Technology has a way
It’s no secret that stress can wreak havoc on your body. Stress can affect your mood, energy, and sleep patterns. Stress can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of heart attack. It can trigger pain, nausea, and suppress your immune system. Stress is bad; prolonged stress is even worse. While constantly checking your smartphone can certainly add to your stress, especially if you have unanswered emails, texts, and pending deadlines.
However, your smartphone also has the ability to help you alleviate stress. Here area few ways you can use your phone to help de-stress and feel better.
Get some tunes goin’
Music. Music really can soothe the soul and the nerves. Soothing, relaxing music can help you regulate your breathing and bring down your blood pressure. I have a playlist on my phone that’s just for de-stressing.
If classical music isn’t your thing, pick out a tune that you enjoy belting out. Singing is another proven way to de-stress. The very act of singing or humming can help to slow and regulate breathing, promoting relaxation. It will also take your mind off your stress for a few moments and allow you time to reset and refocus.
There are several free music apps you can try, my favorite is Pandora. I also like the virtual sound machine app, Rain Rain.
Get your ohm on
Meditation. This doesn’t have to be complex. There are so many apps that offer guided meditations. A guided meditation, has a narrator helping your breathe in and out in a relaxing pattern, oftentimes along with relaxing musical accompaniment.
A simple five minute guided meditation with deep breathing can help alleviate tension, and reduce stress producing hormones. If you can’t listen to these at work, use your phone’s timer function to take five minutes and breathe deeply on your own. The simple act of deep breathing allows your body to focus on what it needs, rather than the millions of tasks that have you stressed to the max.
If you’re looking for a few good meditation apps, I really enjoy Calm. It’s a guided meditation app for Android and iOS. I also like Zen Garden. It turns your screen into a virtual sandbox where you can write, scribble, or mindlessly tap the stress away.
Get up and active
Move. Movement is one of the best ways to clear your mind and refocus your energy. While there are a wide variety of exercise and activity apps, one of my favorites is the work break timer. This handy app reminds you to stand up and move throughout the day.
We all know prolonged periods of sitting still can be detrimental to our health, but when you’re focused on work, it’s easy to forget to move. Not only does this app remind you to move, it also mixes things up by suggesting different types of movement you can do to refocus your attention and come back to your desk refreshed and a little bit less stressed.
Get your thoughts out
Journal. More likely than not, you already use Evernote or similar apps. Why not use them to de-stress? Recommended by psychologists for decades, keeping a journal is a great way to clear your mind. Unfortunately, constant stress and everyday pressures make it difficult to journal consistently.
Several journaling apps aim to solve this problem by melding traditional diary-like qualities with digital convenience. For Android users, Memoires lets you record daily text or audio entries and attach files or photos to diary notes. It is also password protected, so you don’t have to worry about your thoughts falling into the wrong hands. For iOS users, Narrato Journal is a similar option.
Get out the photo albums
Photos. From photos of your family and friends, to a photo of your favorite vacation spot, pictures can help you relax. Try creating a separate album on your phone for all the things that make you happy.
If you’re short on space, you can create a private album on Facebook, Flickr, or your favorite photo app. When you need a boost, scrolling through endless happy memories, places, and events, can trigger a stress reducing response.
Regardless of which method you choose to de-stress, know that persistent stress is a problem. If you feel that you are stressed to the point of breaking down, it may be time to reevaluate where and how you spend your time.
Get all your digital organization in one place with Routine
(TECH NEWS) Routine makes note-taking and task-creating a lot easier by merging all your common processes into one productivity tool.
Your inbox can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Without organization, important emails with tasks, notes, and meetings can become a trash pile pretty quickly. Luckily, there are a lot of tools that aim to help you improve your efficiency, and the latest to add to that list is Routine.
Routine is a productivity app that combines your tasks, notes, and calendar into one easy-to-use app so you can increase your performance. Instead of having to switch between different apps to jot down important information, create to-do lists, and glance at your calendar, Routine marries them all into one cool productivity tool. By simply using a keyboard shortcut, you can do all these things.
If you receive an email that contains an actionable item, you can convert that email into a task you can view later. Tasks are all saved in your inbox, and you can even schedule a task for a specific day. So, if Obi-Wan wants to have Jedi lessons on Thursday, you can schedule your Force task for that day. Likewise, chat messages that need follow-up can also be converted into tasks and be scheduled.
To enrich your tasks, notes can be attached to them. In your notes, you can also embed checkboxes, which are tasks of their own. And if you have tasks that aren’t coming from your inbox, you can import them from other services, such as Gmail, Notion, and Trello.
To make sure you can stay focused on the events and tasks at hand, Routine makes it easy to take everything in. By using the tool’s keyboard-controlled console, you can access your dashboard to quickly see what tasks need to be addressed, what’s on your calendar, and even join an upcoming Zoom session and take notes about the meeting.
