This post is sponsored by Google
A new year has started and with it comes new resolutions that are often broken. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to make and keep resolutions, it’s ok to be more mindful- especially when it comes to technology use.
Managing tech use is no simple task and often taking the first step is the hardest. But there’s no need to feel guilty or struggle to find the right balance with technology, especially when there are tools that can help you manage daily tech use in ways that work with your lifestyle. By shifting the way we think about technology, we can make our inboxes feel less overwhelming, prioritize tasks to better manage our time, and give ourselves permission to take breaks without the guilt.
8 Free Tools to Help You Manage Daily Tech Use
This is the year to take small steps to regain control over the technology that has infiltrated our lives to find a balance that feels right to you.
Start by examining your relationship with technology. Use this information to think about where you struggle and how some of the free tools below might be able to help. Don’t feel like you need to use each of the free tools in my list right now. Instead, choose a couple that make sense for you and revisit this post as needed. Chances are when the next decade rolls around, you’ll be better able to manage daily tech use and feel less guilt about not being connected 24/7.
4 Free Tools That Give Your Permission to Take Breaks from Your Inbox
The joy and curse of email is that your inbox is always there. You can send and receive emails at any hour and the ability to read and respond to messages on our phones makes us feel like we should be available.
Free tools like Gmail Auto Reply, Do Not Disturb, and the Android Wind Down Screen make it easier to give yourself permission to take breaks from your inbox and your phone. Here’s a quick look at how each tool can help you set boundaries to manage your tech use.
Auto Reply doesn’t have to be just the times when you’re going to be physically out of the office. One of my favorite ways to use Auto Reply is to set expectations for work hours during times when I want to focus on family.
I used it to let people know I was taking two weeks off over winter break but I’ve also used it during the summer months. Each summer I work limited hours so Auto Reply lets those emailing me know that it might take me a little longer to reply because I’m enjoying time with my kids. Even though I was originally worried about how colleagues might react to such an Auto Reply, I’ve found that it garners a new level of respect and has even inspired other working parents to do the same!
I find push notifications to be a huge distraction so even though I’ve customized notifications by turning many of them off, I still engage the Do Not Disturb feature. With one tap in your settings, Do Not Disturb hides all notifications by muting sounds, stopping vibrations, and blocking visual disturbances. This ensures that the only texts and phone calls I get between the hours of 9 pm to 8 am are from my parents and kids so I can focus on what’s most important.
If you need a gentle reminder that Do Not Disturb hours are beginning, Android Wind Down Screen reminds you to switch your phone off at night by setting a bedtime schedule for your phone.
Grayscale changes the screen from black to white as a visual reminder and Do Not Disturb silences notifications to help you get a good night sleep.
If there’s ever been a time you wish you could switch off work, there’s good news! You can! Android users can turn off their work profiles with one tap to pause work apps and their notifications. This allows you to use your device without work interruptions in the evenings, on weekends, and to enjoy that vacation you deserve.
- Read my post How to Talk to Tweens and Teens About Digital Safety and Screen Time for conversation starters and tips
- Use the free Family Link app from Google to help you and your kids understand how their devices are being used. The built-in Daily Limits feature allows you to set time limits according to app type.
- Fans of the YouTube Kids app can use the built-in timer to limit viewing to help kids develop healthy habits from a young age.
- Configure YouTube’s Take a Break Reminder to encourage older kids to take a break after watching videos for a long time.
4 Strategies for Taming Your Inbox
The problem with email is that it comes in at all hours of the day. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and distracted by your inbox but here are a few simple ways to manage it so you can attend to other tasks without it feeling like a burden.
Constantly distracted by email notifications? When I get a new email, it distracts me like a shiny object. Even though I close my inbox, pop up notifications can still be a distraction, so I’ve changed my email notifications to turn them off. Turning off email notifications that come through my browser and when I’m signed into Gmail has helped me regain focus.
Make Alarms or Calendar Invites Work for You
You’re already using your alarm to wake you up each morning, but have you thought about how you can use it as a work tool? When you create your calendar, create a meeting invite as a way to build in time to answer emails, texts, etc. You’ll get a reminder via your calendar on your phone or desktop but can also use your alarm to remind you.
I find it helpful to block out my calendar, label the alarm on my phone, AND set a timer to limit the amount of time I’m spending on emails. This helps ensure my inbox doesn’t take over my work day. By setting aside time in the morning and afternoons to address my inbox, I’m better able to focus my attention on other tasks but still reply in a timely manner.
To-do lists and task management systems can be helpful in reminding us of daily tasks as long as we stay focused but Gmail Priority Inbox. Gmail Priority Inbox allows you to automatically split into four sections: Important, Unread, Starred, and everything else. High-priority notifications can help limit the number of email alerts you receive so you’ll be notified of your most important messages. With this feature, I use high-priority notifications for certain consulting clients so their emails don’t get buried in my inbox.
No one needs to know when insomnia keeps you up and you decide to tackle your inbox. You can take a nap later thanks to Gmail Schedule Send. This feature allows you to schedule your emails to send at a later time, according to the time zone you schedule them in. This helps important email land in someone else’s inbox at a time when they’re most likely to see it, rather in the middle of the night.
Need more advice about digital wellbeing and tools to help you achieve media balance?
Google’s Digital Wellbeing Family Guide is a great resource! It provides tips on how to tackle tough topics, guidance on sparking productive conversations, and help identifying healthy habits for every age and stage of your family. More digital wellbeing tips and tools can be found to help you and your family at wellbeing.google.
You can also check out my past posts that feature more information about how to use free tools from Google Be Internet Awesome, Google Be Internet Awesome, and the Family Link app to create positive conversations about technology, digital citizenship, and digital wellbeing in your home.
More Posts with Tips to Help Your Family Take Charge of Your Digital Lives:
- How to Teach Your Kids to Unplug in Favor of Digital Wellbeing
- How to Talk About Digital Wellbeing with Your Teens
- How to Talk to Tweens and Teens About Digital Safety and Screen Time
- 10 Tools That Will Help You Take Charge of Your Digital Life
Must-Read Posts about Digital Citizenship:
- Giving Your Child Their First Cell Phone? Read This First!
- These Free Resources Will Help You Raise Confident Digital Citizens
Posts about Digital Safety:
- How Google Be Internet Awesome Teaches Kids It’s Cool to Be Kind
- 6 Ways Families Can Work Together to Be Internet Awesome on Safer Internet Day
- 6 Questions Parents Need to Ask Kids to Reinforce Kindness in the Digital World as a way to teach them how to treat others how you’d like to be treated, both online and IRL
- 3 Simple, Positive Actions to Teach Tweens to Combat Bullying
- How I Taught My Tween to Be an Upstander
- How to Talk to Kids When They See Adults Being Unkind
- How Kids Can Play Their Way Through Interland to Learn Digital Citizenship
I am compensated for my participation in the Google Family Partner program. This post is sponsored by Google but all opinions are my own.