At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: technology

4 Ways Tech Helps Me Adapt During the Pandemic

The pandemic has forced me to reevaluate my relationship with my technology. Here’s how I’ve adjusted my focus.

I’m so happy there’s light at the end of the tunnel now that Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out. And while there’s still a long road ahead, I can begin to think about how some of my technological adaptations during the pandemic might continue into the future.

I Rewired my Hunting and Gathering Instincts
I used to think that spending extra money for online grocery delivery was an unnecessary luxury. We’re genetically encoded to hunt and gather. So spending decades going to supermarkets had seemed like the natural way to acquire food.

But since the pandemic began, I’ve relied on FreshDirect for the bulk of our weekly grocery needs. I know folks go to the grocery store wearing masks and practicing responsible social distancing. I simply went in a different direction.

Sure, there are other online options for grocery delivery, but when times were especially tough at the beginning, and open delivery slots were hard to find, FreshDirect came through for me more often than the others.

And even when the pandemic is over, I plan to continue using FreshDirect. I’ve already signed up for the $129 annual membership (DeliveryPass), which unlocks free delivery.

Whole Foods technically offers a better deal, because free delivery is already bundled into my Amazon Prime membership. That said, finding an opening in the limited two-day delivery windows can still feel like you’re playing the slots in Vegas.

No, it’s not like I’ll never walk into a grocery store again, but there’s real value to having the bulk of your groceries regularly delivered to your doorstep. (I’ve also appreciated the time saved from not having to shop and wait on line at checkout.)

I Learned to Live without Two-Day Shipping
Once upon a time, it felt so empowering being able to shop online and receive purchases within one or two days, often for no additional shipping costs. How convenient was that?!

But there was a hidden tradeoff. I no longer had to be especially organized. Whenever I ran out of something, I could almost magically have a replacement quickly show up.

But when the mail slowed down and two-day delivery became ‘you’ll get it when you get it,’ it created a shock to my system. I realized that I suddenly needed to plan more… like I once had to.

So, I built back that muscle of self-reliance and tracking my own supply chain. It’s felt good being more conscious of the specific resources that my family requires and when.

Blurting out to a Siri or an Alexa that I need more milk when I’m holding the empty carton maybe isn’t so empowering after all. Not when you’re already out of milk.

Free two-day delivery is great. Two-hour delivery is incredible. Drones dropping boxes from the sky at my every shopping whim feels like a future shopping nirvana. Who needs to worry about what you need if you can have more of it within hours?

Well, remember that now, maybe you can’t have it for a couple of weeks or months. And you’d better not forget how to live that way. 2020 was a cautionary tale in so many ways.

I Forced Myself to Keep my Webcam On
I don’t have to tell you about the isolation. The loneliness. The feeling of being cut off. In many ways we’ve been living in our own little bubbles.

Of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

Our little webcams are one of the few safe ways we are able to break out and communicate face-to-face, if only virtually. My iMac’s webcam is my lifeline to my outside world.

Sure, it takes effort to be ‘on camera.’ And you should always put those Zoom best-practices to use, no matter who you’re Zooming with.

Yes, it’s easier to turn off your webcam and communicate via audio only. But I say it’s a bad tradeoff. You’re losing so much without sharing your face and your visual cues.

So, if you’re concerned about really staying connected with those who matter, use that webcam and let them see you!

I Paid for More Bandwidth
Did you also face a barrage of complaints from family members that your home Wi-Fi network couldn’t handle the increased load of endless Zoom meetings, online learning and Netflix streaming?

The culprit is probably not your home Wi-Fi network. It’s your Internet service plan. So, go check it and then upgrade your bandwidth to the next level. That should do the trick.

I was paying for the base plan of 100 Mbps. So I spent $10 more a month to double it. That stabilized the Lester family really quickly. (There are faster plans, but I say that you should buy only what you need.)

I Focused on the Essentials
If there’s a lesson here, it’s realizing the true value of technology when life gets turned upside down.

It’s not so much about the conveniences. It’s about how technology can support the essentials like food and communication.

If your technology is supporting your fundamentals, you’re on track! The rest is just a distraction.

Nature, Technology, and the New Year

This photomosaic is my homage to the opposing elements that have helped to maintain my balance throughout the pandemic.

