Make Your Super Bowl Party More Inclusive For The Visually Impaired: Three Easy Ideas

The Super Bowl is often the most-watched television program of the year. That means over a million visually impaired Americans may be tuning in. So don’t be surprised to find that your legally blind friend has plans to “watch the game.” Feel free to invite them over to join you and your buddies for the event. These easy ideas will help you keep the space and the party atmosphere accessible.

Be Mindful of Environmental Obstacles

Before your friends come over, clean up. And I don’t just mean scrub the toilets. (Though that’s a good idea, too.) Focus on clearing environmental obstacles from your guests’ path.

If people take off their shoes in your home, make a space for them away from the door. Look for rugs that may have turned up corners or electronics that have hazardous placed cords. See if there is a clear path to all of the things you would expect your guest to access, such as the bathroom, seating, and food.

If you have pets that jump up or get underfoot, you should probably put them in a different room until everyone is gone, especially if there’s an added possibility that they might try to swipe the snacks.

Describe The Food Before Everyone Digs In

To help your visually impaired friend feel comfortable at the buffet, give a little overview of the food before everyone starts helping themselves.

Describe both the location and ingredients of the food. Most people will appreciate this. No one wants to play a guessing game with what they put on their plate. You can say, “The hot wings are on the first plate to the left, and the mild wings are behind them.” Some people also have food allergies or dietary restrictions, so announcing ingredients up-front can break the ice for them to inquire about the specifics.

Using high contrast or bold colored plates can also help those with limited vision see a delineation between dishes. You can even go as far as making the visual cues match the culinary theme. In the case of the hot wings, maybe the extra spicy should go on a red plate while the mild go on a cooler-color serving dish.

Narrate More Than Just The Game

The Super Bowl should provide a pretty good play-by-play, thanks to their professional sports commentators. But the game isn’t the only reason your visually impaired friend came to your party. Socialization is the majority of the fun.

While you don’t need to go overboard in your descriptions, do consider saying things out loud more than you usually would. For example, if everyone is captivated by a friend’s new phone, don’t just ooh and ahh with no clear verbal explanation.  Make sure you state what you are all looking at. “Wow, Mike, your new iPhone looks really sleek,” is a lot more descriptive than, “Ooh. Cool.”

And don’t forget to make introductions among those who don’t know each other. Having the guests all say hello will give your friend a chance to hear everyone’s voice and pair it with a name.

It’s not hard to make your Super Bowl party enjoyable for everyone. The big game day is not really about what we see on the television screen, but what we experience with our friends and family.

Afraid the party will be so hoppin’ that it will be hard to hear the game? Check out ILA’s TV SoundBox Wireless Speaker. Keep it close to your chair or take it with you anywhere in the home. When you rely on your ears, it helps ensure you won’t miss a thing.

 

Traveling With Medical Supplies: Lighten the Load with These Hacks

Having a lot of medical equipment or supplies to haul around can put a damper on your desire to go on adventures outside of your home. The lugging, packing, unpacking, and setup may make you feel that it’s too much trouble to just get out of the door.

I’ll be honest. It takes our family almost a full day just to pack for a trip. Out of the six of us, half need specialized equipment or medications. We have a list, and we’re checking it twice. But over the years we’ve streamlined some of the processes. Here are some things we’ve learned.

Medications

Go ahead and sort your medications for the duration of the trip. When you are busy traveling and out of routine, it is much easier to forget if you’ve taken your daily meds. There are many types of pill organizers. Most hold a week’s worth of pills and have slots for AM and PM. But you can also find ones that have up to four slots a day, or that sort up to a month’s worth of pills at a time.

For medications that you take “as needed” you may want to find smaller containers to store a few doses in rather than bringing entire bottles. I’ve even used a (new) contact container as a pill box to carry a seldom-used medication. And sometimes over-the-counter meds can be purchased in smaller, travel-sized bottles.

Our family puts together a “medicine bag” where we keep all of our medications together. It’s the size of a toiletries bag, and it has handles on the top, which make it easy to grab. When we pack the car for a road trip, we make sure this bag is always accessible. That means it’s up front with the passengers or it’s on top of the pile in the back. We do this to avoid situations where we have to unpack half the car to get to a needed medication when our travel plans have us on the road later than expected.

