2020, it isn’t your fault, but you really do suck. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
I’ve missed friends and family, traveling, normal nights out for dinner and a movie, and a gazillion other little things, and with these times being unprecedented, my primary answers to the first 6 months of the 2020 craziness were work, more TV than usual, and too much screen time on my phone. Not too inspired.
A couple months ago, I decided I needed some new technology to help me get out of my reading-too-much-news, sitting-on-my-ass-too-much, not-being-with-other-people-enough funk, and I’m happy to report that my new “sanity apps” are helping.
TLDR folks: the apps are linked below. This article is a little long, but it’s written with enthusiasm and love for anyone wanting to make their lives a little better in this crazy ass year. So…here we go.
When I was looking for new apps, there were 2 things I wanted them to do:
- Help me form good habits
- Help me quit bad habits
I was also hopeful that I might have the good sense to try to form good habits that would actually, well, be good for me; and perhaps enough self awareness to choose a couple bad habits that I actually had a prayer of cutting out of my life for the better. This is a long-term play, but I’ve enjoyed the process and results so far, so I thought it was worth sharing.
Without further ado, here are my 7 2020 Sanity Apps.
The first 6 are actually part of a group of 6 apps called the Growth Bundle. Reviews of the bundle of apps haven’t been stellar – the main complaint being some of the apps are very similar. While there’s some truth to that, I’ve found using the different apps for different purposes to be very helpful.
Incidentally, “Jenny”, whose company Treebetty created the Growth Bundle, seems pretty cool and her company was selected by Apple to participate in an event for women entrepreneurs. She also built several adorable apps for kids 5 and under.
The Growth Bundle Apps
App 1: Done “is a simple habit tracker. It helps you create healthy routines by setting goals, tracking your progress, and motivating you with streaks/chains, all in a simple, clean, package.”
I actually found Done before the Growth Bundle because I was looking for an app to help me to track micro resolutions, or small changes to daily habits. I read the book I linked above years ago, and have tried off and on since to implement it in my life.
A few of my daily Done habits include doing chair poses, pushups, walking up and down all our stairs, starting on my new habits before picking up my phone…little stuff that I can easily do every day. I’ve also added in habits for playing music and making art at least a little bit every day. There are also weekly habits (write for work) and monthly habits (write on my blog), which helps to keep those less urgent but still important recurring to-dos in your routine.
RESULTS: My exercise habits have helped me to shed a couple inches around my middle (no weight loss), and I might have a touch more definition in some muscles, plus my good cholesterol has gone up a bit.
My creative outlet habits have helped to keep me energized for everything else in my life.
I’ve been using the Tally app to track food and water intake. Specifically, I track how many heart-healthy foods I consume in a day (I count both my algae omega 3 supplement and a glass of red wine as 1 each) with a goal of consuming at least 7 servings a day of heart healthiness, and at least 7 16-oz glasses of filtered water a day.
App 2: Tally: “Whether you’re trying to track how many times you ate vegetables this week, how many cups of coffee you drank, or whether or not you took your vitamins today, TALLY can help you get where you want to go.”
RESULTS: Obviously, I make no claims as to the applicability of my results to others, but my cholesterol count has gone down by 30 points over 2 months by pursuing this habit.
TIP: If you’re looking for heart healthy food that’s easy to include in your diet, try oatmeal in the morning with fresh fruit (I like bananas and blueberries), flax meal and chia seeds. We buy organic versions of these items when available. I also occasionally put in a spoonful of maple syrup. Based on recommended servings, I count this breakfast as 4 heart-healthy servings in one meal.
App 3: Do is a really simple to-do list keeper. You can create either single item lists or project lists. I put the important things I’m likely to lose track of in there, and it helps me to have those items separate from my daily deluge of emails and meetings. I like it because it’s REALLY simple, but has a couple useful bells and whistles.
RESULTS: There isn’t a lot to say here, but I’ve completed a couple dozen important things that I probably would have otherwise forgotten about or not done in as timely a fashion.
TIP: Do is where I’ve begun to see the benefit of the Growth Bundle. I’ve tried a gazillion different “getting things done” tools. Do is the first one I’ve stuck to, because it’s in a folder with the Done and Tally apps, which I use multiple times a day. I recommend you keep your bundle in the same app folder, too. If you aren’t familiar with app folders, you can create them by dragging one app over another. This works in both Apple and Adroid phones.
App 4: Last is very like Tally, but instead of helping you track how many times a day you’ve done something, you track how long it’s been since you’ve done something. You can also enter the cost of the bad habit to you in terms of either time or money.
For example, I’m trying to quit eating after 8 PM. So every time I cave in and eat something after 8 PM, I go to Last and click my “Eating After 8” icon. My “last time” clock resets at that moment. I hate opening Last to make an entry, but I like opening it to see how much time or money I’ve saved by not doing something for X days in a row.
Here’s an “I wish” for Last: I wish it offered more “cost” categories, or better yet, the ability to create your own cost category and cost units (X dollars, hours, etc.) for each bad habit.
RESULTS: The longer my “last time” is for anything I’m trying to stop doing, the motivational it is for me to see it in the Last app!
App 5: Grateful is a gratitude journaling app. You can add pictures, and there are a few different prompts you can use to get you started.
As I shared in my first post, my first wife died in 2009, which led to me taking a Positive Psychology course from the University of Pennsylvania to help me get myself back on track.
Gratitude journaling was one of the top 10 proven methods from that course for increasing resiliency and happiness with one’s life. I enjoy the Gratitude app because it makes it easy to get the journaling process done, and again, it’s grouped with all the other apps, so it’s in front of me multiple times a day, reminding me to be grateful for what I have.
NOTE: If you’re aren’t familiar with positive psychology, it’s the science of what works to help people to thrive and live well, and how to help others to adopt what works for others so they can also thrive in life. Think of it as the polar opposite of traditional psychology, where the object is the science of treating psychological illnesses.
App 6: Moody: “Log a mood in seconds. Optionally log a note, photo, activities and the weather as well.” There’s also good reporting tied into the Moody app.
Logging a mood is actually very in line with the “Labeling” meditation method, which is typically used in conjunction with another style, like focusing on your breath. For example, if a thought distracts you during breath meditation and you become aware of the distraction, you label that distraction as “thinking” and ‘gently’ return your focus to your breath. This method is intended to accept and move on from your mind’s distractions with no judgement as to the distraction itself.
Along the same lines, if I’m feeling…well…moody, I log it in Moody, and return my attention to my work, or play, or whatever. In essence, this app reinforces my work in App 7.
App 7: Balance: This is the last app in my 2020 Sanity app folder, and the only one not created by Treebetty. Balance is by far the best meditation app I’ve ever tried. The guided meditations are both intended to help you to learn how to meditate, and also there are some great meditations for specific purposes, some of which you can see in the screenshot to the left of this paragraph.
RESULTS: In short, Balance is helping me to let the stressful moments of 2020 go. Focusing on my breath for a few moments when I’m experiencing an angst-filled moment does wonders for both taking me out of that stressful spiral before it gets in a groove, and also getting me back on track with whatever is more important than the stress of the day moment that was about to set me off.
TIP: One of my Done daily tasks is meditation on Balance. This interweaving of the different apps helps it all to be a single practice, as opposed to 7 different apps in a folder on my iPhone dashboard.
Well, I should probably wrap this up. I’ve already gone longer than most people will care to read. I hope my story gives you some inspiration for ways you can get a little more out of this incredibly unusual and difficult year.
Hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter if you have any questions or want to share how you’re getting through 2020.