May 21, 2015
Who couldn’t use a little more serenity and a lot less stress in their life? Juggling work commitments, keeping your house in order and cajoling the kids into doing their chores can tax your sanity. Good news! Technology can help you restore some peace to your household. Here are some of my favorite tech tools for helping you and your family to stress less and enjoy life more.
I consider myself a relatively patient parent, but after the sixth time of asking (or, more accurately, begging and wheedling) my six year old to brush his teeth, I can lose my cool. Gregg Murset found himself in just this position, times six – he’s a father of six who was tired of running around after his kids to make sure they brushed their teeth, put away their laundry or did their homework. To combat the stress, he invented My Job Chart, a software application where parents can designate a point value to a task and then assign jobs to their kids. Each child has their own login, where they can see their day’s tasks and the status of their point earnings. Accounts can be accessed online, or through the My Job Chart app (available for iOS and Android mobile devices). Best of all, the program is free.
When your child clicks “complete” on a task, you receive a notification. If the task is completed successfully, the child earns the assigned points, which he or she can choose to save, share (donate to charities such as the American Cancer Society) or spend. You can allow your child to “spend” points at Amazon on items you pre-select, so rewards are delivered seamlessly, allowing parents to make good on promised prizes without having to squeeze in a trip to the store.
Managing earned points gives kids a chance to learn the fundamentals of budgeting, money management, and allocation of funds between instant gratification, saving for a larger prize, and donating to a worthy cause. Anything that gets the dishwasher unloaded without drama is a coup in my book.
My calendar gets crazier every year. Between work commitments, kids appointments, after school activities and school events, I don’t know how I managed in the days before online calendars. While I’m a big supporter of Google’s shared and synced calendar functionality, it made me the reluctant master planner of the family. I track everyone’s appointments, so I have to book every dentist check up and remind everyone to get where they need to be.
If you find yourself in a similar predicament, Cozi’s Family Calendar may be your sanity saver. It allows you to create a shared family calendar where every member of your household can see the day or week’s events. For those without regular access to a computer, iPhone or Android device, printable calendar templates are available. Appointments can be color coded by family member, and you can view individual schedules or the whole family all at once. Set up automated reminders to the involved parties, so your son can’t claim he forgot about band practice. You can quickly schedule repeating events, and share family activities with a babysitter or grandparent by adding a tab for them in the calendar.
Once you retire from the position of family event coordinator, check out what else Cozi offers. Shared shopping lists give you, or your spouse, an up-to-date list always at hand, without planning ahead. Not to mention, anyone can add bread to the list when they use the last slice. The to-do list feature lets you create either shared or individual to-do lists, allowing older kids to have access to their daily and weekly chore list or to maintain an updated list of school and home tasks they need to complete. Add a due date and it will appear on the family calendar for an extra reminder.
Basic features are available for free, or upgrade to Cozi Gold for $29.99 a year to unlock additional reminders, month view on mobile devices, and an ad-free experience.
Studies have shown that people of all ages can benefit from spending a few minutes each day in “mindful meditation.” Researchers from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD found that it can help ease anxiety, depression and pain. It can help you to reduce stress, sleep better, and improve focus.
While I would love to help my children learn to quiet their mind, focus on the moment and calm their inner monologue, I can’t imagine them patiently sitting through a Deepak Chopra seminar. Lucky for me, there’s a free app called Stop, Breathe & Think that walks you through an easy process to identify how you’re feeling (Anxious? Tired? Irritable?), and then gives you a five minute guided meditation tailored to your current state of mind.
The app was developed by the non-profit organization Tools For Peace, which has partnered with more than 20 organizations, universities and schools to help kids learn mindful meditation to reduce stress, gain awareness of their emotions (so as to become less reactive to them), and develop compassion. The simple interface is kid friendly, so your whole family can find a few minutes of Zen.
Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds On Call, which offers onsite computer and laptop repair service for homeowners and small businesses. Based in Redding, Calif., it has locations in five states. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea.