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5 Awesome Apps That Let You Unplug and Relax

March 29, 2016

“Always on” is how I would describe most of our professional lives. We live hyperconnected. We are glued to our devices, checking emails and instant messages every few seconds as if it was a natural bodily function. If you look around, you can easily spot professionals punching in more than 50 hours of work every week. And another 20 something hours spent checking their iPhones for work-related emails outside of work and over the weekends.

Smartphones and tablets have given us tremendous ability to untether ourselves from our work stations. But they have imposed an undue obligation on us to be always available to clients and customers. You are never free of interruptions anymore; always tip-toeing around work when all you really need is some time off to unplug and relax. It is also not uncommon to find professionals overwhelmed and feeling like they always have “too much to do”. To them, taking time off is a luxury they cannot afford because they are struggling to make it through even a weekend without having to check emails.

A few years ago BCG conducted a study about the effects of predictable time off — a conscious and complete unplugging of sorts for a certain duration of time — with its consultants and the results have been remarkable. After spending only a few afternoons and evenings totally disconnected from work and wireless devices, some even agreeing to periods of total email blackouts, people reported feeling more focused and energized to take on their work. Many even said they were now in a position to deliver significantly more value to their clients and that kind of positivity made them feel they could stay on with BCG for a longer period of time.

With such high payoffs, one cannot ignore the benefits of taking regular time off from work. And it does not have to happen at the cost of the work itself. Even just a few moments of conscious unplugging, for some personal time, and on a regular basis, can go a long way in keeping you feeling energized and excited about your work.

Ironically, in this day and age when technology keeps much of our sanity at bay, there are a couple of technology-powered tools are that actually quite effective in granting you some breather from work. I see this as a way to unscramble the brain for a bit without moving away from the safe and oh-so-familiar environment of digital devices.

Here are my 5 app recommendations to help you unwind, unplug and untangle your mental chords:

1. ClearLock

This is the easiest app to help you lead a distraction-free life. With a super simple UI, this app allows you to temporarily block distracting apps for the duration of time you choose. Once checked, the setting cannot be undone until the allotted time elapses. So, no matter how much you try you will end up focusing on things you really want to for that stretch of time.

Perfect for: Those who feel technology has more power on them than they’d like to admit to.

clearlock app to unplug and relax

2. Offtime

This is one of my favorite apps lately. And I like it mainly because it keeps my smartphone habits in check. For one, it tells you exactly how much time you have been spending on every app. Another feature lets you put your phone on a do-not-disturb mode with customized settings. You can create exceptions for certain contacts; say your family or the doctor, so they can still reach you while you are “away”. And then you can create similar exceptions for a few apps that you would still want to use while off the grid. In case you were worried you are going to miss a call from your boss, the app does prompt a message about who all have tried to reach you while you were off the grid so you can follow up.

Perfect for: Those looking to have work-free weekends and email free vacation time.

offtime app to unplug and relax

3. QualityTime

Very much like Offtime (but more advanced), Qualitytime helps you get a broad sense of your smartphone habits and keeps it in check. With this app, you can set limits for how much time you want to spend on an app on a daily basis. Once you hit the limit, the app will prompt you a message about it. Also, you can create custom do-not-disturb profiles; say for work, home and leisure. In each profile, you can specify which apps you still want access and for how long.

Perfect for: Those who are addicted to their smartphones, have less to no self-control when it comes to emails, and are constantly busy on their phones irrespective of whether they are home or away from home.

qualitytime app to unplug and relax

4. Pause

This is something more creative. Pause is a relaxation-inducing app that plays on color psychology and fluid movements inspired by Tai Chi. With just your fingertips, you slowly and steadily create blobs of color across your screen along a moving path. These effects disappear the moment you take your finger away from the screen. The idea behind this simple yet striking app is to allow you to disentangle your mind of all the clutter, calming you down along the way. It is a paid app, but it pays for itself from the moment you first use it.

Perfect for: Taking short breaks in-between your work day or to cool down momentarily when dealing with stressful situations.

pause app to unplug and relax

5. Calm

This one is a free meditation app that’s perfect for those who are not quite into staunch yoga. Its free services include 7 guided programs of simple meditation and sleep improvement techniques, all of 2 to 30 minutes, along with access to 16 soothing sounds and nature scenes. It’s a simple enough app that you can build into your day quite comfortably, at your convenience.

Perfect for: Those who have always wanted to try meditation but do not have enough time. And people who regularly complain about stress and the need to unwind, even if for a brief few moments.

calm app to unplug and relax

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