5 steps to free yourself from your smartphone
Just when you sit down to finally write that blog post you’ve been meaning to write, your phone buzzes. It’s a notification from Instagram about a comment to one of your posts. You simply have to reply. You open the Instagram app.
Half an hour later you wake up from your instagramming. Disappointed you realize that there is not enough time to start writing that blog post before you have to start cooking dinner. With a sigh, you get up from the chair and head for the kitchen. As you go, you say to yourself, tomorrow is going to be different. Tomorrow you’ll have time to write that post that you’ve been meaning to write for some time now.
We spend around 4 hours each day on our smartphone. That’s a lot of time. A lot of time.
Think about all the things you could do with 4 hours each day. You would definitely have time to write that blog post. You could even write a novel. Or become a chess master. Or whatever you want to do.
But what do we do during those 4 hours on the phone? Is it necessarily a bad thing that we spend so much time with this little buddy? Maybe. Maybe not.
Around half the time is spent on social media, with YouTube being the number one, followed by Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. So that’s 2 hours every day of watching cat videos or browsing status updates. Or is it?
Social media apps can also be used for communication and to connect with friends or people from all around the world for that matter. This makes it difficult to estimate the ratio of actual communication vs cat videos.
What about the other 2 hours? Well, checking our email takes up some minutes. We also use our phones for reading e-books, articles and blog posts. We use our phones for listening to audiobooks, podcasts, and music. Or to play games. Or to learn a new language. Or to meditate. Or to track our exercise. Or to make a movie. The list goes on and on.
Older people don’t spend as much time on their phone. Millennials spend a lot of time on their phone. Older people constantly complain about how much time the young ones spend on their phone. And at the same time, the old people sit in front of the TV every evening.
So it’s not necessarily a bad thing that we spend much time on our phones. It all dependence on what you do and what your priorities are. However, problems can arise when we don’t get to choose when to have these interactions. When to check our phone. Instead, we are constantly interrupted by this attention seeking gadget that constantly is shouting “Look at me! Look at me!”
When someone is constantly interrupting you, it’s not possible to get any deep work done. Therefore, you have to set up boundaries and rules for your phone. In the same way that you tell your kids that “Mummy’s working right now, we’ll have to look at that when I’m done”, you have to tell your phone to stop disturbing you. Your phone is just going to have to wait until you’re done working.
But I use my phone for my work, you might say. Of course, your phone is a great tool for getting your job done. Especially when you’re on the go. But that doesn’t mean that your phone has the right to constantly interrupt you. Like that nagging, seriously irritating colleague that always has to brag about his weekend conquests or talk about how much money he’s making. You simply have to tell both of them to shut up, in a nice way of course.
You have to decide how you are to use your phone. Sit down and think about what’s best for you. How much time do you spend on your phone? What is it that you do? Analyze the current situation. And then, if you want to take charge of that little pocket sized dictator and not have it decide your every move, start by implementing some of these steps. At least for me, these actions have helped me to loosen the grip on my phone and raise my eyes from the screen to the world around me.
Turn of notifications
Do you feel that you’re constantly on the alert for a notification and when it comes you jump at it immediately?
Turn off all your notifications on your phone. Ok, maybe not all, but be very strict. What apps really need to interrupt you?
For myself, I’ve turned off notifications for everything but text messages, messenger, and the Airbnb app. I want to be able to see right away when my family and friends contact me. It doesn’t really disturb my day since there are not that many messages. Notifications from the Airbnb app is a necessity since we are renting out our guest rooms and I want to be able to answer any questions from our guests as soon as possible.
Most of us use our phones as alarm clocks and therefore they’re usually located on our night stand while we sleep. If this is true for you, it’s even more essential that you seriously limit your notifications as to not disturb your sleep. Or consider putting your phone in flight mode during the night. Personally, I prefer to limit my notifications and have my phone on during the night.
Schedule checking and responding to emails
How many times per day do you check your emails? How many times do you need to check your emails? If these numbers diverge, consider a change.
There’s no need to constantly check your emails. Yes, people do expect a faster reply than in the old days when you had to deliver mail by horse. But there’s no reason to respond immediately. Also, sometimes your initial response to an email might be a bit rushed. If you wait a little while and think about how to respond, your answer will probably be better. More thought through.
So decide when to check your emails. And stick to it.
Schedule social media presence
Take a long hard look at who you’re following on Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram. Do they bring you joy? If not, unfollow. The point is not quantity but quality. Removing friends on Facebook might be a bit sensitive. If you don’t want to deal with that, you can instead block content from people that are not of interest.
There’s a balance between being active on social media and getting other things done. I constantly struggle with this. I want to get through to people. I want you to find my blog and read what’s on there. And in order to do so, I have to have a social media presence. But if I constantly fall into the trap of mindlessly browsing Instagram, no new blog posts will be written.
Instead of just browsing, try to engage a bit more. Leave a comment or retweet. Social media is way more fun when you use it to really connect with people.
Personally, I use Instagram and Twitter. I don’t use Facebook that much anymore. I never just scroll through the feed, there’s too much junk. Instead, I look at my notifications. I also use the Facebook groups app to keep track of the groups that I’m part of.
Keep track of your time
There is one great asset that we all have. Time. For every one of us, there are 24 hours to a day. How do you spend that time?
Measure everything in time units. Ask yourself, is this the best use of my time right now? Or is there something else I could be doing that will lead to something more worthwhile?
Don’t waste your time. But that doesn’t mean that you always have to be on the go. That you have to hustle constantly. It simply means to be aware of where you spend your precious, limited number of minutes. Every minute you spend on something takes away time from something else. Make sure to set your priorities in a way that aligns with your values. What is it that you want to accomplish? What brings joy to your life?
Leave your phone behind
This might feel completely wrong the first time you try it. But do try it. Leave your phone behind. Don’t bring it everywhere. Go for a walk without it. Yes, it will call out to you “Bring me, bring me!”, but try to resist the urge. What’s so important that you cannot be off the grid for a little while? Scary, but liberating.
Try to not always see the world through an Instagram filter. Remember to sometimes leave your phone in your pocket and instead experience the moment as it is. Without thinking about whether Nashville or Slumber is the right choice and if you should apply tilt shift or not.
To be fully present in the moment it’s usually easier if you don’t see your phone. If you have your phone on the table in front of you when talking to a friend or interacting with your child, your eyes will be drawn to it. Put it somewhere where you don’t see it. Choose to be fully present in that moment and check your phone afterward if needed.
Your phone is constantly calling to you like a prima donna who cannot get enough attention. You have to set clear boundaries, no fuzzy edges, for your interaction with this attention seeking narcissist.
If you do, you’ll have a healthy, productive relationship. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself drowning in a flood of notifications. A constant beckoning for your attention, at the expense of you getting more important things done.
Next time you open your phone, ask yourself is this really what you should be doing right now or are you procrastinating?