Breaking Up With Your Smartphone
What would you do if you had more time? While I try not to glorify busy I do find I need more time in the day. I never seem to have enough of it. There are always more photos to be edited, more blog posts to be written, more belly rubs to give Cash, more yoga to be practiced, but where do I find an extra few minutes? I’ve cut out a lot of extraneous stuff already. I don’t own a T.V. and I watch maaaaybe five hours of Netflix each month. I deleted my Facebook app eight months ago. I almost never go shopping unless it’s for groceries and I work from home so there’s no commute to deal with.
‘What the hell am I wasting time doing?’ I thought as I scrolled through Instagram. Oh. Instagram. I checked my battery usage under the settings tab and found that I spend over SEVEN hours a week on Instagram. WTF. I spend another eight or so messaging friends and a measly one on Snapchat.
So what did I do? I deleted Snapchat for four days. Hahaha, I decided to quit my least used of my most used apps in an attempt to make myself feel better about my phone usage. Delusional? A little bit.
Once I came back from my epic Schu Tours trek in Nepal, I realized one thing. It was a big thing. Everything is too much. That’s right, it’s all too much. I long for simplicity. I want one goal for each day. I want fulfillment to come from focus, not from overachievement. I want nothing, but I want to do something, I just don’t want to do everything. Huh? I dunno. I’m still figuring it out, but I knew that carrying around a tiny computer and using it during 15% of my waking life each day was not what I wanted. It wasn’t adding value and so I wanted less. Less communication, connection, and consumption of virtual reality. I had just experienced weeks of authentic, unplugged connection and I wanted more of that and less of everything else.
I don’t plan on going back to a flip phone. Although it’s kind of ironic that this post is coming exactly two years after ditching mine – read more about that here. It’s even funnier that last year around this time I posted about being addicted to my iPhone. I guess it’s taken another year for me to realize this lifestyle of constant checking and updating is not one that I want for myself. That yes, my phone helps my business and that yes, I use that as an excuse to scroll through Instagram for what amounts to roughly SEVENTEEN DAYS in a year. Holy Sh!t.
Below are some tools I’ve employed to use my phone a lot less.
Put Your Phone Away – Simply keep your phone hung up if you will. Pick a spot that’s not within arms reach to keep your phone during the day. Never sleep with your phone.
Utilize all the modes – Do Not Disturb, Airplane, Do Not Disturb While Driving. Do not disturb while driving is new to me and it has helped me completely eliminate using my phone while driving. I’m 35 days clean except for two instances. Crazy, right?
Check your battery usage – This helps you to monitor which apps are stealing time from your real life. Ask yourself how much value you gain from time spent on the most used apps. For me, seeing the amount of time spent on Instagram shocked and depressed me, but seeing the time spent messaging my friends gave me a sense of connection and fulfillment.
Download the Moment app – I love Moment because it shows a lot more than battery usage and time spent on each app. Moment also tracks how many times I pick up my phone on a daily basis, which happens to be shocking 70+ instances on average. I can also see when and for how long I use my phone each time, which clues me in to bad habits: using my phone in bed and guilt-free phone usage: wasting time at the airport. I can also see who encourages or discourages my phone usage by checking the app after I’ve hung out with friends. That doesn’t mean I’m holding them accountable, I’m just noticing my own patterns.
Turn off unneeded notifications – I did this almost immediately after I adopted a smartphone. Seeing those red bubbles gives me anxiety and it encouraged me to check each app more often. Now I only have chat and call notifications enabled. Every other app can wait, even email. When did we decide to give our entire existence over to work?! I try to make rules for myself like checking email, snapchat, etc once in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Of course, I break that rule, but I said I try.
Delete Apps that cause more grief than good – I deleted Facebook this summer. I found myself mindlessly scrolling each time I had a few minutes to spare. I would be in line at the post office scrolling, at red lights scrolling, in bed in the morning scrolling, making dinner and scrolling. It simply was not adding value to my life. I deleted the app and now I check in a couple times per day via a web browser on my phone, which actually makes it quite difficult to use, which I think is a great thing.
Put your most tempting apps on the back page in a folder – This simply makes you more aware of how often you check your favorite apps. Do you ever log on your computer and find yourself on youtube or reddit when really you meant to pay your credit card bill? Your brain checks out and muscle memory kicks in. Placing overused apps in a folder on the last page of your phone will add more steps to opening them and hopefully you’ll realize what you’re mindlessly doing before you actually reach the app.
Let your phone die – When was the last time you turned off your phone or let your phone die? For those of us that are over 25+ just take a second to think about this. We’ve basically added a body part by way of smartphone. We’ve adopted a device that we live our lives through and with every single minute of the day. Let your phone die, you will not. Cut the cord every once in a while. Free yourself.
Find a new hobby – I have so many hobbies it’s ridiculous, but I found my most common one was wasting time on my phone. That’s completely learned in the past two years. Now I carry a paperback book everywhere and I fell back in love with devouring books. I warped my loom and I started a new embroidery project. I found quick tasks to complete in minutes for this blog, my Meditative Monday emails, and my Etsy shop. I allow myself a moment of boredom then I fill my time with something constructive instead of reaching for my phone.
If you want to successfully take back your time from your smartphone, I find it’s necessary to create reasonable goals and standards. When I first tracked my phone usage I was freaking appalled, to say the least. Sh!t it honestly makes me want to cry. How do I waste so much time on my phone? (About 32 days per year) I decided to think wholly about it and I felt a little bit better. Ten of those days are spent chatting with my best buds and another five are completing necessary tasks like navigating and paying bills. I barely use my phone while traveling and I never use my phone on dates or while out to dinner. I try not to use my phone when I’m with friends unless we’re all binging together. I try. I try. I try.
Okay so I try, but I still wasted two months of my life these past two years. Yes, some of that is for my work and livelihood, but still, it’s a shit ton of time. In order to make real progress, I had to set reasonable goals and standards for my phone usage, I couldn’t just throw it into the street like I wanted want to.
Each day is an attempt at managing my phone usage and becoming a more mindful smartphone user. Each day I cut a little fat, I catch myself, I chastise myself, and sometimes I forgive myself. I redirect myself. I notice patterns. I set goals and I attempt to reach them. I fail often, but I realize each moment is an opportunity to recorrect my learned behavior. My relatively new 2-year-old habit of horribly addictive behavior. I also remember to celebrate the conveniences, like never waiting in line for a printed boarding pass again or visiting a nonexistent coffee shop, and I thank those apps for giving me back some time that I’ll enviably lose while scrolling through Instagram. I cherish the snaps of a cute dude I like and the four-hour FaceTime sessions on Christmas morning with my Boulder, Colorado-based nephews. I focus on the goodand I try to eliminate the “bad” and I feel grateful that my life involves such trivial problems as trying to cut back my usage of a $500 pocket computer. I remember that life and connection exist outside of that tiny screen and I fight to find it instead of simply reaching for my phone and getting lost in the blue light and when I do find myself consumed, I try to add beauty to the world wide web instead of hating myself for interacting with it. I try, I try, I try. What else can I do?