I’m craving a handshake.

I want to say “I’ll meet you at Chipotle, at 6pm, this Tuesday” and have that be it. A good old fashioned handshake deal. No more ‘still planning on Tuesday?’ texts or ‘I’m running 5 minutes late’ texts. I have nothing against courtesy or convenience but I do miss saying “I’ll see you there” without the correspondence clutter.

On the other hand, I would literally be lost without the Google Maps app. Beyond that my cell phone, like yours, has about 50 other functions and uses. The tradeoff for all of this convenience and so-called productivity is that we are always on, always plugged in. Our bodies don’t operate this way, though. We need rest from time to time. 

Just curious, when was the last time you slept?
Okay, cool. Now when was the last time you turned off your phone?

With each of those questions I’m talking about rest in relation to you, not for your phone. So if low battery is the only reason your phone goes dark, then try it now. Try turning off your phone for at least 5 minutes and pay attention to the physical way your body responds. Wait for that initial anxiousness to subside and let yourself float in the tremendous sense of relief that follows. It’s as if powering off our phones also turns off a mental switch we we weren’t aware of.

Doesn’t it feel so good?


BALANCE

Let’s get sacred for a sec. Rhythms are built-in to the fabric of our days and bodies. The sun rises and sets. Spring then Summer then Fall then Winter. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, sleep.

We don’t rely on these rhythms to thrive like we once had to. Tomatoes and strawberries are sold year round and we can buy them at 2 A.M if we want. We can work from home, have our groceries delivered, and Facetime our friends at anytime. We never have to leave our house because our phones give us 24-7 access to whatever, whenever.

Rhythms are still relevant; we just need to establish a few new ones for ourselves.

Here are a few thoughts on how to do that with your phone:

  1. Identify your bad phone habits– think about your frequent time wasting apps. When are you prone to use them, and why? I’ll go first. My big one is looking at my phone while I lay in bed, whether in the morning or at night. So I haven’t brushed my teeth or started getting ready for work, but there I am scrolling through social media.

    (I’m an expert procrastinator, so here are a few of my other poor phone choices: developing elaborate Instagram stories, curating Spotify playlists, or anytime I’m on Reddit, because /r/ama and /r/ShowerThoughts.)
  2. Identify the good habits too– Celebrate the positive things you are already doing. Do you make a point to ignore your phone when you’re out with friends? Or do put your phone away while you’re at work?  You go Glen Coco!Also, make a list of all the apps and features that you deem acceptable to use at anytime: calculator, maps, Spotify/Pandora, camera, etc.
  3. Make up your own schedule– We monitor screen time for kids, right? So then we should live by a similar standard.Use the habits from steps 1 & 2 to inform your rhythm.For example, I don’t allow myself to check my phone before 8:30am because I know that if I do, it will derail my day. But by the time 8:30 rolls around all my essential morning rituals are done and my day is in full swing, therefore, I’m less likely to give in to a scrolling session.For my own good, I also limit my phone time at certain times of the day when I am prone to use my phone to procrastinate. After trial and error I’ve found that 10 minutes is my goldilocks time frame to respond to any crucial emails or texts, check my social feeds, and catch on up on the news. Anything beyond that leads to an internet click hole and BuzzFeed articles. So, on a typical day my basic phone schedule looks like this:
    1. No phone until 8:30am*
    2. 5-10 minutes in the morning
    3. Limited use while I’m running errands/working (more on that below)
    4. 5-10 minutes at night
    5. No phone after 9:00pm

    *We live in a different timezone from our friends and family, which means my 8:30am is their 11:30am. However this still works.

     

  4. Take a day off– I mean it. Implement a phone/screen time detox day once a week. This could change your life if you let it. I’ll elaborate all of this in an extra ‘bonus post’ because my passion for this cannot be contained within a succinct bullet point. So I’ll leave it at that for now, and let the idea of a 24 hour phone fast marinate and sink in.
  5. Try your best– …when you can, if you can! You owe it to yourself to honor the rhythms and guidelines you’ve set for yourself but don’t let it make or break you. The above phone schedule I detailed is just guideline, a suggestion. Because sometimes 15 minutes of #puppiesofinstagram is just necessary, am I right?!

PHONE HACKS

Setting up a realistic rhythm is key, but here are a few other ‘aha’ moments I use to reduce the chance of screen time relapse. (Side note – these ‘how-to’ instructions are catered to iPhone users.)

