Are you stuck in the habit of mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds whenever you get a minute to spare? Give these brilliant apps a try instead.
On New Year’s Eve, I discovered I was one of three friends planning to delete all social media apps from their phone first thing in the morning. It wasn’t something we’d discussed previously, or an idea we’d read about in a viral article. We’d just all come to the same conclusion that if we wanted to start 2018 with clearer heads and more time on our hands, there was an obvious place to start: removing the urge to lazily scroll through Facebook or Instagram as soon as we picked up our phones to turn off the alarm.
According to a study by Mediakix earlier this year, the average person will spend five years of their life on social media. Of course, it doesn’t feel that long because it’s broken up into tiny chunks of time. You can always tell yourself, “What would I be doing right now if I wasn’t scrolling through my feeds?”
We’re glad you asked. Here are seven ways you could be spending those little blocks of time instead.
Learn a language
Ecoutez bien, resolution-makers. You’re not realistically going to make it to that evening class on the other side of town every week. Instead, why not take advantage of the fact that language learning benefits enormously from short, regular bursts of attention by incorporating daily learning into your routine. The app Duolingo has done a smart job of gamifying the learning process by offering rewards for daily achievements and providing you with chatbots to test your skills against. Warning: you might attract some funny looks when trying to pronounce Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz (that’s the longest word in German) on the central line.
Read your bookmarked articles
Over the course of a day (often several), the open tabs on my laptop multiply until they at last cause the browser to lag so badly that I delete the lot. With an app like Pocket you can save articles - in fact, any sort of webpage - to read later and offline. Take 15 minutes every day to catch up on that blog post your friend keeps bugging you to share, or read the Cat Person story you somehow never got round to - despite the hype. Think of it as curating your own morning paper.
According to ABC there are currently more than 10,000 depression and anxiety-related apps available to download on your phone. It’s an overwhelming number of options, and you need to be careful to do your research before deciding on the right one that works for you: there are concerns about scientific rigour, and what the companies who offer their apps for “free” are doing with your data. One tried-and-tested place to start is Headspace, an app for guided meditation and mindfulness that offers a try-before-you-buy scheme. Start your day with a slice of calm before you find yourself 50 photos deep into your ex-partner’s sister’s Facebook albums (again).
Refresh your playlists
Nothing increases the feeling of being stuck in a rut as much as listening to the same “Summer party ‘14!” playlist you’ve had blasting through your earphones for the last four years. Release yourself from your personal Truman Show by taking a few minutes every morning to add songs you’ve been loving to your music library, and move out those that no longer make you happy.
Writing down a list of upcoming tasks is a good way to start the day if you wake up feeling overwhelmed and panicky about how much you’ve got on. The problem is that nice planners like bullet journals can take a huge amount of time (and colouring pens) which might not be readily available. An app like Simple Note allows you to jot down a quick list of jobs for the day ahead and sync it across all devices. And if you don’t like the idea of starting the day with a to do list, use it to make a happiness log instead - a proven way of boosting positive emotions.
Catch up with a friend
There are two sorts of people: the ones who’ll pick up the phone when you call, and the ones who’ll leave an appropriately long pause then respond with a “Hi, sorry I missed you” message on WhatsApp. Convert your friends to the first, far more sociable, camp by scheduling early morning catch-ups, because there’s nothing nicer than turning up at work feeling like you’ve already done something that makes you happy. A great alternative for long-distance friends (or the ones you know can’t communicate before 10am) is to use the voice note function available on most phones to send catch-up messages back and forth.
Manage your finances
Gone are the days of using fiddly Excel spreadsheets to track your personal finances. With apps like Cleo and Plum you can get important insights into your finances from AI-enabled bots and save money by automatically transferring a set amount out of your account. Take 10 minutes a day to review your spending, assign tags to your outgoings (so you can monitor what you’re spending money on) and consider your saving goals. Not the most fun way to start the day, but an easy and quick way to relieve financial stress and anxiety.
Images: Priscilla du Preez, iStock