Routine is available for macOS, iOS, web, and Google accounts only. Overall, the app centralizes notes and tasks by letting you create and view everything in one place, which helps make sure you stay on top of things. Currently, Routine is still in beta, but you can get on a waitlist to test the product out for yourself.
The paradox of CAPTCHAs: Too smart for humans vs AI?
(TECH NEWS) AI is catching up to our cybersecurity technology and often tricking humans too — so what’s next for CAPTCHAs and the internet?
We’ve all encountered it before: The occasional robot test that feels impossible to beat. If you’ve felt like these tests, also known as CAPTCHAs, have gotten harder in the last couple of years, you aren’t wrong—and the reason is as ironic as it is baffling.
Simply put, AI are just as good as—and often better than—humans at completing CAPTCHAs in their classic format. As machine learning and AI become more advanced, the fundamental human attributes that make consistent CAPTCHA formats possible become less impactful, raising the question of how to determine the difference between AI and humans in the future.
The biggest barrier to universal CAPTCHA doctrine is purely cultural. Humans may share experiences across the board, but such experiences are typically basic enough to fall victim to the same machine learning which has rendered lower-level CAPTCHAs moot. Adding a cultural component to CAPTCHAs could prevent AI from bypassing them, but it also might prevent some humans from understanding the objective.
Therein lies the root of the CAPTCHA paradox. Humans are far more diverse than any one test can possibly account for, and what they do have in common is also shared by—you guessed it—AI. To create a truly AI-proof test would be to alienate a notable portion of human users by virtue of lived experience. The irony is palpable, but one can only imagine the sheer frustration developers are going through in attempting to address this problem.
But all isn’t lost. While litmus tests such as determining the number of traffic cones in a plaza or checking off squares with bicycles (but not unicycles, you fool) may be beatable by machines, some experts posit that “human entropy” is almost impossible to mimic—and, thus, a viable solution to the CAPTCHA paradox.
“A real human being doesn’t have very good control over their own motor functions, and so they can’t move the mouse the same way more than once over multiple interactions,” says Shuman Ghosemajumder, a former click fraud expert from Google. While AI could attempt to feign this same level of “entropy”, the odds of a successful attempt appear low.
Move over, Clubhouse: Slack adds their own audio chat rooms
(TECH NEWS) Slack planning to co-opt Clubhouse’s synchronous audio rooms has lead to mixed response. Did it really need to be done?
Slack is adding a synchronous audio chat room feature similar to what Clubhouse already has. While not everyone is happy about it, the addition is true to Slack’s ongoing form—if a little redundant.
Slack’s audio rooms would work similarly to Clubhouse’s current feature of the same persuasion. The rooms themselves would be ongoing for as long as they were open, and users would be able to drop in and out of calls at their leisure, even joining the conversation when permitted by the host or settings. In theory, it’s a cool way to round out Slack’s platform and make for yet another way for people to engage during the work day.
But not everyone is stoked about the addition. Pocketnow’s Nadeem Sarwar makes a strong point about the redundancy of adding a Clubhouse feature to the already-packed Slack deck: “…from a regular remote worker’s perspective, I’d rather use services such as Telegram, Discord, or Google Meet that we’ve grown accustomed to using for jumping into a group call with my teammates.”
“…[T]he need for audio chatrooms to get in a chaotic chat with colleagues, with whom you already chat over work and share memes five days a week, doesn’t make much sense,” he adds.
Sarwar also references research about remote meeting fatigue from Stanford and The Washington Post, positing that—since video conferences are already played out at this point—adding another quasi-conference option to Slack doesn’t serve much of a purpose.
He isn’t wrong. There are multitudinous conference options on the market now, many of which are free. One could argue that Slack, having marketed itself as a text-first communication hub, has no business entering the audio chat landscape.
That argument falls on its face when you consider Slack’s model—something both Sawar and the Slack CEO himself mention—involves “stealing” and implementing “good ideas” from others in order to make their own platform as comprehensive as possible. If one is able to use Slack for the majority of tasks that Google, Discord, and Clubhouse offer, that makes the platform a lot more attractive to users who are on the fence.
And, perhaps more importantly, it ensures that current users won’t migrate to a comparable platform in the future—especially if their colleagues are making the same choice.
It’s a smart move for Slack, especially given Clubhouse’s lack of Android support at this time—something Clubhouse has said probably still won’t launch for a couple of months.
The Clubhouse team, for their part, continues to add new features in efforts to maintain the platform’s upward mobility. One such feature is the option for paid subscriptions to content creators, allowing for people to monetize their presence on the platform. At the time of this writing, Clubhouse is valued at around $1 billion.
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