Meet the happiest girl in tech – Amy Blankson! Amy is an author, founder, speaker, and writer dedicated to discovering how we can leverage technological advances, apps, and gadgets, in a way that helps us be more productive, while still staying sane and amplifying our happiness. She’s the bestselling author of The Future of Happiness, which teaches modern strategies to balance productivity and life satisfaction in the digital era.
The list goes on! She also co-founded GoodThink, a marketing and advertising agency that specializes in branding and integrated marketing communications, with a client roster that boasts huge brands such as Google, Cigna, and GAP.
We talked to Amy about her morning routine, her admittedly bad phone habits, and how breathing exercises give her focus, among other things. Read on!
What does the first 90 minutes of your day look like?
To be honest, the start of my day is always a bit of a circus. I have three little girls and two dogs, so my mornings are filled with brushing hair, slinging pancakes, walking dogs, and eventually sitting down for a brief time of reflection and connection before everyone goes their own way. Someday in the future, I will start my day with a zen practice of yoga – but for now, I’m embracing the moment and trying to make some memories.
What’s your number one productivity/time-saving tip?
Make your bed in the morning. Research from positive psychology shows that getting in a “small win” early in the morning boosts your confidence and makes you better able to take on other tasks throughout the day.
Any favorite tools?
Another favorite digital tool is the Realizd app, which tracks phone usage throughout the day. This app can show me when I’ve been picking up my phone impulsively and what I’m doing with my time. Information is the beginning of transformation, so this tool equips me to start living more intentionally.
Do you have a pre-bed/nightly routine?
Confession time! I have a bad habit of reading myself to sleep on my phone. I know, I know–screen time before bed is supposed to decrease the time to chunk information and process my day, but honestly sometimes reading helps me to shut my mind down and put me in a better mental space for sleep. Some guilty pleasures die hard.
How often do you check your inbox?
I aspire to limit my email checking to three times a day, but sometimes temptation overwhelms me and I lose focus.
#1 Email tip?
Set aside defined chunks of time to check email. If you tell yourself that you only have one hour to check your email during the day, you will be amazed at how efficiently you can cut through the clutter and hone in on what matters.
Favorite SaneBox feature?
I love the SaneNoReplies feature because it helps me track emails that otherwise would have fallen through the cracks.
What’s the biggest hindrance to your productivity? How do you combat it?
Digital distraction…did you know that the average smartphone user checks their phone 150+ times per day? If each distraction took just one minute, that would account for 2.5 hours of distraction every day. I once ran an experiment to count the number of distractions that came in during a five minute period, and would you believe that I got a text message, a phone call, the doorbell rang, the dog barked, and then my mom called – at which point I just gave up counting. I know that you know what I’m talking about, because this is now a global phenomenon.
Digital distraction is everywhere. Fortunately, there are some easy ways that we can fight back. A recent study found that the mere presence of a phone in your line of sight during periods of focus decreases your attention, accuracy, and flow–even if you never touch or even look at your phone! Why? Because your brain is actually anticipating that you MIGHT get a message. The secret solution is this: hide your phone. Turn off the ringer, hide it behind your laptop screen, stuff it in a bag, or put it in your back pocket. This won’t fix the problem permanently, but it can definitely help.
When you lose focus, what do you do to regain it?
I take two minutes to watch my breath go in and out. This simple breathing exercise gives my brain the break that it is crying out for, but also helps to refocus my mind on what is most important.
What have you learned from your failures?
One of my favorite failures was not getting into the Yale School of Management – not once, but twice. I knew that this was where I wanted to go to business school and what I wanted to do with an MBA, but it just took me a while to convince the admissions office that I was not too young and inexperienced. Each rejection felt so painful at the time, but when they finally let me in my third year, the victory was even sweeter.
What bad advice do you hear often?
“What is meant to be will be.” Seriously? That’s the most disempowering and ridiculous bit of advice. We have a choice in our future, and it starts with the decisions that we make in the present.
The most worthwhile investment in time, money, or energy that you’ve made?
Writing The Future of Happiness was one of the most intense experiences of time, money, and energy in my life; however, the process of self-discovery and the ability to share powerful research and ideas with audiences around the globe has been worth every bit of it.
What’s your definition of productivity?
Getting things done that really needed to get done.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
The belief that happiness is a choice. I used to think that happiness was a reaction to events in my environment or just a product of my genes. However, the research is very clear: 90% of our happiness is up to us, which drastically changed my lens on the world. I understand that our brain receives 11 million bits of information every second, but can only process 40 bits at any given time. This means that if I spent all my time scanning the world for all the stresses, hassles, and complaints, I literally have no brain power left to process the good in the world. So now I practice gratitude daily, both personally and with my children, because I recognize how important it is to retrain the neural pathways that drive my mindset and ultimately my happiness and success.
What have you become better at saying no to?
Follow Amy on Twitter.