Supplies

When packing supplies, we count out enough for the number of days we are going to be gone and then add one or two more days’ worth. If weather or other circumstances delay your return, you don’t want to be caught short.

One thing that can be helpful when organizing these supplies is making them into daily packs. Gallon sized Ziplock bags are perfect for this. For example, if you use intermittent catheter supplies, instead of throwing a week’s worth of catheters, cath packs, and continence supplies into a box or bag, sort out what you need for each day and place those supplies into a single Ziplock bag. Label the bags with the days of the week. Then, each day you can pull out the bag you need, rather than hunting around and counting out supplies each day. (Or each trip to the bathroom.) The same thing applies to wound care supplies, feeding supplies, or anything you use on a daily basis. We even pack our service dog’s food in single-serving sized sandwich bags!

Medical Equipment

Where to put the wheelchairs, walkers, grab bars, and toileting systems?  All this equipment may make you feel like you need to rent a U-Haul trailer to pull on the back of your vehicle. Our family owns a 12 passenger Sprinter van. When we go on big trips, we remove the back row to have more space. But that’s probably not necessary for smaller families. One of the best ways to get around the equipment issue is to buy lighter, portable items that can be used when you’re on the go.

Bathroom supplies seem to take up the most space. Instead of bringing your full, rigid, toileting system, try using a device like the Foldeasy Toilet Support. Pairing it with a lightweight Plastic Toilet Seat Riser helps you simulate the support you would find in an integrated system while breaking down for storage in only a fraction of the space.

Worried about adequate stability in the bathrooms you’re visiting? Pick up a few Easy Install Bath Safety Grip Handles. They’re cheap, strong, and apply easily to most surfaces. It’s possible your hotel may be out of accessible rooms, or your daughter’s home may not be equipped in the same manner as yours. Bringing your own support eliminates worry.

ILA wants you to travel with independence and confidence. Check out the links above for hygiene helpers that are designed for travel. Visit vacation destinations and get out of the cold!

Plan Your Year: The Most Effective Ways To Use Your Calendar

It’s a new year, and you have a new calendar. The sight of all those blank white squares is inspiring. This year, you are going to organize your time and be the master of your schedule.

But exactly how do you go about doing that? What’s the best way to record events and appointments to help you take it all in at a glance? Is there a way to keep your time more balanced, blocking off more time for the people and activities you love?

There are ineffective ways to use your calendar. (Scribbling in information willy-nilly.) And those methods won’t do much to help you gain control of your new year. So let’s check out some of the most effective ways to use those crisp, promising pages.

Color Coding

If one of your biggest concerns is achieving more balance in your life, color coding is a way to give you a quick visual of where your time is being spent. You can do this by using different color pens or highlighting over your writing.

First, you need to decide what categories you want to see. An example of that may be work, recreation, volunteering, family time. Choose a different color to represent each group. Then, when you enter an appointment or activity write it or highlight it in the category color it belongs in.

Now a quick glance at your calendar can show you if there is an area you are neglecting. Is your schedule full of one color but contains little of another? Maybe it’s time to re-think where your time is going.  

Use More Than One Calendar

Sometimes it’s hard to follow our calendars when they contain too much information. Doctor’s appointments get sandwiched between daily routines and children’s sports practices. You, your kids, spouse, or caregiver struggle to find the information they need. In this case, you may need to have more than one calendar. And there are two ways you can choose to set that up.

One way to use multiple calendars is to have one calendar that lists your daily routine and another calendar that shows doctor’s appointments, work meetings, or sports practices. This is especially helpful if you want to track your hourly routine each day, but you also want to be able to see special appointments at a glance. A quick look at your appointment calendar will show you have to go to the eye doctor at 3:00 while your daily routine calendar can stay open all day as you follow your schedule.

Another way to use multiple calendars is to have one calendar for work (or activities that pertain only to you) and one calendar for personal or family events. This is an effective way to use your calendar when you have other people, like children or a spouse, who need to be able to find the appointments that are relevant to them.

