Taking back control…from my phone

It is so useful! – So distracting!

I was in charge, what happened?

Suddenly I am beckoning to it’s every need. I am moving mountains because it needs to be charged. Like that box of Quality Streets at Christmas. I don’t even want more, yet I find my hand reaching for them. If they weren’t there I wouldn’t feel any worse. More doesn’t make me feel better, more usually makes me feel worse. A little is enough.

I am amazed that I have no stress about not having access to my phone on an 12hr overnight flight, then as soon as I land, I feel compelled to turn it on, literally as the plane touches down, I switch the data back on. It could wait the 12hr flight, but not another 5 minutes. I am not alone in this compulsion. I decided it was time for a phone detox.

Time, attention – What do I value

If time is our most precious resource, then attention is the currency we value it in. I challenge myself daily and ask myself where am I spending my time and what is taking my attention. – Perhaps that is why we need to pay attention?

My phone not only takes my attention, but it steals my attention from those around me. People I value, people who have taken the time and effort to engage with me. I value this engagement, my behaviour, at times suggests otherwise.

What it should be used for

There are those who decry the evils of a smartphone. I am certainly not one of those. We live in a world where we have access to information at an unprecedented rate. I see tremendous value in this. To ignore it, is silly. They are so powerful. So useful. It is a tool, like so many tools, it is how we use it that matters.

Perhaps smartphones should be saved to be used for things that I need or want in real time. Such as directions, public transport updates, the weather. Things that immediately impact my decisions.

And of course – podcasts, audio books and music to use my travel time more effectively and allow it to be more enjoyable.

What it shouldn’t be used for

In the midst of some WhatsApp ping pong, I decided to uninstall Facebook and I mentioned it to my mate that I had. 6 minutes later I had opened my phone to check Facebook, without thought, I had looked for it, I hadn’t lasted 6 minutes!!!! – I know because I checked when I sent the message to say I had uninstalled it.

So many apps have notifications for anything “important”, we pretend they don’t affect us, like all clutter, they do, even if only sub-consciously. I switch the majority off. They add not value to my life.

Facebook wants to regularly give me new content, so shows me poorly disguised advertising when my friends don’t have anything to say or even at the expense of what my friends have to say. Facebook is another tool in my life. It is not good or bad. It’s how I use it. I love it, with Friends and family scattered all over the globe, it allows me to stay connected. The flip side is that it and other similar apps are designed like the lights of Vegas, to keep me engaged. Their survival demands my attention. Preferably the inexpensive mindless attention.

I hate replying to email on my phone, particularly work email. If it actually requires action, I would need my laptop anyway. It it doesn’t, then does it matter if I receive it later? – I try to be ruthless with unsubscribing from email mailing lists. A year ago everyone in my industry was referring to the crazy 8. An 8 day email sequence email designed to get sales. Behaviour like that ruins email for everyone.

Time for a detox

I have done several detoxes and challenges before. They are not designed to be permanent, often that is too overwhelming and doomed for failure. I use them to break bad habits and replace them with better ones. Better, not perfect.

I came up with a 12 steps or rules to help me detox and take back control.

The 12 step phone detox programme:

  1. I limit readily accessible apps to what can fit on one home screen – I operate the night-club policy of one in, one out.
  2. I installed a blue light filter app to limit the insomniac inducing light. See how I found sleep again.
  3. I uninstalled sports and news media apps – their mobile websites are generally pretty good anyway.
  4. I did a media fast for a week – I used to read the football gossip everyday, by it’s definition it was wasting my attention. During the fast, I limited my media intake to less than 10 minutes per day. Even when I’m not “fasting”, I try not exceed this regularly.
  5. I uninstalled other apps that didn’t add value to my life – If I was unsure, then I uninstalled anyway, they can be reinstalled later if need be.
  6. I turned off auto-update – I now review each app as it requests an update and ask myself,  can I uninstall it?
  7. I turned off voicemail – They have my number, they can message me. Contact me on my terms.
  8. I turned off e-mail and other unnecessary notifications – I’m working myself towards uninstalling email completely, but not yet.
  9. I uninstalled Messenger – sometimes there are things that we didn’t know we wanted until we were showed it, we never wanted this. Another messaging app.
  10. Flight mode gets switched on at bed time – I put it in flight mode 30 mins before I want to go to sleep and switch flight mode off about 30 minutes after I wake up.
  11. I installed Instapaper – Now when I see articles I want to read, I don’t need to skim. I save them until I have the time to read and digest the article properly. It also means when I’m bored, my time is not mindlessly wasted.
  12. I generally switch off vibrate from messages – It takes my attention away and the attention of others. It’s a message, it will read the same in half an hour from when it is received.

For some it may also be wise to break the physical link. If it is too close, it is too easy. It makes you too contactable.

So what’s changed:

  • I sleep better and my life is more peaceful.
  • I carve out more creative space. Fewer distractions allow me to better leverage my creative abilities, often being bored is a perquisite to the creative process.
  • I read more books and articles that enhance my life, rather than the fluff that previously dominated my attention.
  • My battery lasts longer.

Since I initiated the detox, I find that if anything of consequence to me happens, I will hear about it from other people. My behaviour with my phone is better, not perfect. I am winning the battle to be back in control of my phone.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply