In a review of over 100 experimental studies by J-PAL-MIT’s Poverty Action Lab, the benefits and the shortcomings of technology in the classroom were revealed. Just throwing computers into the classroom reduced student test scores, but focused applications of technology combined with set goals improved them.
The same is true for applying technology to the field of health, fitness, productivity, and self-improvement. Whether it is better fitness or improved productivity within the self or within a business, technology needs to be laser targeted rather than sprayed around in a slapdash manner. An example would be the application of VR to improve business – IKEA have a VR app which allows customers to virtually place furniture within a home to see if it fits.
Is technology changing how we think and act?
Yes, and in some surprising ways. Do you dream in color or do you dream in black and white? Dundee University (2008) and the American Psychological Association (2011) found that over 55s, who grew up with black and white televisions, were more likely to dream in black and white.
In addition, our bodies have rewired themselves to feel phantom vibrations, we have an increased fear of missing out (FOMO), disturbed sleeping patterns, worsened memories and shorter attention spans, improved visual skills, poorer impulse control, and are more creative. As you can see from this short list, there are pros and cons to technology’s impact on our lives.
How to use tech for personal development
There are several keys to self-improvement. These include taking responsibility and mindfulness. The former is an acceptance of our role in the world to ourselves, our actions, and to others. Mindfulness is making sure we know why we’re doing what we’re doing and to be conscientious with each decision.
Schedules, notes and reminders
How do these apply to tech? It is difficult to thick of everything. We won’t go into the pros and cons of Mark Zuckerberg, but one thing he does do is reduce the number of decisions he needs to make by wearing the same types of clothes every day. Tech can be applied to take certain elements out of your mind. Make a decision—make a note of it, move on. Arrange something—set a date for it and move on.
Gateways to self-improvement
Smartphones and tablets offer access to self-improvement videos and podcasts. They also act as eReaders for articles and eBooks. This puts self-improvement information at your fingertips. Furthermore, there are a plethora of journaling apps like Day One. Journaling, the tracking of one’s thoughts and actions, is a great way to reduce stress, process emotions, and learn from them. If motivation is a problem for you, check out apps like Unstuck or happiness collection apps like Happier.
Both businesses and individuals are turning to productivity apps such as Qbserve, Toggl, and Hours to improve task management. There are also workflow systems like Slack and Trello. These make it easier to manage personal work, shared work, team activities, and to prioritize/organize large to-do lists. Other apps will block or reduce distractions such as barring you from social media while you work.
Health and fitness
The key to your improvement is your health. Good health in terms of weight, fitness, and diet, will improve your focus, ability to react to setbacks, and stress management (check out Headspace). Apps and tech range from stepometers to calorie/fitness tracking apps like MyFitnessPal to home training apps like Stacked and Keelo. There are also apps which cover running, weights, and finding workout communities (Bvddy/Aaptiv).
Most of the tech mentioned here is apps, but we have access now to so much technology from the Internet of Things to smartwatches. It is easy to have them all just as it’s easy to only eat your favorite, unhealthy foods. However, unfocused use of technology will reduce your productivity and overall happiness just as your favorite foods become bland when eaten too much. Focus on your needs and how technology will be your tool in solving that need.