3 for Thursday: May 25, 2017

We are swinging into summer here.  What that means for me is expenditure on lots of elbow grease and hard work.  We’ve opened the pool, cleaned mounds of leaves out of it, doused it with chemicals, cleaned filters multiple times a day, and finally, it is a beautiful blue. We have put together new patio furniture and opened our life back to the outdoors.  It’s wonderful. Let summer begin! The kids got out of school last Friday, and we had a celebration of high schoolers and junior highers, and now they’re all off … except for some summer school and summer jobs for the older kids that start next week.

This week, the 3 things I am enjoying are:
1) Family sharing on Spotify 
I have paid accounts on both Pandora and Spotify. My family uses Pandora to create and played styled radio stations around the house, in the car and wherever we are. Pandora stations are simple, easy to set up and constantly refreshing. But Pandora won’t let you just pick a song and play it, which is why I also use Spotify. (Pandora now offers a Premium version on mobile only that allows you to play specific songs, but see below for why I haven’t upgraded from Plus to Premium).

Spotify allows you to play whatever song or album you want, and Spotify does a stellar job of creating curated stations and allowing users to publish custom playlists. When I am in the mood to hunt down a specific song or listen to an entire album, I turn to Spotify. I also find that many of the user-created stations on Spotify, as well as the radio stations that have songs that revolve around a mood or scenario, are worth my time even more than some Pandora stations because they seem more eclectic and original.

Pandora is starting to crack down on the use of the same account on multiple devices and will block usage on simultaneous devices. I pay for their Plus account for $3.99 a month.  They also have a higher Premium account that allows you to create and share custom playlists and to choose specific songs, but even the Premium subscription does not allow for account sharing of any kind. I have three boys who actively listen to music on their devices, as well as my wife who does the same, and for all of us to have individual paid accounts, it would cost $19.95 per month.

On the contrary, I have to praise Spotify: while their regular subscription is $9.99 per month, I can instead pay $14.99 per month for Premium for Family access and then add up to 5 other people to my Spotify access. It’s wonderful! My three boys use Spotify on their own time in their own way through their own accounts for a total of only $5 more on my part.  I appreciate Spotify’s more open approach that encourages account sharing (for a little more money) over Pandora’s requirement that you pay for full accounts to get access for your family members.

Ironically, I do recognize that my total Spotify cost equals out to almost exactly what I would pay monthly to Pandora if I set up individual paid accounts for everyone who uses Pandora.  But it would be more difficult to share our family-created stations if we all had separate, individual accounts.  And there’s a piece of me that also is simply drawn to reward Spotify for being more flexible in their account offerings.

2) Habit List app (iPhone)
Developing better habits and routines is very important to me, and I try to constantly test out new habits and routines to see if they improve my life. Some habits stick as I try them out, and some don’t. But I have found that having a habit tracking app on my phone reminds me of what I want to be doing and also allows me to get a little fulfilling dopamine bump for marking off the habits and routines and habits I complete day by day. I have also found that getting streaks going in apps provides another motivating factor to complete whatever action maintains the streak.

I have tried several habit tracking apps, including Coach.meHabitica, and Way of Life, but I have recently settled into Habit List.  Habit List does cost a small fee to download, but I’m finding that it’s my favorite by far. I can set as many habits and routines and goals as I want, and I can break them into subsets and mark them off as I complete each sub-habit.  (For example, I can set a habit of eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day, break it into 5 parts, and tick off each completion as I eat a fruit or vegetable.) It creates streaks, both positive and negative, and allows you to see them grow or decline in number as you succeed or miss the mark. You can set non-daily schedules for habits that aren’t necessarily daily, and you have much flexibility in how you structure them. All in all, I have found the interface and simplicity of Habit Listsimple and worth coming back to day to day.

3) Jim Kwik on Art of Charm
This week I listened to brain trainer Jim Kwik on the Art of Charm podcast.  Jim Kwik worked to overcome traumatic brain injury as a child, and in doing so, he learned all kinds of ways to improve his learning skills and memory. Over time, he’s become known as an expert in methods to improve the way you think about everything in your life. His story was intriguing, his suggestions are science based, and his methods make you really want to go out and learn something. Check out the Art of Charm podcast episode and the show notes to get inspired and learn a few things about your brain and how it processes.  Also, Jim Kwik has just recently started his own podcast called Kwik Brain, and it has very easy-listening 15-minute episodes, so check that out as well.