There are a lot of apps out there aimed at self-improvement, which is probably a good thing because there are quite a few people who could work harder to improving themselves. The thing is, with everybody and my mom now designing apps (she’s making a social network for kittens) how do you work out which works and which doesn’t? And how do you make sure you get the most out of them?
Let’s look at an important point regarding that second question first.
Don’t make it too easy
In his book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg discusses how counter-intuitively, sometimes information is more useful to us when it’s harder to consume.
He discussed how a group of teachers only came to terms with the information they were being presented with when they were forced to interact with it when it was presented on paper and they worked with it by hand. Similarly, students that took notes in class by hand remembered more information than those who took notes on a laptop.
He argues that it’s because information has to be processed more slowly and decisions have to be made about in the former how to manipulate it and in the latter what to write down, it is understood better and remembered longer. And that actually seems quite plausible to me. So take notes as you read through the rest of this article!
Now let’s look at some places where technology can really help you improve yourself.
Learn another language
For a time there everybody was puzzling and gaming their way to a better brain. The problem was, it didn’t actually seem to work, with plenty of research pointing out that the benefits are minimal at best. Enter language learning. Here the evidence is quite the contrary, with it helping fight off the effects of aging and dementia, making you smarter and helping you focus attention.
The thing is, it turns out that adult language learning is quite different from how we learn languages as a child. It requires far more repetition and instant feedback. And that works well for apps. As a result, dozens have come out on the market. Now we could get into the reviews of companies here, but we won’t. Instead, let’s just go with the clear winner, which is Duolingo.
The benefits of learning music are absolutely tremendous and now that there are apps available to teach you how to do so, there really is no longer any excuse not to learn. Want to learn the chords on the guitar, how to play chopsticks or tune your cello? It’s not just possible, it’s easy with the right app!
Work on your gratitude
We’re all aware by now that gratitude journaling has some real benefits. The thing is, most of us can’t remember to sit down a few times a week to write in a journal. So instead, try out happier. This lets us store happy moments in our day, with the idea being that if you stand still at your happy moments you’re more likely to appreciate them.
Get help to stay on course
Lifebloom doesn’t just let you track the big goals you have in life, but even figure out why they are your goals. From there it offers you inspiration and also offers you quick little things to help you continue working towards getting your goal sorted, like doing jumping jacks to stay healthy.
Add to that some nice visuals where you can see how you’re developing (and where you’re not) by way of a nice tree that grows and wilts and you’ve got a pretty good tool to stay the course and work on your self-improvement.
Now if you like walking, do not get a footstep pedometer. The reason is that doing so will externalize the pleasure that you experience from the activity and research has shown that when you externalize an intrinsic motivation, you end up enjoying it less.
If, on the other hand, you’re not one for walking but would really like to start getting some exercise in, then by all means get one. Often we become far more aware of how much we walk by using one and can even find ourselves trying to walk more, just to see if we can keep on growing our graph. And that isn’t just good for you, that is good for the environment besides. Double win!
Now I love books. I love the smell of them. I love the texture. I love turning the pages. Nonetheless, I’m an e-reader convert. It’s just such a convenient device! First of all, they’re lighter than normal books, meaning I can take them everywhere. Secondly, you can now get almost everything that’s been printed in an e-reader format, while you can download it anywhere.
Now you can’t imagine how useful that is. Previously, if a friend told me about a book I’d jot it down somewhere and instantly forget about it. Now I just go online, wherever I am, and download it and have it immediately accessible. That means what I’m reading is far more varied than it previously was and reading more varied work has been a path to self-improvement.