I don’t usually think of nature and technology as being cut from the same cosmic cloth. But together, they’ve done so much to help me endure all of the disconnection caused by the pandemic. Over the past year, I’ve found it remarkable to see how much these opposite elements have been able to fuel both the spirit as well as some simple daily essentials.

For me, there’s been a huge need to rebuild connection points that have been shattered throughout all of the disruptions.

Too Much Zoom?
I don’t have to tell you how much Zoom and other video conference platforms have helped to maintain face-to-face communication throughout all parts of our lives.

But unrestricted by life’s former patterns, our computers have also beckoned for our extended attention without regard to former boundaries. Zoom fatigue was the term we gave to the resulting drain on our life force.

Choosing to break away from the digital siren’s glow and step outside for a simple walk has been critical to maintaining sanity. Doing a nature walk is even better. For me, it’s been a great way to refresh and remember what’s really important in life.

Back to the Future
Leaning on both nature and technology helped me to keep it together in 2020. It’s about maintaining balance. And for me, I did that by better balancing my time between the two.

There were also ways to positively engage with both simultaneously. I found that snapping more nature photos and time-lapse sunrise videos was a joyous connective tether.

As we look to a better 2021, we should continue to weave together the impact of these two contrary forces. Eventually, there will be a next new normal after the pandemic ends. That life should continue to reflect our healthier balance with both technology and nature. (That’s my New Year’s resolution.)

And if your harmony isn’t quite there yet, now’s a great time to get started!

I wish you a safe and healthy 2021.

Why my Magic Hour is my Super Power

This is the story of my favorite time of day and how this found hour became my most productive.

I was born a night owl. And I spent much of my life using late-night hours productively. It felt natural, like I was hard-wired to do that. Mornings, on the other hand, were my kryptonite. And I struggled through them as I ramped up into my day.

Then, about fifteen years ago, I needed to get up earlier as part of a new schedule. The shift was painful. But over time, my body began to adjust. And once I recognized the need to also go to bed earlier to make up for the lost sleep, I began to find a new balance for my daily rhythms.

When I no longer needed to get up at the crack of dawn, I didn’t immediately return to my former schedule. And I found the extra hour to ninety minutes in my mornings.

The Power of my Magic Hour
I explored this time and discovered an amazing benefit. While I thought it would be a period of brain sluggishness, in fact it was the opposite. I was entirely clear headed.

I was sharp and unburdened by all of the clutter that tended to fill up my head throughout the day. You could call it a sense of clarity. I began to call it my magic hour.

It was a time where my creative self was most fully present. And my cognitive productivity levels went through the roof.

Sure, part of that equation was the fact that I had no outside disturbances. (Nobody else was awake yet.) But it was more than that. I had discovered the zone when my brain worked best.

People ask me when I find the time to write this blog. Yep, it’s during my magic hour that begins at 5:30am.

My magic hour became my super power.

Discover and Protect
When our son was born, my magic hour was challenged by a new family schedule. And after things settled a bit, son of Barrett proved himself to be a natural morning person. That also threatened to infringe on my magic hour. But I was able to adjust it back a bit to maintain its integrity.

I think everyone values having enough ‘me’ time. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen before the sun rises. It can be when the clock strikes midnight or when you’re in the middle of a solo activity like commuting.

Everyone should know the best hour when they can be fully in their own head. And then, you’ve got to make the time for that!

The Need for Me-Bubbles
But life during this pandemic is, of course, quite different. Much of our ‘me’ time has evaporated due to the physical compression caused by family units feeling forced to spend as much time at home as possible.

I think a reaction to that is the desire to create virtual ‘me-bubbles,’ and of course, technology can help generate them.

That said, these me-bubbles can’t interfere with others who may be only feet away. So that means using headphones more and not blaring your whole-house speaker system.

Technology can also strengthen certain me-bubbles that you may not want to promote.
(I don’t have to tell you parents about the current pressure for more iPad screen time. It’s a force from your kids that can require the Force to properly keep in check.)

Don’t Become a Bubble Stranger
Yes, creating and protecting quality me time is important. That said, maintaining the right balance at home needs to be part of the equation. You don’t want to inadvertently birth a family of bubble strangers through technology.

To summarize:

  • Magic Hour = Good
  • Brain Clutter = Bad
  • Me Time = Good
  • Bubble Strangers = Bad

Retraining your body for a new sleep schedule = actual results may vary.

Good luck!

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