There is no doubt that in a new era where just about everyone is immersed in technology is changing the way humans operate. On a very basic level, it’s important to understand that human beings were never programmed with the intention of engaging with entirely artificial and digital worlds. But given the complexity and advanced intelligence we as human beings possess, it’s a testament to our ability to adapt and utilize new technologies and stimuli to our advantage.

 

This is why when we look at the modern world, so many people question whether or not technology is reducing or adding stress to people’s lives. As the University of Gothenburg proved in four separate studies recently, there is no doubt that new technologies, both those on and off the internet, are contributing to increased levels of stress. And while sure, there are certain applications that can ease our day-to-day life, overall, the expansion of this technology has opened so many new doors that otherwise present human beings with the psychological exposure that otherwise wouldn’t have been seen in previous eras when this technology didn’t even exist to begin with.

 

We obviously don’t want to belittle and bemoan all tech advances.  In another post I actually wrote about some must-have technology hacks and upgrades designed to ease your workday stress. When we’re done with work and with family and friends however, that’s where the tech should take a bit of a backseat.  Don’t be the guy screwing around with Snapchat when a live body is in front of you trying to have a conversation – that is the worst.

 

The Modernization of Isolation

Undoubtedly, one of the most depressing (literally) aspects of technology is its tendency to force human beings into isolation. And while human beings are willingly accepting this isolation, there is no doubt that by proxy, you cannot operate or utilize a lot of this technology without willingly putting yourself into those situations. For example, in order to play a single player online role-playing game, one must be alone to do so. So while it is a free choice to buy, download, and play the game, the user cannot change the way the game is played. The user has no other option than to play a game that forces them to dedicate a considerable amount of their time and energy into upgrading and improving a fake avatar rather than interacting and facing reality. And just the same, although social media applications feign the interaction with fellow human beings, it is being conducted in an artificial way. There is a screen between the two parties, versus a face-to-face interaction, which itself has become more stress for many people as younger children and adults struggle to communicate as adeptly as past generations.

 

As social creatures this means that we are naturally prone to becoming depressed and stressed out, and for many people, they don’t realize that the progenitor of their stress is their usage of this technology rather than going out for a walk or breathing fresh air. But sure, there are fair arguments to be made that in certain cases we now have increased ability to reduce stress thanks to modern technology. We can order items online rather than having to go out and purchase them, a mother can check on her daughter as she goes out to the movies thanks to her smartphone’s tracking app, and a myriad of other benefits these technologies can provide. I myself am a huge fan of both yoga apps and meditation mp3s to reduce stress.  But overall, as human beings continue to interact with new technologies, the growing pains and consequences of enjoying and using them will continue to rear their ugly heads from time to time.  The more you employ tech in your daily life, the more mindful you need to be about creating a stress-alleviating counterbalance to it.

As connected as everyone seems to be via social media, do you really feel you’re getting turned on to new music now as much as when word-of-mouth was the prominent music discovery tool?  Bands are also feeling the frustration. There are too many platforms and too much noise to cut through.  For fans, trying to find hot new acts or even older but obscure ones is more elusive than it should be.

 

Sure, the radio is always a “go to” avenue of approach for those that want to let someone else handle the tunes and steer them toward Top 40 like sheep – but since so many of us now use streaming services to play our music (even in the car) we’re somewhat left to our own devices to find new music, new artists, and new bands to fall in love with.

 

There are more than a few music discovery sites out there but the four platforms below should give you all the variety you crave.  You’re probably using at least one of them now, but despite they’re having been around for a while these remain the best.

 

Sound Cloud

 

Not only is Sound Cloud the fantastic platform for artists that are looking to share their music with the world; a wonderful tool for independent artists and bands to spread their music all over the planet with a smooth and quick upload process, but it also happens to be a great place to find new music, artists, and to get hooked on the “next big thing” before they actually break through. Check out the curated groups run by the Sound Cloud community and you won’t ever have to worry about a shortage of new music again!

