We’ve all read (and been told) that we need to spend less time on our phones. We know they’re apparently ruining our ability to focus, communicate, and may be damaging our overall health. I wouldn’t even be surprised if a smartphone had, at some point, been cited in divorce papers as ‘the third party’ responsible for a marriage breakdown - is there really anyone who hasn’t at some point wanted to smash their partner’s phone? Please tell me I’m not alone!
The problem is that they are so damn useful, and fun. Not only can you create fabulous screensavers, personalise ringtones and buy covers in more styles than Madonna has had makeovers but they are also our alarm clocks, radio, camera, flashlight, calculator, newspapers, way to keep in touch with friends and our portable office. As a mum with one child living on the other side of the world, parents in a different country and friends worldwide there is no way I’m ditching my smartphone any time soon.
But we can all reduce the amount of time we spend ‘mindlessly’ using them, and take back a little bit of control.
Turn off Notifications
Do you really need to know every time someone emails you, that you got another like on instagram or that your second-cousin-twice-removed just posted on Facebook for the first time? Go into your settings and switch-off all notifications and give yourself a bit of peace and quiet.
Remove any apps that suck your time and attention
We’re all different here so for some it might be Facebook and others an addictive game. Anything that you turn to instead of doing something more productive needs to go. And, if you find that you’re using your phone to ‘switch off’ or ‘decompress’ then it’s probably worth finding a different, more productive way to do that. Becoming a master at Candy Crush isn’t really going to add anything to your life in the long run.
Have a screensaver that reminds you not to use your phone mindlessly
Whilst photos of your dog or a cool beach scene are nice, if you are spending too much time picking up your phone try creating a reminder to make you think about whether you really need to be on it. Mine says ‘Get in the habit of asking yourself ‘does this support the life I’m trying to create?’ Mostly the answer is NO!
Use the do not disturb function
The do not disturb function allows you to stop incoming calls so that you can focus on work etc. without being interrupted. You can create a list of people who can still get through such as a partner, child or parents so that if there is an emergency you can still be reached.
Find other things to do
When we’re busy we tend to ignore our phones, it’s when we are bored or procrastinating that we reach for it. Come up with other things to do instead, like reading a book, learning a new skill or taking up a hobby. When you look at how much time you spend on your phone it’s scary to think what else could have been achieved in those hours. Take some time to think about the life you want to create and things you’ve always wanted to do and prioritise those things instead.
Become single minded
The more we multi-task the less we are able to focus on things for a long time. As we get older preserving our brain health is important, so get into the habit of doing one thing at a time and ramping up your ‘focusing super powers’. Don’t watch TV and check Facebook or read the news, don’t talk to others on the phone (or worse, in person) and scroll through emails at the same time. Give things your full attention and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel (and how your relationships improve!)
Set a timer
Use your phone to keep you off your phone! Set a timer for 10 minutes, 30 minutes or a full hour (or even more) and don’t pick up your phone until the timer goes off - this is a great way to see if you might be more addicted than you think. Want to ramp it up a bit? Commit to no phones after a certain time at night or before a chosen time in the morning, or if you’re feeling particularly hardcore why not try having a whole day each week without using your phone.
Embrace the old-fashioned lifestyle
Our phones are multi-purpose, but they don’t have to be. You can buy a separate alarm clock and keep your phone switched off at night, enjoy shooting pictures on a real camera, or invest in a cd player and feel retro listening to a whole album at a time. When we have other things to use we can give our phones a rest.
A life without a mobile phone is probably unlikely in todays world but the key is to remember that we own our phones, they shouldn’t own us. Like so many things in life, we just need to set some healthy boundaries that suit us and the life we want to enjoy after 40.