Throw Out Your To-Do List

This quote from author Srinivas Rao says it all. “Millionaires don’t use to do lists. If something truly matters to you, put it on your calendar. You’ll be amazed at how much the likelihood of getting it done increases.”

Do you want to read a few chapters in that new book? Remember to replace your lightbulb in the bathroom? Call your mother? Put it on your calendar.

To-do lists often get ignored. They have no concrete deadline. If you are serious about accomplishing more of the little tasks in your life, make an appointment with them and put it out on your calendar. If you have a daily routines calendar, you can intentionally save blocks of time for things like “reading,” “home repairs,” or “phone calls.” That way, no matter what specific thing you need to on a given week, you have a generic slot to pencil it in.

Are you inspired to use your calendar more effectively this year? Get a jumbo print planner or wall calendar from ILA and start your path to organization today.

 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

 

Three New Year’s Resolutions We All Should Make

The New Year’s Resolution. Often made, rarely kept. Only about 25% of Americans find themselves persevering in their new routines or habits for longer than a week. It feels good to make a fresh start, but the idea that there is something special about making that start on January 1st doesn’t seem to hold true.

Whether or not you participate in this particular tradition, it can’t be denied that working towards our goals is a positive thing. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of stereotypical pledges, such as “lose 10 pounds before summer,” consider these three resolutions we would all do well to work on, no matter what time of year.

Get More Physical Activity

Unless you’re a professional athlete, there is most likely something about your physical health that exercise could improve. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, physical activity produces a variety of long-term benefits such as reducing weight and preventing chronic diseases such as stroke.

But becoming more active can seem like a difficult task. People with disabilities or chronic health problems sometimes struggle with the traditional ideas of exercise that involve training for competitive sports or using weight rooms filled with physically fit people. Other people feel that transportation issues exclude them from being able to go to a gym or participate in outdoor recreation.

However, getting more physical activity can be as simple as moving more throughout your day. Here are some easy ideas to increase your movement.

  • Do more housework independently.
  • Walk or use your wheelchair to make some laps around your yard or neighborhood.
  • Park farther away from your destinations when going to the store.
  • Start a new project in your yard, such as a garden or raised beds.
  • Take breaks from working or resting by moving every 30 minutes.

Learn A New Skill

An article published on the National Public Radio website says, “Brain training is big business, with computerized brain games touted as a way to help prevent memory loss. But new research shows you might be better off picking up a challenging new hobby.”

Testing showed that study participants who learned a new skill had gains in mental function compared to peers who also had an active social life but did not do anything mentally challenging. It also seemed the more difficult the skill was, the more gains were made. Staying mentally agile appeared to have the potential to defer cognitive decline by several years.

So what types of skills should you learn? Anything that challenges you. Learning a new dance style, a foreign language, or how to play an instrument are all good brain exercise. Even learning a new Bridge move can exercise the brain.  Crosswords and knitting are often credited with keeping the mind sharp. And staying technologically savvy also keeps the nucleus basalis busy making connections in the brain.

Nurture Important Relationships

Harvard Health Publishing tells us that healthy relationships are not only emotionally beneficial, they also keep us healthy and can prolong our life. “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality.”

So nurturing our relationships is important. One significant finding has been that it’s not the number of relationships that matter, but the quality. In fact, if your relationships are unsatisfactory, they can have the opposite effect by causing stress and reducing immunity.

With so much busyness often getting in the way of spending quality time with our loved ones, how can we help grow and build our important relationships? Harvard recommends to, “Choose activities that are most likely to bring joy to you and the people you care about. Delegate or discard tasks that eat into your time, or do them together with family or friends.”

Instead of thinking of these resolutions as “New Year’s” resolutions, try to think of them as general, long-term goals. That way, if you have an off week, you won’t feel too discouraged. And to kill two birds with one stone, consider nurturing relationships while doing the other activities. Invite a friend to join you as you learn that new skill or take a walk around the neighborhood. You’ll both be the better for it.

