La chronique de Mark Tungate: Smoothing your digital day
We’re regularly told that digital devices and apps are distracting us from our work, family and social lives. We should raise our eyes from the screen and concentrate on the essential from time to time. But many apps aim to help rather than hinder as we move through our busy day.
Take the morning alarm, for example.
NASA will tell you that the key to better mornings is a better night’s sleep. In fact, the app Sleep Genius is based on insights that help astronauts sleep. It claims to “train your brain” so that you’ll sleep better and wake naturally. Take a look at the rather alarming video. Spooky or not, it’s one of the best-reviewed apps out there.
There are a variety of other alarms to suit every taste, from the elegantly minimalist Rise, which enables you to wake up to progressive alarms or your own music choices, to quirky versions like Walk Me Up – which won’t stop until you’re on your feet – and Snap Me Up – which won’t shut up until you take a selfie.
Once you’re up and running – or at least shuffling – you’re gonna need a to-do list. Because presumably, you don’t have access to AT&T’s Sven, captured in action by BBDO New York.
Personally I love crossing things out on paper, but there are plenty of digital equivalents. Lifehack.com, one of my favourite sources of gadget news, describes the Wunderlist app as “fantastic”.
“With the ability to sync across all your computing devices, this is one app that is always going to help you stay on top of your to-do list. Your to-do list can also be shared and collaborated with team members,” the app’s makers boast.
So instead of worrying about everything you have to do, just put it on Wunderlist and tackle your priorities one at a time. Pretty useful, because as DDB Argentina insists in a spot for Volkswagen, stress can be hard to detect.
Or is it? An app called Stress Check by Azumio is one of many that measures stress levels by monitoring your heart rate. You can back it up with Azumio’s stress relief app, Stress Doctor, which guides you through deep breathing exercises.
With any luck, by now you’ve made it to lunch without any serious mishaps. Now you want to eat healthily. Well guess what? There’s an app for that.
The one that everybody mentions is called MyFitnessPal, said to be the most popular health and fitness app in the world. It has a database of more than six million foods, helps you track your calorie intake, and can of course be tailored to suit your individual diet and exercise needs.
But how about donating some of those uneaten calories to malnourished kids? The Polish Red Cross did just that in this initiative from 2013.
Talking of “doing good”, the pressure on us to behave ethically and responsibly has never been so high. Enter the new French app QQF (short for “Qu’est-ce qu’on fait” or “What should we do?”). In short, it uses your location to tell you which restaurants, boutiques and bars nearby have adopted ethical and sustainable behaviour (recycling, for example). It was created by Paris “content intelligence and design” company Maartin.
Having worked hard and done the right thing, it’s now time to pick up the kids. But what if you need a night off? Ever dreamed of an app that would miraculously transform into Mary Poppins? The closest is UrbanSitter, an app that enables you to find “the most trusted babysitters and nannies” within your local community and book one for the evening.
Coincidentally, here’s another ad for the Red Cross, from BBDO Atlanta, stressing the importance of finding the right childcare.
Kids safely ensconced with the sitter, you’re now fee to do your own thing. How about catching a game? Another French app, SuperFootballClub, will tell you the nearest bar screening the night’s match. And once you programme it with details of your favourite team, you need never miss a match again.
You’ll need to keep a handle on the alcohol you consume while you’re out, so you’d better download Drinkaware. It isn’t designed to help you stop drinking altogether, but it will help you keep tabs on units and calories and enable you to cut back. Its makers say they’ve recently added a cost tracking feature after feedback from users: “See how much you’ve saved from cutting back.”
Hopefully you spent the evening with your partner. No? Hit the town with the gang? Woke up with a bad taste in your mouth? You may have some making up to do. Perhaps you need Relationup, an app that lets you lets you text with “qualified, prescreened relationship counselors.” They’re available 24/7 to help with anything from first dates to family crises.
Or maybe you just need a nice cup of tea.