Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Web Secret 528: 11 ways to encourage yourself and others to take a break from technology

I recently came across a Forbes article "11 Ways To Encourage Mental Breaks From Technology In The Workplace."

Interestingly, most of the suggestions could be applied to ourselves or our families. As usual, here is the edited version:

1. Create Smartphone Break Areas
Ask people to voluntarily put the smartphone in a box in a certain area of the workplace.

2. Truly Respect Time Off
If an employee is supposed to be off of work, do not send them an email during that time. Don't assume an email is less intrusive than an actual phone call. If you would not call them at that hour, then don't email either.

3. Create Boundaries For Out-Of-Office Communications
Unless a job is billed as 24/7 on-call, maintain boundaries for outside hours communications. Establish cut-off times that are clear and enforceable as nightly deadlines for work outreach.

4. Leave Phones Out Of Meetings
Have a "no smartphone" policy in meetings -- not just team meetings but one-on-one meetings in your office. Leave your phone out of sight, switched off, or put it on silent with no vibration.

5. Clarify The Level Of Priority
Give your team the flexibility of priority awareness. Use the subject line of an email to scale the urgency of an action. Notations like "action by COB today," "before lunch," or "prepare for next staff meeting" give a clear timeline. On the other hand, preceding status updates with FYSA (For Your Situational Awareness) clarifies that no immediate action is required.

6. Promote Self-Care
Implement a wellness program, add yoga and other de-stressing activities, and/or add a quiet zone. Create safe, phone-free zones for employees to unwind and decompress. Senior leaders must demonstrate that they value self-care and allow spaces for employees to do the same. This also means that out-of-office truly means that employees are unavailable during that time.

7. Encourage Employees To Disable Notifications
Getting a mental break at work can be less about getting away from the smartphone and more about diminishing unnecessary sights and sounds. Sound and sight distractions such as email, text and app notifications exponentially increase stress and decrease productivity. If you do nothing more than turn off email "pings" and pop-up windows, you will greatly enhance a sense of focus and calm at work.

8. Take Meetings Outside
If you work near any green space, start taking small groups or one-on-one meetings outside. Find space near a fountain to meet with employees or just walk and talk. Fresh air stimulates greater creative thinking. Walking improves circulation and overall health.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WebSecret 527: Happiness in an app

The New York Times recently published an article listing "happiness" apps.

Since we could all use a little happiness, here is what they recommended:

Happy Not Perfect

Designed to bio-hack the brain in five minutes, Step 1 of seven, Check-in, decreases the impact of an emotion just by acknowledging it. Step 2, Breathing, takes you out of fight or flight. Step 3, Journaling, allows you process, digest, and let it go by way of a digital fire ceremony. Step 4, Gratitude, shifts the focus to the positive. In Step 5, a mini Mind Game disrupts thought patterns. Step 6, a Compassion Challenge, boosts self-esteem. Step 7, Vibes, lets you pay it forward. Guided meditations are optional.

Perk: A subscription ($9.99 for one month; $39.99 for six months; $59.99 for a year) provides access to more than 250 meditations and to a gratitude diary and compassion challenge history.

Smiling Mind

Developed by psychologists and educators, Smiling Mind is a free app aiming to make mindfulness accessible to everyone, including children as young as 7. Meditations are offered according to age group and audience, for example Adults, Sport, Mindfulness in the Classroom, Mindfulness in the Workplace. Prompts like “How Do You Feel?” encourage checking in with oneself.

Perk: With Family Sharing, up to six family members can use this app.

Insight Timer

The most popular free meditation app on Android and iOS stores, Insight Timer is home to some 4.5 million meditators and offers guided meditations, talks and podcasts by mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists and meditation teachers, in 25 languages, on topics including depression and grief.

Perk: Practitioners of all levels seeking community can see how many meditated “with” them, send direct messages and join discussion groups.

Aura

Named the No. 1 New App by Apple in 2017, Aura offers mindfulness meditations, short stories, music, sounds of nature, a gratitude journal and life coaching sessions to soothe stress and anxiety and help users sleep better. The artificial-intelligence-powered program uses questionnaires to personalize and improve the user experience.

Perk: The app is free - however, a subscription ($11.99 for one month; $59.99 for one year; $399 for lifetime) allows unlimited access to meditations of 3 minutes, 7 minutes or 10 minutes.

OM

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Web Secret 526: individual cybersecurity when traveling

So you have tickets to the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Lucky you.

Remember when, a few posts ago, I told you that Russia is enemy number one when it comes to cyberwarfare?

This is what Conde Nast Traveler thinks you need to do to safeguard your data if you choose to go (just about anywhere in the world):

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is Free tickets, FIFA lotteries, VIP seating upgrades—chances There is no such thing as a free lunch. Do not reply to, click on or otherwise interact with these offers. Delete, delete, delete.

Protect your devices. If you can, leave the devices you really love at home. Invest in a cheap unlocked phone you can use when you're traveling with a local SIM cards. If you absolutely need to bring a laptop with you when you travel, consider buying a sub-$500 Chromebook, eg: the Asus Flip C302. Bonus: with Chromebooks, everything is stored on Google's cloud, so if it the laptop gets jacked, you won't lose everything.

If you insist on bringing your laptop, make sure everything is backed up in the cloud and on an external hard drive before you leave, and ensure the device is secured with a password that isn't "password123."

Public Wi-Fi networks are basically "Steal my stuff" invitations Avoid public Wi-Fi networks when you can. Even if you think you're somewhere safe, like your hotel lobby, it's not worth the risk. You don't know who else is in that lobby, and you don't even know whether the network you're connecting to is legit, it's not hard for a hacker to create a hotspot with the name "Hotel Free Wi-Fi."

If you absolutely have to connect to one, don't do anything sensitive.

Use a VPN (virtual private network). Think of a virtual private network as a tunnel that encrypts all your data as it passes through and scrambles your location (by changing your IP address), even if you are connected to the internet through a public network.

Two that are recommended by Wired magazine are F-Secure FREEDOME VPN and www.privateinternetaccess.com.

HTTPS is your friend—HTTP is not. If a website starts with "https" it means it's encrypted, making your browsing more secure. If it's missing that "s"—for secure—anyone can snoop on what you're doing. To be safe, install HTTPS Everywhere as an extension into your browser: it automatically switches sites from the door-wide-open http to the far more secure https.

Rent a portable hotspot. Far more secure than public Wi-Fi are portable hotspots, the pocket-sized devices you can rent. They give you a secured individual Wi-Fi connection around the world, so you can connect to the internet without using international data or open Wi-Fi networks. Skyroam (starting at $9 a day) and Roaming Man ($9.99 a day) are two good options; both give you password protected 4G Wi-Fi access in more than 120 countries around the world.

Be safe.