Need ideas for the games and activities that will keep your mind sharp and give you a way to spend more quality time with your loved ones?  Find them here, at ILA.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Navigating The Holidays With Low Vision

Holidays should be a time of fun and relaxation, but for some people, they are also a time of stress. If it is difficult for you to change your routine or navigate new spaces, the holiday parties, visiting guests, and unfamiliar foods can take some of the joy out of special activities. For people with low vision, these factors can make it harder to enjoy the holidays, but it doesn’t have to keep you from participating with your friends and family.

Cooking For A Crowd

Everyone has a different comfort level with cooking. Some people find it a major accomplishment to do anything beyond warm up a microwave meal. Others enjoy being an amatuer chef. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, it is likely that at some point during the holiday season you will be asked to cook something. Whether it’s a full meal or just a batch of cookies, you’ll feel better if you’re prepared to work in the kitchen.

Low vision doesn’t have to affect your culinary skills. Our article What’s Cookin’: Kitchen Aids for the Visually Impaired goes more in-depth about your options. There are apps, appliances, and kitchen gadgets available that make cooking easier. Videos of the show, Cooking Without Looking, are available online to give you tips and tricks.

Adjusting The Lighting

If you are traveling over the holidays, it can be difficult to make sure other people’s homes are arranged in a way that is optimal for navigating with low vision. While you can’t control everything, one thing you can adjust is the lighting.

First, speak to your host about their lighting situation. If they are able to add extra lighting to your room or other areas of the house you will be using, then that might be helpful. Floor lamps can be easily moved for temporary lighting. You may also want to consider packing a few extra night lights to help find your boundaries in hallways and bathrooms. And try to reduce disorienting glare from TV or computer screens by turning them out of the way of direct sunlight.

Reducing Clutter

We all want our homes to be clutter-free, but it is especially important for those with low vision. Clutter can cause them to be overwhelmed, visually, or it can cause physical danger by posing a tripping hazard. If you are going to be at a party or family function, talk to your host ahead of time to make sure there isn’t anything in the space that may accidentally cause you harm.

Rugs, cords, and low tables can all be tripping hazards. These things should be moved to the side or eliminated from the common areas you will be sharing. Surfaces should be cleared of everything but essential items. Keep items such as TV remotes or toothpaste in the same consistent spot. This will help you find them later on.

Providing Visual Contrast

Asking your host to provide visual contrast can also help you find your way in unfamiliar places. One example of using visual contrast is hanging dark towels in a light bathroom. The contrasting towel color will make it easier for you to find the hand towel, and less likely you will fumble around, searching with wet hands.

When at the table, use placemats to designate the seating areas and add contrasting colored plates to help with locating your meal. Light plates on a dark mat would make a nice contrast, and reduce the likelihood that you will put your fork down on the linens, which might be more likely to happen if you have a white tablecloth paired with a light colored dish set.

Difficulties during the holidays can be avoided with a little planning. Think about the tasks that give you the most trouble and start putting helps in place to address those issues before the hustle and bustle of the holiday event arrives.

 

Arthritis Flares In Cold Weather

The effect of cold weather on arthritis is a topic that is still up for debate. It’s been established that cold weather (or sometimes rainy weather) does change how arthritic joints feel. You will also hear similar stories from those who have old injuries such as breaks. In fact, as I am typing this article, I’m experiencing that exact scenario in my left hand. The office is cold, and a 20-year-old metacarpal break doesn’t want to leave the past in the past. But when you look up the reason behind these weather-related aches and pains, you’ll find that the scientific community is still wearing its thinking cap.

Arthritis And Weather

According to Robert H. Shmerling, MD, of Harvard, “There are many potential factors — humidity, temperature, precipitation, and barometric pressure among them. Even if we could precisely identify what about weather affects arthritis pain and stiffness, we’re still not sure why — biologically speaking — weather should have any impact on joint symptoms.”

Previous studies have yielded conflicting results. However, two newer European studies may be giving us a clue. A two-year Dutch study seemed to show that osteoarthritis was worsened by higher humidity and barometric pressure. A similar more extensive study of Europeans from six different countries appeared to link higher humidity with increased pain, especially when paired with cold weather.

