TSA#3 – Watch what you are watching

Jan 14, 2013 by

I had planned on following up on the getting organized part 1 post from last week, but I had an epiphany last week.  So if you didn’t get started with last weeks post, get on it now.

I spent last week in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show and wow.  Let me tell you about all of the amazing products that no one needs…ever.  The 110 inch 4k TV was impressive to look at but seriously.  110 inches?  4k?  Who needs this?  Who is asking for this?  And apparently the big trend this year is the rise of devices and gadgets from China.  Apparently China can now crank out more TV’s and widgets faster and cheaper than Japan and such, so expect those cheap devices to be flooding into the US market soon. Yippee.

The real epiphany didn’t hit me on the chaos of the show floor, but rather back in the quiet of my hotel room, where there were only two 48 inch flat screen TV’s.  I don’t say this to brag that I had an awesome hotel room, but as a side note the Vdara hotel was the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at in Vegas and they were amazing and definitely earned my repeat business.

Now back to the epiphany.

I try not to watch too much TV.  I try.  It doesn’t always work.  Sometimes I just veg out and waste an evening in front of the TV.  I also try to delicately walk the line here between someone who is trying to do more with their time and not being that douchebag who goes around telling everyone that they do not own a TV.  I own a TV.  I own 2 TV’s.  I did however cancel my cable several years ago and here’s where the epiphany comes in.

Epiphany: Holy crap there is a lot of shit on TV.

I cancelled my cable because I wanted to watch less TV. I didn’t want to get rid of my TV altogether because I like watching movies and there are some TV’s shows I like.  I just wanted to watch less of them.  So now when I want to watch something its a deliberate choice that requires me to seek out that content.  I can’t just sit in front of the TV and flip channels until I find something.

I miss the flipping.

Since we don’t have cable TV at home, the wife and I love to flip channels when we are out at a hotel.  This is tremendously addicting.  It’s fun to see what is on all those 300 channels, but that fun quickly ends when you realize that there is a lot of shit on TV.  I don’t just mean bad program or low quality shows.  I mean shit.  It is horrible.  But that was only one part of the epiphany.

It’s not just the horrible shows on TV, it’s the commercials.  

Again I’m sorry if I’m getting a bit too preachy here, but hear me out on this one.  Even before we cut the cable I had a DVR that would automatically skip all the commercials so It’s been a great many years since I’ve been exposed to them.  OH MY GOD, the commercials.  I can’t imagine anyone buying anything after watching and listening to these things, but they must work otherwise they wouldn’t be there.

If you think I’m nuts, try this next time you watch TV.

Here comes your Truly Simple Action of the week:
Watch what you are watching.

This weeks TSA is probably the easiest yet.  I want you to watch TV.  

Watch TV during primetime when all the big shows are on.  This is when all the big money is spent on commercials.  Pick your favorite show(s) and do 2 things.  First write down what each commercial is selling and what category it belongs to.  Second, close your eyes and listen to the commercial only.  Don’t watch it.  Only listen to the words that are being spoken and really listen.

I don’t want to get into whether a show is “good” or not.  You should know that.  Is the show entertaining with good actors and good writing or does it expose bad people in bad situations to make you feel better about yourself?

The point of this exercise is to not only take a step back and really look at what you are consuming, but to really understand what you are subconsciously consuming hour after hour, day after day.  Look at what you wrote down.  What are you being sold?  What is constantly being pushed in front of you?  Do you need any of it?

It’s the commercials that just confounded me, and specifically the drug and pharmaceutical commercials that seem to proliferate the airwaves.

I literally could not believe what I was hearing.  Commercial after commercial.  I thought I had stumbled upon a SNL parody at some point.  These commercials can’t be real can they?   How could anybody consider using this product after hearing all of those side effects?   They sound worse than the disease they are aiming to help!

Perhaps I am naive here.  Perhaps I am very lucky to not be suffering from any of the ailments these drugs aim to cure.  Perhaps.

Or perhaps the cure to having trouble sleeping is to get up off the couch for 4-5 hours a night and go for a walk and get some exercise.

I’m not saying you need to throw away your TV.  I’m just saying you need to be VERY aware of what you are watching.

If 2013 is your year of simplifying your life and getting things accomplished, you will find all the spare time you need to accomplish those goals when you limit how much TV you watch.

Be aware of what you are watching and make some good choices about how much you watch.

Ben…

Previous TSA’s:

 

 

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TSA#38 – Back up

Aug 6, 2012 by

This is your friendly reminder that computers do break, and hard drives do crash and they will take with it all of your precious photos, music, documents etc and you need to back up those files so you don’t lose them.

My hard drive crashed a couple weeks ago.  Just died.  No warning, no freezing or clicking noises.  It just worked one day and was gone the next.  And on this particular hard drive was ALL MY FILES.  All of my media.  Over 13+ years of digital pictures, hundreds and hundreds of hours of my music collection, all my documents from forever, gone.  Because I am smart, I had all of if backed up online with Crashplan and was able to get all of those files back.  It did take some time to download all of those files but thankfully I got them all back and they were not lost.

So now, instead of saying to yourself, “yeah I really need to backup my files”, do something about it.  Actually backup your files. It would SUCK to lose all of those pictures and music and such.  A lot of our memories are now digital and if your computer is ever stolen, or damaged or just crashes you want to have those files safe somewhere.

Here is a great guide on how to back up your computer to an external drive.  I also recommend an offsite backup system like Crashplan as well.

Do yourself a giant favor and get this done this week.  When, not if, something happens to your data you will thank me and look like a genius.

I could have lost all my pictures including great ones like this one of Monty in a cowboy hat.

Ben…

TSA = Truly Simple Actions The goal of the TSA project is to improve your life and help make this world a better place, one simple action at a time.  Take time this week to do this one simple thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous TSA’s:

 
 

 

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