Over the last 12 months I’ve been more and more aware about my love/ hate relationship with my phone… and my lack of ability to put it down.
I love that it helps me with practically everything:
the ability to do work emails while I’m getting a pedicure
a constant conversation (and connection) with my besties and family with what’s app and messenger
the ability to get up to date info on anything at my fingertips (last searches include ‘is excessive use of dry shampoo bad for you’, ‘epic airbnbs in Bali’)
a camera to capture moments for Temple insta stories or screenshotting something that I defs need to remember or find funny (last count 11,438 pics saved to my phone, I actually have no idea what’s on there).
The list could go on forever, I don’t doubt most people are in the same boat as me to a more or less of a degree of crazy phone addict.
Yep. It’s absolutely true that we’re incredibly lucky to live in this moment of time where we have this kind of technology literally at our fingertips.. but the reality is, for me, and I’d dare say many ‘we can’t’ go anywhere without our phones and I don’t think it’s all that great for our sanity. I have been pulled up by my husband for texting him while I’m in the loo and I won’t lie…in the past I admit to sending entire emails sitting in traffic. I know. I know. Don’t worry I have stopped this.
I hate the fact that I feel like I can’t go anywhere without my phone, which in turn makes me feel like I am always ‘ON’. Connected to work the moment I wake up – checking my emails even before I say good morning to my husband and looking at it last thing before going to bed. My habitual use of my phone has created a yucky habit loop of cue – routine – reward. That is:
CUE: I have a few minutes up my sleeve waiting for my coffee to arrive…bored now and feel like a loner, oh look everyone else is on their phone too. I should fill it with something productive and realistically I'm craving connection as I’m standing here by myself.
ROUTINE: Check what everyone else is doing and so I don’t miss anything important IE. my friends/ family and even random acquaintances. Check’s email/ whats app/ Facebook/ Instagram/ Snapchat/ LinkedIn/ Voxer and Messenger notifications.
REWARD: Oh that’s what everyone’s up to. Nothing too important. Oh here’s my coffee, I filled it that gap of time woo.
Repeat up to 100 times a day.
Knowing this is what I do, for my last years intentions I wanted to use my phone more mindfully. Cut a long story short this wasn’t all that successful (because.. a.legit addicted). Don’t get me wrong I had my moments where I was more conscience of my phone use than the previous year but I also still felt uneasy being away from my phone. What this helped me realise was that the very vast majority of my time I was pretty unconscious of my phone use and unaware that I had it glued to my hand. I’d tried a bunch of apps that measured my phone use but weren’t easy to use, so when Iphone came out with a software upgrade late last year that’s inbuilt feature was to track your screen time and allow you to put limits on things like social media usage I thought winner! This is going to curb my addiction so much easier. Interesting enough my new habit when the ‘screen time is limited’ alert came up or when it wanted to kick me off social media for using it for over 45mins I simply closed the window and continued using my phone. I realised yikes.. I was in pretty deep with my phone addiction.. so I purchased the book 'How to break up with your phone' by Catherine Price.
Full transparency – I’m not in the clear with my phone addiction yet but here’s my key learning's that are helping me on my way:
I’m a questioner (Four tendencies – Gretchen Rubin) so the most important thing for me when creating/ changing habits is to have a clear understanding of why I need to use my phone less and legit believe it so it outweighs the argument in my head of my why my phone is great to have connected to my hand 24/7.
The first part of the book clearly details through scientific studies and evidence of why and how phones are designed to addict us.
It reminded me about the dopamine hits I’m getting each time I pick up my phone forming my habit loop (which Charles Duhigg taught me in The Power of Habits).
It provided me with personal insights by getting me to articulate my emotions each time I jumped onto social media. I realised I was searching for connection (bored/ filling gaps of time = somebody talk to me) and rarely did I find it on insta or facey. If anything I felt less connected and somewhat flat in comparison to an IRL convo.
It highlighted the way that the my phone is changing my brain and killing my attention span as well as messing up with my memory. This is even more scary for kids addicted to screen time.