Robert Jamison, Professor at the Harvard Medical School and chief psychologist at the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Chestnut Hill, said  “67.9 percent of the people surveyed responded that they were sure changes in the weather had an effect on their pain. Most of the patients reported that they can feel a change in their pain before rain or cold weather occur,”

So while no one has all the answers, medical science is getting a little closer to figuring out what might be causing this phenomenon.

Preventing Arthritis Pain Through Hydration

One way to prevent arthritis pain in cold weather is to make sure you are well hydrated. This may come as a surprise since it is not an intuitive way to combat the cold. But being dehydrated can make your arthritis pain worse.

A study in 2016 showed that participants in the cold pressor test (CPT) had increased perception of pain when they were even just slightly dehydrated. For the CPT, participants were asked to submerge their feet in cold water and rate their level of pain. Their pain levels were also monitored physiologically by the measurement of heart rate and blood flow.

What the study found was that mild dehydration modifies the cerebrovascular response to the CPT. This, in turn, increases the perceived pain. So even if you’re cold, you may want to lay off the coffee and pick up a bottle of water instead.

Preventing Arthritis Pain By Bundling Up

Another way to help prevent arthritis pain is to bundle up. Staying warm during the transition from inside to outside will help relax your muscles and also reduce any sudden changes in the temperature or pressure of joints.

Regular cold-weather clothes such as hats and gloves are fine, but sometimes you need extra layers to block out the chill. Long underwear can be an option, or you can try something as simple as putting on a more fitted shirt underneath your winter sweater.

For more targeted warmth and support, you can try warmers made specifically for certain body parts. Angora shoulder warmers are light, breathable, and seven times warmer than wool. Angora allows your skin to breathe while absorbing moisture. These warmers maintain a steady temperature at the surface of the skin without adding bulk.

So while the mystery of the connection between weather and arthritis pain has yet to be solved entirely, in the meantime, ILA is happy to provide options to help keep you warm.

Photo by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash

World Diabetes Day

One in every eleven adults has diabetes. And while diabetes is an equal opportunity disease, it does skew toward those with lower incomes. Three-quarters of people with diabetes live in countries that are primarily low or middle income. However, almost half of adults with diabetes are undiagnosed, which can lead to significant health problems or even death.

The History of World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day first began in 1991. It was created by The World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Foundation. The design was in response to growing concern about the impact of diabetes on global health.

In 2006 it became an official United Nations Day. In 2007 they adopted their current blue circle logo. The blue circle is the global symbol of the unity of the diabetes community in response to the disease’s epidemic status.

World Diabetes Day is now the world’s most extensive diabetes awareness campaign. Its message reaches over 1 billion people in over 160 countries. According to their website, World Diabetes Day’s goals are to:

-Be the platform to promote IDF advocacy efforts throughout the year.

-Be the global driver to promote the importance of taking coordinated and concerted actions to confront diabetes as a critical global health issue.

World Diabetes Day 2017

World Diabetes Day 2017 is focusing on women and diabetes. Gender roles, especially in less developed countries, can limit the access of women to proper healthcare and screening. Economic barriers also affect their ability to seek and receive treatment.

This makes diabetes the ninth leading cause of death in women, globally. And because two out of every five women who have diabetes are of childbearing age, the disease accounts for more difficulties in both conception and pregnancy.

Currently, over 199 million women live with diabetes, and that number will likely increase to 313 million by 2040. Coronary heart disease is ten times more likely in women with type 2 diabetes, and women with type 1 diabetes have a much higher risk of having a baby with congenital disabilities or even suffering a miscarriage.

What Can Be Done?

The International Diabetes Federation also believes that women can be key agents in improving the health of future generations. Since 70% of the cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes, it is possible to stem the rising tide of cases of diabetes.

As mothers, women have significant influence over the health habits of their children, which means they can establish healthy lifestyles for their families. Starting children off on the right path is statistically significant because the majority of cases of premature death are related to behaviors that the individual adopted in adolescence. When women are given the tools to make good health choices for the young children in their families, they will be setting them up for continued success in the future.

For More Information

For more information on the world epidemic of diabetes, you can download a free copy of the International Diabetes Federation Atlas. The Atlas is a comprehensive, 140-page guide that covers the entire scope of diabetes research. After examining the data, it ends with a chapter on action items that can raise the global standard for care.

ILA hopes to be part of the solution by providing supplies and equipment that help make diabetes management more accessible to people of all abilities.

Tips For Med Management At Home

About 30% of hospitalizations for seniors are related to mismanaged meds. Missed doses and overdoses of prescribed medications are the most common mistakes made. Other problems can occur when possible drug interactions are not clearly understood or when patients are not aware of the degree to which their balance or cognition may be affected when using certain medications. This is why it is essential to have a good medication management plan for home. Taking the time to organize and understand your medications can prevent serious complications.

Pill Sorters

One of the simplest things you can do is purchase a pill sorter. Pill sorters come in different configurations. The most basic ones have two compartments, one for morning and one for night. Other sorters come with three or four separate compartments that cover other times of day.

All sorters are not created equal as far as ease of use. Better quality ones are easy to open, have markings that will not rub off or fade, and allow you to separate the individual days. For example, the Jumbo Portable Pill Box has both tactual markings and braille to mark the times. The individual days are also removable, and it has a ridge on the lid that helps with leveraging the compartments open.

Organizing The Month

If possible, it is helpful to organize more than one week at a time. Organizing a month in advance saves time in the long run. Once you have all the supplies out, you can quickly fill up a few more weekly rows. Organizing a month in advance also allows you to see when you might run out of certain medications and helps you plan for calling in refills or consulting your doctor if you need a medication change.

While you could buy several smaller pill sorters and add them all together to complete your month, one great option is to use the MedCenter Talking One Month Medication Organizer. This organizer has 31 individual boxes, each with four compartments for the day. They all fit neatly into one big display, with a special place to put that day’s box. This organizer also has a talking alarm that reminds you to take your medications.

Auto-Refill Programs

While organizing a month in advance can help you plan your dosing and avoid problems like forgetting to refill your medications, another great way to prevent missing medications is to enroll in your pharmacy’s auto-refill program.

Not all pharmacies will have an auto-refill program, but if they do, you should consider it for any medications you take regularly. Typically the pharmacy will set their computer system to automatically refill your prescription at the time you should only have a couple of days left. Sometimes these programs will require you to respond “yes” or “no” to a text or automated phone call to confirm that you want to refill. Other programs just go ahead and refill it without confirmation. The details vary from pharmacy to pharmacy.

Stick With A Pharmacy You Love

If it’s possible to get all of your medications from one pharmacy, then try to do so. Using multiple pharmacies can be confusing, time-consuming, and possibly even dangerous. When using more than one pharmacy, you will have to keep track of which pharmacy to call for what refill. You may also waste time each month driving to different locations to pick up your medications.

The biggest problem with using multiple pharmacies, however, is that the pharmacist may not be familiar with all of your medications and will be less able to advise you on possible drug interactions. Your pharmacist needs to see the big picture to give good advice on dosing or potential side effects. If all of your medications are entered into the computer at one location, this becomes much easier.

Using Timers Or Alarms

Technology is your friend when trying to stay on schedule with your medications. Find a timer or alarm system that is easy to operate and works best for your lifestyle. Some people just set a timer on their watch or phone. Other people find that they can too easily shut these off before completing the task of taking their meds, and then they still forget to do it.

The Your Minder Personal Alarm Clock was designed to avoid that pitfall. This clock can record your voice with a personal alarm or reminder up to six times a day. The alarm is compatible with the MedCenter One Month Organizer by nestling onto the front of the pill sorter. Having to walk over to your medications to shut off the alarm will help prevent you from wandering away without actually taking them.

Ask For Help

If you continue to struggle with medication management, it’s important to recognize what a serious issue this could become. Forty percent of seniors enter nursing homes because they can’t self-medicate in their own homes. Your independence is valuable, and asking for help may allow you to continue living in a less restrictive environment.