 

YouTube

 

The world’s largest video sharing website on the planet, YouTube is probably the biggest “time killer” as far as online platforms are concerned with more music, more movies, and more videos than anyone could ever hope to watch or enjoy in their lifetime. On a Friday night you can often find me wrapped in my Monster headphones and falling deep, deep down a YouTube rabbit hole of discovery.

Finding new music on YouTube is easy.  Punch up something you like and check out the YouTube recommendations of similar artists – and once you land on a couple of playlists that have genres or styles you are into you should have a straight shot to new music that never runs out!

 

Bandcamp

 

It’s impossible to bring up music discovery websites without highlighting Bandcamp. Another great platform for independent artists to publish and share (and also promote) the music that they are creating, it’s really easy to find all kinds of new music on this website as a consumer – especially once you start to listen to music on the platform and it learns your tastes and your interests. The Discover section of Bandcamp is a powerful tool for finding new music as well, giving you more control over the kind of music you are most likely to stumble across on the site.

 

Pandora

 

I’ve been a big Pandora Radio fan for years, and have found all kinds of new (or at least new to me) artists and tunes as a result.  One thing you have to do though is keep creating new stations if music discovery is what you’re after.  Over time all your thumbs ups and downs narrow the artist pool for a particular station down to only a few bands.  Creating a new station based on a genre, artist or even around a particular song every so often is the way to go.  The ads in the free version are a bit pervasive if you’re trying to get in a workout or something, but there’s usually a good run of 3 songs or more between commercials.

 

All things considered, you’ll find that the platforms mentioned above are quite innovative in the new music they expose you to – probably more so than your word-of-mouth connection. Best of all, all of these platforms are 100% free, giving you the chance to listen to new music without having to spend a penny until you’re ready for premium.

Do you work from home?  Whether you’re a remote employee or in business for yourself, if you’re trying to bang out 8+ hour work days around the kitchen table, clicking away in a low-tech environment and yelling at Skype through your laptop speakers amid a constant stream of interruptions, it’s safe to say you’re never going to see peak productivity.

Act like an entrepreneur for crying out load and upgrade your tech!  We’ll talk about the ideal design from an ergonomics standpoint in another post but for now let’s get into discussing your home office AV needs.

 

Fleshing out your workstation is never as easy as a lot of us think it’s going to be, especially if you are serious about outfitting your setup with all of the audio-visual tools required to be successful in today’s ultra-competitive business environment.

 

Thankfully though, the tech just keeps getting better and better; as long as you’re willing to invest in yourself you shouldn’t have any trouble amassing the short list of must-have AV tools discussed below. This tech is going to give you the kind of competitive advantage you deserve, helping you to get the job done in a quicker and less-stressful manner.

 

Chromecast or Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

 

Having the ability to effortlessly share your screen or “throw” something that you are working on to a much larger screen – like a 55 inch television, for example – will increase your productivity significantly and this is possible courtesy of these two amazing (and ridiculously inexpensive) devices.

 

Both of these allow you to share your screen on your laptop, computer, or your phones or tablets, really extending the amount of screen real estate you have available for complex projects and collaboration. And at less than $50 apiece, you’d have to be at least a little crazy not to add them to your home office ASAP.

 

Ultrawide Displays and Monitors

 

Speaking of extra screen real estate, if you aren’t utilizing larger screens for your laptop or your computer – or (even better) dual monitor setups – you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to boost productivity.

 

Ultrawide displays and monitors provide you with the same benefit that double monitors or dual monitors offer in a single solution, extending your screenage significantly without your having to purchase two different displays or deal with the “split” in the middle of a dual monitor setup.  Split screens are for barbarians.

 

Raspberry Pi

 

A Raspberry Pi device is a tiny, lightweight, and very efficient computer that allows you to create useful dashboards, easy visuals, and real-time updates about your business operations without having to tie up system resources on your main computer – helping you enjoy a true-to-life live updating situation and command center on a separate screen for a fraction of the cost of a complete computer to do the same tasks.

 

These amazing specialized devices are incredibly powerful, super flexible, and adaptable and (provided you’re fairly well-versed on the platform itself) give you a lot of freedom with organizational design.