The book clearly pointed out the stress/ sleep and satisfaction competent to being addicted to your phone. Less phone time = less stress, more sleep. So obvious when its there in black and white and less stress and a full night’s sleep is super important to every humans well-being.
The second part of the book gives you a month of activities to help you slowly break your addiction. Here’s the top ones I’ve taken on board that work well for me:
Make friends with my Screen time tracking rather than ignoring it by physically writing down my weeks average so my brain recognises and takes note.. plus I’m competitive even against myself so it gave me a number to beat each week. It went from close to 4 hrs average a day in December to less than 1 and a half hours average in 1 month - woo
Changed my screen saver on my phone to a note from myself saying “what do you want to pay attention to. Look up”. From realising that my number 1 goal for using my phone less is to be more present - this note to self reminds me that if I’m staring at my phone, I’m not likely being very present. Look up. See the sky. Breathe. Change my habit loop.
Use my laptop for emails 80% of the time/ phone 20%. Try to check my phone only 4 times a day for emails if I was out of the office -8.30/ 10am/ 3pm and 5 and that’s it. I had this fear of missing out (FOMO) that if I didn’t check my email constantly the world would end. I’d miss something super important. Reality is if I check them 4 times a day I am very unlikely to miss anything and for anything super important or urgent - people always call.Giving myself boundaries like different devices for different task helped me not feel always on just because i had my phone near me.
Delete social media apps from my phone. Full disclosure – I deleted facey but not Instagram and Snap chat. Damn them – it was too hard to do either logging in on a desktop or through safari. I want to use both quick and get off them and do need insta for Temple Yoga and I don’t use snapchat often- it’s really for funny videos of my friends kids and keeping in touch with a couple of overseas friends. I have hidden it in folders in amongst my second page so I’m making it harder for myself to mindlessly scroll. With not using the facey app I’ve noticed I’m getting more emails from facebook letting me know any time someone tags me or a close friend has posted something so I doubt I'll miss much. I’m sure I can turn these off also. I’d probably check it only a few times a week now.
Turn off all notifications. The only one I have on is messages. If its important call me. If not ill check them all once or twice a day when I want to so I’m not distracted 100 times a day.
Change where I charge my phone – which is now in the office from 8pm every night. No going to bed and waking up staring at a phone.
Set boundaries – no phones at the table when eating, no phones in bed
Go without my phone for days at a time – feels amazing and proved to me that I don’t miss anything and the world goes on. So much more time for other things – its like getting bonus hours back into your day to do the things you really want to do.. lie on a beach, read a book, play with my dog.
Get a home phone so I can turn my phone off and only a few in case of emergency can contact me
When I'm finding myself overusing my phone I place a hairband around the phone – sounds silly but helps me brings back conscious that I'm using my phone when I grab it and it feels weird and I think why is that on there.. oh that’s right.
All life is an experiment.The more experiments you make the better. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Breaking my addiction to my phone has been a cracker of an experiment and one that I’ll continue to work on for my sanity.
My aim for 2019 is to do this more often - monthly experiments on adapting new healthy habits.
For my next 30 days I want to experiment on myself to try something new, almost break my habit of doing the same old fitness routine day in day out. There’s pluses and minuses to everything and I try not to call any habit ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as a ‘good habit’ one day might not always be healthy for you. Even though I’ve set a habit of getting up and going to yoga or the gym each morning at 5.30am I realised doing this also makes it trickier for me now to add in anything else fun or different as I’m so set in my ways. Also when I’m sick I’ve realised I’m so habitual in my fitness routine that I just get up and go to the gym and only when I’m there do I check in with my body and realise that I’m super run down and need a rest. I’ve been doing the same routine for years now so I feel like I need to spice it up a little.
First up instead of anti gravity yoga on Thursday I am doing a Yoga class with Brodie on a Sunday. With sound cancelling headphone. On a pier at moonlight. Can. Not. Wait.