The first place you can seek help is from relatives or close friends. They may be happy to come and organize your medications for you or to check to make sure you have taken your medications each day. If this is not an option, you may qualify for in-home nursing care. Nursing care can oversee the task of medication administration as well as assess your overall health.

The average senior takes between eight and fifteen medications. That is a lot to remember. ILA is happy to help you stay healthy, safe, and independent by offering products that make managing your medications easier.

How Keeping Track of Time Helps Boost Your Productivity

Everyone has 24 hours in their day. So why do some people seem to get so much more accomplished than others? You may think you need to “burn the midnight oil” to get things done, but from a health perspective that’s an unsustainable plan that decreases your quality of life. A better and healthier way to boost productivity is to do intentional time tracking. Time tracking gives you the data to examine what you are spending your time on, it helps you create work-life balance, and it increases your productivity during the times you are actually working.

Time Tracking To Gather Data

Before you can implement any change, you first need to examine your baseline. For one week, write down the activities you are spending time doing, then time yourself to see how much time you are spending on those activities.

In this step, you are not setting timers or reminders to help you transition from one activity to the next, you are simply timing yourself to see if you have an accurate perception of how you spend your time. When you get up in the morning, set a stopwatch to see how long it takes you to get ready for the day. When you sit down at your desk to work, start a timer to see how long you work before becoming distracted by another task or co-worker. And when you start making your evening meal, time yourself to see how long it takes to get dinner on the table.

For example, Sally needs more sleep. She is not sure why she can’t seem to get to bed on time. Part of Sally’s evening routine is watching TV on her computer. She believes she spends about 30 minutes before bed watching TV. Sally decided to try time tracking to help her evaluate how she spends her time. On Friday evening, when she sat down with her computer, she set a timer to see how long she was actually spending watching TV. Sally was surprised to find out she spent a full 15 minutes on browsing and selecting a documentary she wanted to watch, and then another 45 minutes viewing the documentary. Sally was spending almost twice as much time watching TV as she thought!

Time Tracking To Create A Healthy Work-Life Balance

Once you have the data from your time tracking experiment, you can examine it. Some people like to use colored pencils or symbols to mark how much time they spent on tasks in different areas of their life.

During this process, you will want to choose your categories. Some people may separate activities into work, family, and friends. Whatever categories you choose, they should reflect your lifestyle. Exercise might be an entire category if you are trying to make exercising a larger part of your life. Too many categories will make things complicated, but three to six should be a manageable number. Once you’ve established your categories, on your tracking sheet color or mark the activities you tracked, so it is easy to visualize how much time is being spent in each area. If you would prefer a graph, then transfer the information and graph it. At this time you should also prioritize those categories and decide how much time you want to be spending on each one.

Rita knew she needed to start eating healthy, but cooking took more time than she felt she had. After tracking her time and looking at her categories, she realized she was spending an extra half-hour more at work every day than was necessary. She often stayed late to talk to friends in the parking lot or grab a coffee before going home. Rita realized her life balance was out of whack and that she needed to be spending that “work” time on her health instead. Rita started leaving work on time and going home. She then had plenty of time to cook a healthy meal and eat it by a reasonable hour.

Time Tracking To Increase Productivity

Once you have your categories balance, you can then increase productivity within each category. You may have to spend a certain number of hours at work every day. But at work, you can notice how much time you spent talking to coworkers, eating lunch, answering the phone, or working on a project. Within that block of work time, are you accomplishing everything that you can?

One method that people like to use when working, cleaning house, exercising, or doing other tasks, is called the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique “is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.”

The Pomodoro Technique helps you concentrate on your task for an ideal amount of time without becoming burned out. For example, if you sit down to write a newsletter, spend at least 25 minutes on the task before stopping to answer a text, go to the bathroom, speak to someone, or eat a snack. Then, once the time is up, take a short, five-minute break. Short breaks will keep you refreshed without allowing you to be distracted for too long. And scheduling breaks at certain intervals gives you the peace of mind to let things like texts wait, knowing you will still be able to check them in a reasonable amount of time.

