Our phones demand so much of our attention each day and, if we're honest, we're probably spending way too much time scrolling on social media. That's why I have decided to break up with my phone and reduce my screen time drastically.
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I am breaking up with social media and my phone in general. OK, well, it's not as dramatic as it sounds but I have come across a book called "How to break up with your phone" by Catherine Price and I have taken on the challenge of reducing my screen time.
Why I have decided to break up with my phone
One of my goals for 2022 was to become more mindful and live more in the present. Last year, we moved to New Zealand because we wanted to have a better work-life balance and enjoy life more. And if we're honest, I can't really enjoy everything New Zealand has to offer if I sit behind my phone the whole time, right?
I am often telling myself that I don't have enough time for things that I would love to do, but that is actually not true. I DO have the time, I just choose to spend it on my phone. Once I came to that realisation, I knew it was time for a change. I got Price's book and embarked on the journey of reducing my screen time dramatically.
My goal for this experiment isn't abstinence. Obviously, that would be a bit hard as my job literally involves me being on the phone most of the day. My main goal is to spend less time on my phone and more time doing things I love & that fill my cup.
Why our phones are bad for us
While I love smartphones for many reasons such as the fact that they combine multiple tools in one or that we can stay connected to people all over the world, these devices can be really bad for us - and here's why:
1) Phones are designed to be addictive:
You need to realise that our phones are designed to make us addicted to them. If you scroll on a social media app in particular, you will see that they don't have any stopping cues, so you have a limitless feed. There is always something new and that is what keeps you in this rabbit hole.
2) Phones are incredibly distracting:
Every single day, I notice that I get distracted by my phone while I work. I often have this urge to check it to see if someone sent me a message or to see if some breaking news has come up on my newsfeed.
You need to understand that distraction is our default mode. This is a evolutionary trait that we have inherited from previous generations and the main goal of that is to be alert to avoid dangerous situations. We are designed to notice every little sound or every little change in our surrounding. That makes it very difficult to stay concentrated, especially when there's a little device beeping and blinking all the time.
3) Your brain sees your phone as an alleviation of boredom:
You would think that not being bored is a good thing but not if your brain gets addicted to checking your phone to alleviate that boredom. It's actually good to be bored once in a while because you can see what other activities you could be doing instead or notice your surroundings more.
4) Social media makes us compare ourselves to others:
We can't deny that social media is a highlight reel: people sharing achievements there, showing off their perfect photos here and holding up their latest purchases there. It's easy to compare your life with someone else's and start wishing it was different. But you have to realise that most of the time, people are only showing you the really nice parts of their lives because obviously, the bad parts don't generate as much engagement.
Social media also makes me lose some of my creativity because I get to see what others are creating. It makes it harder to create something from scratch that hasn't existed already.
Now, let's start taking some action! If you could relate to at least one of the above-mentioned reasons, then you need to keep reading the next part where I share my best tips.
How to break up with your phone
The following 6 tips have helped me to decrease my screen time dramatically and to live life more consciously.
1) Become more aware of your usage & how it makes you feel:
Your first step is to become aware of much you use your phone on a daily basis and how it makes you feel. Dedicate a whole day to this and answer these questions:
When do I feel the urge to check my phone? In what particular moment?
What triggers me to use my phone?
How do I feel just before checking my phone? How do I feel during, and how after?
How do I feel if I can't check my phone?
What could I do instead?
I found this exercise really insightful because it showed me that most of the times I checked my phone when I have to wait for something. Becoming more aware of your usage & triggers is the most important step.
2) Set time limits for distracting apps or use a timer to stay productive:
Another thing you can do is to limit the time that you can use certain apps for. I do this for all of my social media apps. This works really well for me because after the time is up, you are not able to open the app anymore. This forces me to look for a different activity.
You can also set yourself a timer during which you won't check your phone. This is a similar idea to the Pomodoro technique where you work in 25-minute intervals to keep concentrated. A great app that I use as a timer is called OFFTIME.
3) Put off all unnecessary notifications:
I don't have any notifications on for any of my social media apps or my email program. The only notifications that stay on on my phone are for WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger because those are the two main messaging apps that I use with friends and family.
I want to proactively choose when I look at my phone and notifications are more a reaction rather than a proactive choice.
BUT: If you feel more stressed by not having your notifications on, meaning that if you don't have them on, you'll check your apps even more because you feel like you're gonna miss out on a message, then you need to work on a mindset shift. Tell yourself: "It's OK not to reply right away."
4) Banish time-sucking apps from your home screen:
Do a really big spring clean on your home screen and delete all the apps from it that you will check all the time. Make your time-sucker apps as inaccessible as possible.
5) Put your phone out of reach:
Yep, literally. Even already putting it further away on your nightstand or ideally, even outside of your bedroom so you don't check it first thing in the morning. This will create a speed bump for you so you don't immediately check it. You can do this for all moments where you usually get distracted by your phone.
6) Set an intention (WWW):
Set an intention every time before you decide to check your phone. You can ask yourself 3 questions before you check it:
What for? = what are you going to do with your phone?
Why now? = why do you feel the urge to check it in this moment?
What else? = what else could you do instead?
I can assure you that most of the times you will not feel the urge anymore to check your phone if you answered all of these questions. If you find a legitimate reason, go ahead! The goal is not to not have you use your phone. The goal is to establish a little speed bump that makes you more mindful and more conscious of how you use your phone.
I hope you found these tips helpful! Let me know what you do to decrease your screen time and why by sending me a message on Instagram - I'd love to hear what works for you :)