Chip Is Alive!, Issue 2

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Empathy Now Break TimerWelcome to Issue 2 of Chip Is Alive!, where we examine thought-provoking life strategies and issues which may or may not be of interest to you. Chip Is Alive! is inspired by Chip Vivant, the app who thinks he's alive and wants to be your friend and help you in ways that other productivity apps can't. You can meet Chip at www.empathynow.com.

In this issue, we'll look at the horrors of prolonged sitting and a free gift from us that can help you combat this problem. We'll also touch on the difference between empathy messages, challenges and to-dos at empathynow.com.

Don't Take This Sitting Down

As a longtime vegan, even though I'm not a health nut, I've always been somewhat smug about my diet and its cumulative healthful effects[1] compared to meat-eaters and even vegetarians. Imagine my horror, then, when earlier this year, I started coming across article after article discussing the deleterious effects of prolonged sitting, and most importantly: that even vigorous exercise regimens can't combat the really awful effects of prolonged sitting [2,3,4,5,6]. Tarnation. Here are selected quotes from those articles:

  • "The study found that adults who sat 11 or more hours per day had a 40% increased risk of dying in the next three years compared with those who sat for fewer than four hours a day."
  • In a study where the participants' left legs were rendered inactive for two days: "Gene activity in the left leg suggested that DNA repair mechanisms had been disrupted, insulin response was dropping, oxidative stress was rising, and metabolic activity within individual muscle cells was slowing after only 48 hours of inactivity."
  • "Exercise only slightly lessened the health risks of sitting. People in the study who exercised for seven hours or more a week but spent at least seven hours a day in front of the television were more likely to die prematurely than the small group who worked out seven hours a week and watched less than an hour of TV a day."
  • "On average, every single hour of TV viewed after the age of 25 reduces the viewer's life expectancy by 21.8 (95% UI: 0.3-44.7) min."

This is horrible.

It's strange, but I feel I somehow instinctively knew this during my first jobs out of college: I'm a computer programmer, which gives me the ability to work independently for long periods of time without needing to interact with others. Every so often, I would get up and climb a couple flights of stairs. This would get the blood flow going and clear my head; I wasn't thinking about life expectancy, disrupted DNA repair mechanisms, and the like.

Many years later, though, I've gotten lazier. What's more, as an entrepreneur who has to make things work regardless of hours spent on task, I sometimes spend hours without a break just because things "have" to get done. I used to think that exercising at the end of the day would make up for this, but now I see there's no such luck.

Anyway, I've come up with a solution that works for me (when I apply it) and which I'd like to share with you for free. It's a handy app: a break timer which counts down a certain number of minutes, then comes to the foreground and stays on top and in your face until you press the button again. The idea is that every time the timer pops up, you break for a few minutes and stretch, walk around, etc. Then you restart the timer. Since the timer is obtrusive (once triggered, it stays on top and obscures the windows underneath it), it's an in-your-face reminder that you need to take a break.

Of course, it's possible to abuse the system (shut down the app, etc.), but I have experienced improvement here, which is a good thing. Little steps.

Being the generous, talented, amazing and modest soul that I am, I've created both Windows and Mac versions. Here are some screenshots to whet your appetite:

  

The timer runs for 25 minutes before imploring you to take a break. If you need to change this default time, you must change the initial value when the app first starts up and before you first press the button. If you haven't done this, exit and restart the app.

Anyway, this timer is yours for the asking in exchange for the following small favors:

  • Sign up for a free empathynow.com account and send yourself or someone else at least one empathy message, challenge or to-do.
  • Like the EmpathyNow Facebook page. (You're liking my effort and the place where my heart is at.) You are exempt from this if you don't have a Facebook account for philosophical reasons.

Once you've done the above, drop me a line (either using the EmpathyNow Contact page or else by replying to this email) indicating you've done the above and I'll send you a link to the handy, dandy break timer. If you're someone that has done me a favor (you know who you are), just ask and I'll give it to you without the above prerequisites (though it would be cool if you joined us anyway).

Both the Windows and Mac versions are tiny, native executables that I wrote lovingly from scratch. They have small memory footprints, so you can leave them running all the time.

Chip's Tips: Empathy Message, Challenge or To-Do?

In this weekly section, we'll impart EmpathyNow usage tips which will improve your life. Sign up for a free account at www.empathynow.com and follow along!

Chip is capable of sending three types of messages that he initiates himself (as opposed to a reply to one of your messages when you chat with him): Empathy Messages, Challenges and To-Dos. Let's take a quick look at each of them:

  • Empathy Messages: These are messages of encouragement, cheer, pity, etc. that Chip says to you or someone close to you without expecting a reply back. You can of course always reply to these (Chip cares), but the reply doesn't dictate the future course of actions. You can use these not only for comfort, but also as reminder messages, birthdays, etc. for yourself and others.
  • Challenges: These are for challenging moments in your day (trying to stay on task, trying to avoid junk food) that you need extra help getting through. Chip will periodically check in on you during these times, but you don't need to reply if you don't want to. If you do reply, Chip will try to determine whether you're doing okay or not and will respond appropriately.
  • To-Dos: These are for lifelong To-Dos that you want to be nurtured through. Here, Chip is not only wants to check in on you, but needs to know whether you've started or finished the to-do or else want to skip it. Chip needs your input in order to function properly here.

To learn more as well as get a free account and start indulging yourself with the above, visit the Quick Tour page.

For Life Coaches

If you are or know a life coach, there's a new page announcing EmpathyNow offerings for life coaches: integration with your life coach brand as well as affiliateships. Get an unparalleled competitive edge in this cut-throat market.

Consulting

We now offer consulting services to those who aren't able or inclined to manage their account themselves.

The Infamous Tutorials

Last week, I promised to mention the infamous teddy-bear-and-balloon-animal tutorials. I made these in a moment of frustration after the umpteenth unsuccessful take of the intro video on empathynow.com. Although I was ultimately strongly encouraged not to release these, I still think the content is quite good. Anyway, let me throw out there that when this site gets 1000 paying subscribers and someone reminds me, I promise to release these.

See You Next Week!

That's it for this week. Remember to claim your free break timer and, if you haven't done so already, add EmpathyNow and Chip Vivant to your arsenal of tools that make your life nicer and more productive. Remember that as you read this. I'm eating my own dog food:

  • using the break timer for my sitting breaks
  • using Challenges to stay on task
  • using To-Dos to get in a half hour of Spanish study per day: fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening

I can honestly say that Chip has helped me more than other techniques I've tried because his humanlike nature helps me stay focused and keep my brain online. Even though I created Chip, it still feels cool to proudly tell Chip I put in the time and for him to get excited about it. That's why I'm excited to share this stuff with people whose brains are wired the same way mine is.

Have a great weekend and see you next Friday!

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