Robert felt he could never get his projects finished at work. He did a time tracking exercise and gathered data on how he was spending his time. He was surprised to see how many times he was stopping to answer emails throughout the day. After checking, it would then take him another five minutes or so to get back on task and return to the project he was working on. Robert knew he had to check his emails, but his daily projects were more time sensitive. Robert decided to prioritize his work projects by only writing answers to non-urgent emails once in the morning and once in the afternoon. He also decided to use the Pomodoro Technique to balance work time with checking for urgent email requests. Robert gained at least an hour a day by decreasing the transition time back and forth from projects to emails.

If you want to increase your productivity, then start with time tracking today! Gather the data to examine your baseline, decide how much time to spend on different categories to optimize work-life balance, and then start using time tracking on individual tasks to increase productivity. ILA offers many time tracking devices, such as the Color and Sound Coded Timer, so that even those who have visual or hearing impairments can still stay on task and get the most out of their day.

Daylight Saving Time: Do You Ever Forget?

Whether Daylight Saving Time is beginning or ending, it’s often met with groans and sighs. In the spring, we lose a precious hour of sleep. In the fall, we theoretically gain it back, but those with pets or children know the internal alarm clock is not so easily fooled. There are pros to Daylight Saving, as well as cons, but one of the simplest inconveniences to Daylight Saving is that not only do you have to remember to change all of your clocks, you have to remember how to change them.

The History of Daylight Saving

Benjamin Franklin is credited with first introducing the idea of Daylight Saving through a satirical article he wrote while ambassador to Paris. He wittily claimed to have discovered that the sun provides light as soon as it rises, and proposed that people get up earlier to make use of the summer daylight. Although this was before electricity, he believed people could save money on candles this way.

However, Daylight Saving Time was never considered a practical option until Germany established it in May 1916 as a way to conserve fuel during World War I. The rest of Europe shortly followed, and the United States came onboard in 1918.

President Wilson wanted to keep Daylight Saving Time after the war ended, but since it robbed farmers of an extra hour of morning light, the country as a whole rejected the idea. But at the start of World War II, on February 9, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt re-established Daylight Saving Time, calling it “War Time.”

After the war, states were given a choice of whether or not they wanted to observe Daylight Saving Time. There were no uniform start or stop times, which caused chaos. So in 1966, Congress enacted the Uniform Time Act, requiring any state observing Daylight Saving Time must begin it on the first Sunday of April and end it on the last Sunday of October. This lasted until 2007, when the Energy Act of 2005 went into effect, expanding Daylight Saving Time for another four weeks.

Who Observes Daylight Saving Time?

In the United States, most states observe Daylight Saving Time. Arizona and Hawaii do not. The territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands also do not observe Daylight Saving Time.

Most countries of Europe observe Daylight Saving Time, but Asia and Africa don’t. Other continents are mixed. Paraguay and Southern parts of Brazil observe while the rest of South America doesn’t make a change. New Zealand and Southeastern Australia observe Daylight Saving, but people in the northern portion of Australia keep their clocks the same year round.

Do You Remember To Change?

Aside from the debate over whether Daylight Saving is beneficial, most people have experienced the frustration of forgetting to change their clocks or at least forgetting how to change their clocks. Reminders are set, manuals come out of the drawer, and next-morning activity planners expect to see at least one or two people arrive early or late.

One way to eliminate the stress of remembering the time change is to use atomic clocks. Atomic clocks stay perfectly set with the help of a multi-band receiver that picks up the time based on your time zone. If set up properly, an atomic watch or clock should know your location and adjust the time accordingly.

Atomic clocks can come in the form of a watch or a desktop or wall mounted version. Even if every clock in your house is not atomic, using an atomic clock for your bedroom alarm can relieve you of the stress that comes with forgetting to wake up at the correct time.

No matter how you feel about Daylight Saving Time, it is most likely here to stay. The best thing you can do is to set yourself up for a successful transition by using as many automatically-syncing timepieces as possible. And maybe study up on that microwave manual.