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Eric Murray: Two technological tools to keep healthy New Year’s resolutions

Eric Murray " Voice of Your Hospital

I’ve discovered some readily available technologies that will help you keep those New Year’s resolutions and make them regular daily habits instead of fleeting aspirations. One is a task reminder and the other is a count-down timer.

Task Reminder

I spend the majority of my day behind a desk in front of a computer so I utilize the meeting/appointment reminder on Microsoft Office’s Outlook Express to keep my goals on track. Type in your specific message and then choose the “recurrence” option to repeat the programmed pop-up reminder(s) regularly.

I set one pop up message that reads, “BRUSH TEETH AND FLOSS NOW!”. Another reminds me to, “GET UP AND STRETCH NOW!” while another pops up and says, “EXERCISE EYES AND LOOK BEYOND COMPUTER NOW!”

And because I sometimes work straight through lunch, I set this reminder: “EAT SOMETHING NOW!” (I use all UPPERCASE because in the tech world ALL CAPS means I’m shouting the message and if I’m shouting I must have been serious when I wrote it. “NOW!” reminds me of when I should do it.)

There are numerous reminders you could program for yourself. For example, if you are on specific medications you could set reminders at precise times throughout the day to take specific meds. Taking the correct medications in the proper dosage and at the proper times as prescribed by a doctor can keep your health care plan on track.

Has it been a while since your last physical, mammogram or blood test? Pick a date and then set a reminder to alert you one week prior to that date so you have time to call and book an appointment.

You too can set up similar reminders with other readily available technologies even if you don’t sit at your computer for the majority of your working day. You can easily set alarms within the calendar function on your cell phone. You can also set up reminders within the calendar functions of iPod or other MP3 players.

Another option, particularly for those less technology savvy, is to arrange for a text message, a phone call or email reminders via numerous online services such as iPing. Someone with hearing issues might be best served by a pre-arranged phone call reminder for example. The elderly might also appreciate the phone message to remind them to take medications. (Now there’s a great holiday gift idea!)

The key to these reminders is to stop what you are doing and accomplish what it says before you do anything else. I don’t delete the reminder alert until after I’ve completed the task.

Count-down Timer

I got the next idea while sitting at an Irish pub looking at a count-down

timer announcing the months/days/hours/minutes/seconds until St. Patrick’s Day.

I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t I be more motivated to 1) work harder and smarter 2) live healthier and happier and 3) appreciate more if I had a count down clock, tick-tick-ticking down my time left on Earth, reminding me of my own mortality? I thought (without a doubt) my answer is “yes”.

So I looked up life expectancy rates in men and women in the U.S. Men, on average will live to 75.7 years old, (barring accidental death) and women will outlive us to 80.8 years old.

I don’t overeat, I don’t smoke, I have a positive outlook on life and I work out regularly so I only subtracted 5 years from the average life span on my estimate ” (I’m also a realist). To get a more accurate estimate go to http://www.realage.com or a similar site to guesstimate your “real” age based on lifestyle, environmental and biological factors and work it from that angle.

Then I subtracted my current age, (or you could use your biological age), from the predicted average mortality rate. (This is by no means scientific). Then I programmed the date on the free count down clock software, http://www.timeleft.info .

I’m 36 now. I figure I have until approximately 70. 70 minus 36 = 34 so I entered my birthday in 2042 and hit “launch” and my countdown began rolling over the passing time in the lower left hand corner of my computer screen.

As of right now I have 34 years, 6 months, 26 days, 59 minutes and 10, 9, 8 seconds to TCB, “Take Care of Business”.

Is this too morbid? I don’t think so. I’m constantly inspired by seeing how much time I have left to accomplish my goals and it reminds me to appreciate what I have now.

My health, family and friends as well as my life goals are at the fore-front of my mind with the help of these two technology ideas. What are your priorities for 2008? How can you keep yourself on track? Simple technology may be the answer.


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