 

Bluetooth Speakers

I’m assuming that by now you’re already hip to how great Bluetooth keyboards and mice are.  Take it a step further: Bluetooth speakers open up a ton of portability and flexibility when it comes to home office design. You’ll be able to connect a single set of Bluetooth speakers to ALL of your Bluetooth enabled devices, helping you save money on your speaker system while allowing all of your devices to take advantage of your new set up, without your workstation looking like a snake pit with writhing cords strewn all about.

 

Dedicated Microphones and Tripods for Cameras/Smartphones

 

Podcasting, streaming audio, and video production have become such a big part of building businesses today, and you don’t want to miss out on what both of these options have to offer. You’ve got to do it well, however – low production value can kill your credibility.

 

By investing in a dedicated microphone (like the Blue Snowball, for example) you’ll dramatically increase the quality of the sound that you are recording, and while most smart phones and tablets shoot in stunning 1080 P high definition these days a tripod will help add some professionalism to you productions.

 

I want to reemphasize that these items, and others that help you get things done, comprise an investment.  Whether you’re remote, a 1099 employee, or a budding start-up treat your work like it’s your enterprise and get the audio-visual office tools you need to be taken seriously.

audiobook apps

They say real paper books will be a thing of the past in 10 to 20 years from now.  Even as someone who was raised on Kindle and related downloadable libros I have to admit there’s something cool about libraries stocked with actual physical books.  Nevertheless, I’m still getting the majority of my information digitally so let’s take a look at some of today’s options.

Audiobooks – which now generally download a million times faster than they did 5 years ago – give you the unique opportunity to enjoy some of the best fiction and nonfiction titles created on the go, at work, or in the gym – without having to fumble with the physical version itself!

 

Nothing beats kicking back and relaxing on a commute with a new bestseller, or ripping through a nonfiction book about your area of expertise or your industry before heading into the office every day. Maybe you just want something fun and light to read while you are pretending to use the stationary bike at the gym; a number of decent apps can help you there, too.

 

Finding the best audiobook app, however, can be a bit of a tall task. With so many different apps available to pick from, varying audio formats, and the time commitment involved to truly test one out it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here’s my take on several of the more popular ones, having tried them all myself, and having compared notes with friends also in the know.

 

Audible

 

Of all the audiobook apps on the market today, Audible (from Amazon) is probably the best of the best – especially if you’re looking for an integrated audiobook marketplace and audiobook player all in one neat little form. More than 150,000 audiobooks are available through the Audible library, and while you’ll have to pay $14.95 each month to take advantage of all these books will also find no other audiobook audible logoapplication on the market today as easy to use or as convenient to take advantage of. It also doesn’t hurt that it has been perfectly optimized for both iOS and Android devices (don’t underestimate the importance of this for your overall experience!) and works wonders on all Amazon devices (including Alexa and the Echo).

 

Smart Audiobook Player

 

Unlike Audible, this one is not a one-stop-shop but if you already have a source for audiobooks (like your public library, for example) and want to be able to load them up on a beautifully designed and easy to use audio player app, you really can’t go wrong with the Smart Audiobook Player. Variable playback speed options, easy bookmarking, and book collection management tools make this worthy app a steal at $1.99.

 

Pocket Casts

 

One of the most strikingly designed mobile applications you are ever going to come across, audiobook player or otherwise, everything about Pocket Casts is effortless to use and I found it easy to learn all the features quickly. Inexpensive, it works like a champ on both iOS and Android devices, and is far and away the most popular audiobook player in the Google Play marketplace. Super cheap – just $3.99 for a lifetime license and with unlimited upgrades, you’ve got little to lose with Pocket Casts.

 

Hooplah

 

This is an innovative application for both Android and iOS devices that gives users the opportunity to borrow e-books, audiobooks, and even music and movies from their local libraries’ digital collections. 100% free of charge, you only have to link up this app with your library card information and you are good to go. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

 

 

 

At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with any of the audiobook applications we highlighted above. Each one of them brings something different to the table and will appeal more or less based on your reading habits and library access; and while there are other good ones out there this little grouping should definitely be the first ones to try out.