I love my phone.
Here’s the proof. It never leaves my side. Every day I spend hours using it, checking it, and looking through its amazing screen.
I bet that you love your phone, too. We work in tech. We need to stay connected at all times and our mobile device makes that possible in amazing ways.
There are hundreds of emails, Slack messages (or Teams messages for the Microsoft crowd), Tweets, LinkedIn updates, Quora questions, and dozens of app notifications that we need to track. Ironically, you can even get a mediation app that will send you notifications reminding you to be more mindful.
All of this is competing for our attention by buzzing in our pocket at all hours.
Several months ago, I realized that I was getting sucked into my phone for more things, during more hours. I was feeling distracted. The amazing tool that makes me more productive was diluting my attention.
I loved it too much.
So I decided that I would not use my phone during five specific times/activities:
- While walking
- While in the elevator
- While driving
- From wake up until I’m on the bus (5:15 to 6:45 a.m.)
- From dinner to my kids’ bedtime (6 to 8 p.m.)
It’s not a lot of time. In aggregate, I only designated about four hours per day to stay off my phone.
Even that wasn’t easy. During the longer time blocks I either put my phone in a different room or switched to airplane mode. I also started keeping it outside my bedroom at night so I didn’t accidentally grab it first thing in the morning.
I’ve definitely slipped up a few times. With any behavior change, no matter how minor it seems, old habits pop up. For some reason the elevator habit has been particularly hard for me (of course it’s the weirdest one).
That said, I have largely stuck with this “phone diet” for the last three months.
It made a big difference. I noticed that my thinking got more clear. I’m less distracted.
The impact is most noticeable when I arrive at work in the mornings. Rather than bouncing around between notifications for a couple hours before work, I’m able to calmly size up my priorities for the day when I arrive at my desk.
Ultimately, this clarity at the beginning of the day has made me more productive overall.
It’s also played in many smaller ways. The other day I was walking downtown and noticed one of the many new office buildings had gone up shockingly fast. I’d probably walked by that block a dozen times engrossed in my phone not noticing the daily progress.
This time I actually realized what was happening in front of my face (crazy) and I didn’t risk crashing into any fellow pedestrians while reading a Tweet (safer). It’s a tiny thing, but a net positive.
I posted about this on LinkedIn recently and more than 130 people shared their ideas on the topic. My approach was stupid simple: five discrete things.
I’m sure some people have more advanced ideas for regulating technology attention or being present. Those are probably worth studying, but I can attest that a simple tweak also goes a long way.
Have you ever tried a phone diet?