Tag Archives: productivity

The Technology of Sleep

A woman sleeps clutching a smart phone.I have written before about what I call the examined or quantified life. We try to measure aspects of our life such as heart rate or calorie consumption or number of steps taken. This is often part of an attempt to adjust various aspects of our life to bring more control and meaning to our existence. One of the areas that we may not focus on enough is sleep. If done right it should represent a third of our 24 hour day. This blog post highlights various ideas, technologies, and methods to help quantify, and hopefully improve, sleep.

A Measure of Success

It used to be that lack of sleep was a positive sign that we were too busy and important to take such a long break. A recent New York Times article titled “Sleep Is the New Status Symbol” suggests just the opposite is in vogue. The author cites studies that show lost productivity and health crises attributed to lack of sleep. Now, it is more desirable and advantageous to get enough sleep, whether it be in one block or augmented with a short nap during the day. Quality sleep is the new gold.

There have been studies and articles suggesting smartphones and other devices are disrupting our sleep through bright light and mental stimulation. But there are also devices and apps for measuring sleep quality and duration. Apple’s iOS 10 has a sleep timer built right into the clock that reminds you when it is time to go to bed and then gently wakes you. In addition, it tracks your sleep and makes that available to iOS Health for logging. Also available is the SleepCycle app for Apple devices and SleepBot for Android smartphones. These all encourage you to go to bed and wake up on time through an audible alarm and then track the time that your phone is motionless so that you can modify your patterns if necessary.

Sleep Aids

Pharmaceutical sleep aids sometimes cause addictions or even interrupt sleep that they are supposed to protect. However, there are new technologies that are promising to bring deep, uninterrupted rest. While light on details, the Dreem headband promises to bring a restorative sleep. Due out this summer, the device uses electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to monitor brain patterns and produce soothing sounds at just the right moments. Like the apps mentioned above and wearable devices, it also tracks your duration and quality of sleep.

The Thim device, previewed in the above-mentioned New York Times article, will also debut this summer. Thim trains you to get to sleep faster, thus leading to a better quality sleep. It does this by waking you every three minutes after you first fall asleep in the evening. This is intended to condition your body to go to sleep faster. Personally, I think it would drive me crazy but it may work for some. It also tracks your sleep duration and patterns.

Thoughts

There are some medical issues that prevent sleep and should be dealt with, but for those of us with overactive minds or poor scheduling habits, technology can help. Personally I can go to sleep in five minutes but my brain reengages about 3:00 a.m. and it is not always easy to get back to sleep. I follow all of the standard wisdom, but to no avail. Perhaps one of these monitors or trackers might be just the thing I need. I actually sleep better in a sleeping bag in the woods than in my own bed, which may say something about me.

Have you had success with a sleep app or wearable or other technology? How has it made a difference in your life? Please share your experiences so maybe the rest of us can learn better sleep practices from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

March Madness Apps 2016: Technology to the Rescue

Basketball bursts through cell phone.As I write this blog entry, the NCAA basketball tournament is just getting underway. My Ducks are a number one seed as the men’s Pac-12 champions so I will be watching their progress closely. This is the time of year that information technology departments send out their obligatory “don’t stream basketball games over the company internet” message. So, what is a die-hard bracket watching basketball fan to do—take a two week vacation from work? Is there another way to keep up on the drama and still be a productive worker?

NCAA March Madness Live

I was at a technical conference last week during the final games of the Pac-12 championship. People were streaming or monitoring the score of the game on tablets and smartphones. I learned that NCAA March Madness Live is a free app that allows users to live-stream games. The added tournament bracket also provides the schedule, scores, and stats, reporting the action via video highlights and photos.

ESPN Tournament Challenge

For bracket-building, this app shows the entire live bracket and lets you make your own picks, which you can then share with your friends. This app provides alerts to keep you updated on the status of your bracket. This is an easy way to build and monitor the office pool.

Fanatic

If you are traveling during the tournament but you want to root for the home team, there is the Fanatic app. This is a free app available for Android or iPhone devices. It can connect you to fans of your team in the area, including information on nearby sports bars loyal to your team. It also lets you invite friends to watch the game with you, and can help you plan a party if you’d rather watch at home.

TuneIn Pro

While not just for March, this app allows you to find and listen to hundreds of radio stations so that you have your ear buds in and still appear to be working although you are listening to the big game. If you can multitask, this may be your best option for getting through March with your job intact. You can configure channels so that you can easily find relevant content for sports or other entertainment.

Television

You can watch games on television with apps available for Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV. Of course, if you are not taking two weeks off to watch the tournament and you are heeding the advice of your friendly IT person about office streaming, you can always record games to watch AFTER work. Technology has given us a lot of options.

Thoughts

In a recent calculation by consulting firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, the lost productivity due to March Madness could equal $1.9 billion. I am not encouraging that number to go any higher but I have given you some options for tracking the progress of the NCAA tournaments without using all of the company bandwidth and your time.

Do you know of other apps that keep you connected and informed? Which team do you predict will win the final game on April 4? For me, it’s the Ducks all the way.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Beyond Life Hacking

Bench under a tree in autumnWe shared an article recently on the phenomenon and history of life hacking. That article started me thinking about the need for life hacks. Which life hacks am I employing to simplify my life or make it more efficient?

History

As the article explores, life hacking as a term goes back to the mid-2000s but the concept dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century and beyond, as we sought ways to wring out every last ounce of inefficiency, especially in the work place. The wisdom says that if we can find five minutes here and ten minutes there, pretty soon it all starts to add up to real time savings that we can use in other parts of our lives. Perhaps we can gain a few minutes to actually relax, for example. I would argue, however, that we are human beings and not systems or machines. I am not convinced that it is a good idea to measure and systemize everything just to realize a few minutes of time savings.

Fifty Life Hacks to Simplify Your World

The official website of life hacking (you knew there had to be one) is lifehack.org. On this site, they list fifty life hacks to simplify your world. A lot of them are common sense but they are all designed to save you seconds or even minutes in your busy life. Some are designed to help you find things that you misplace, such as keys. Personally, that would give me back quite a bit of time. Others are everyday tips to simplify and unclutter your life, ostensibly so that you can have a few more minutes to actually live and enjoy life.

Life Hack Apps

The modern version of automating tasks is to create an app. I entered “life hacking” in Google Play and there are several apps that share tips or work to organize your life. They help you set alarms, keep lists and schedules, or remind you of appointments and life events. Some scrape data from the Internet, some just help you access tools that are already on your smartphone to make you more efficient. There are apps and devices that help you track and maximize the value that you get from your sleep each night. Now we have sleep hacking! Everything is designed to make your life ultraefficient, but I worry that it is also taking some of the fun and uncertainty out of life.

Thoughts

I understand the need for life hacking tools. We are all crazy busy and our work lives and personal lives often have melded into one continuous stream. It is sometimes hard to tell where one stops and the other begins. I would like to suggest that instead of hacking every aspect of our being, we put on the brakes once in a while and just be. Sit in a chair in the sunshine and do nothing. Reflect on the wonders of nature or the success that you have attained in life as opposed to worrying about the next minute, the next meeting, and the next assignment. I think that will do as much to recharge your system as any life hack. The world will still be there when you come back and most likely will not have missed you as much as you think. We thrive on being busy and accomplishing incredible tasks, but when was the last time you really relaxed? There is real power and real health benefits in shutting down occasionally, even for just a few minutes.

When was the last time you stopped your world for some time out? Do you have one favorite life hack that affords you those few moments to do just that?

Let me know your thoughts.

 

About Kelly BrownAuthor Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.