Delete some apps– Apps are not worth hoarding! Delete the obsolete! Here are mine: airline apps from past trips, unused apps that come with the phone (i.e. measuring, stocks, etc.), and anything redundant because I Google it instead (I’m looking at you IMDB app). 

Eliminate visual clutter– Put these apps in folders and leave your home screen blank. (See ‘Greyscale’ below for an image of my home screen.) It will reduce the chance of getting distracted by other apps, and your eyes will enjoy the white space. (Also you’ll actually be able to see that picture of your toddler without their face covered up by all your apps.)

On an iPhone you can do this a number of ways. I’ve opted to put all my apps down below, but you could also organize them by moving all your apps to a secondary home screen so they’re available when you swipe right.  (Let me know if that needs more explaining.) 

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Don’t make it easy– While you’re at it, go ahead and make it harder to get to the time wasting apps. Don’t make them front and center or you’ll be more tempted to habitually click them. I hide these apps from my home screen by dragging them over to the second ‘page’ of their assigned folder. 

P.s. This is a deterrent, but not always a solution. Case in point– the icon by my Instagram app indicating that I’ve exceeded the time limit I’ve set for the day, haha! 

(To move an app: hold down the app icon, when it starts to wiggle you are free to move it around, to create a folder hold the app overtop another, press the home button when you’re done.)

Greyscale– This is my #1 way to discourage me from defaulting to social media feeds whenever I pick up my phone. Everything loses it’s allure without all the color. See the difference?

When I leave my screen in greyscale it throws me off every time I pick up my phone. It’s like a mental stop sign; a subtle way to police my bad habits.

(Here’s how to do this if you have an iPhone: Settings > General > Accessibility > Learning > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters. From now on all you have to do is triple click the home button to easily switch back and forth.)

Reduce alerts– I am ruthless with my notification usage. I’ve turned off almost all sounds, badges, banners, alerts, and notifications. My phone, the app itself, is the main exception.

I do this so that when I go to open Spotify I’m not bombarded or distracted by notifications. In other words, if I want to see if anyone texted me I either have to open the app, or look at my notification screen…which I don’t always remember to do. The picture below shows an example of how to set this up.

However, you can customize this to your own liking– to allow sounds but not banners or badges, or vice versa. To do this go to Settings > Notifications > [and pick whichever app you’d like to edit]).

By the way, those red circles (as pictured in the second image) are called badges. Some of my friends don’t mind when their email badge shows that they have 67 unread emails. Personally they annoy the heck of out me so I turn them all off except for phone calls.

 

Do not disturb (DND) mode– all phones have this now right? Some kind of master switch to silence all alerts or notifications? I highly recommend setting a schedule so your phone automatically defaults to whatever time frame you want. It’s another way to reinforce when you are ‘on’ and when you are ‘off’.

There are so many ways to set this up so play around with it. I love using DND on Sabbath, our day off, because if I readjust my settings I can still allow incoming phone calls but all other noises and notifications will be silenced. 

Oh and you can turn on the Repeated Calls option if you don’t want to miss any urgent calls. This means that when your phone is in DND mode, it will still ring if the same person calls twice within 3 minutes. 

Airplane mode– for those times when you can’t afford to be distracted, like at work or while writing blog posts for instance. Also good at combating the use of our phones as procrastination tools.

Phone as alarm clock – This is a personal favorite. If you have an actual alarm clock, try leaving your phone in another room before you go to bed. It’s that same liberation and sense of relief you felt when you turned off your phone in the introduction. 

Group texts– I’m so glad you got your cast off, but I also don’t want my phone blowing up all week with everyone else’s “congratulations” responses. So here’s how I keep my curmudgeon status when it comes to group texts: HIDE ALERTS. Silence restored!

(Open the group text > click on ‘4 people>’ or whatever number it is on your screen > info> hide alerts’)

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Screen Time Reports– Does your phone collect usage data and send you a screen time report each week? Great, use it! If it doesn’t, here’s an app I used way before this feature was built-in. Don’t worry too much if one week’s daily average screen time is higher than usual. It happens to all of us. And screen time is relative from week to week. 

Also I recently discovered that my iPhone allows me to set up time limits for individual apps. As of now I only have 1 time limit set up; aiming to spend no more than 15 minutes/day on Instagram. So far I’m consistently exceeding my set limit each day, but I love that this feature exists. :)


PHONE HABITS

Respond to texts later– Do you have time/energy to reply? Did the text come from your mom/dad or boss? Is it crucial to respond immediately? …No? Then I give you permission to finish whatever you are doing and respond to that text later.

In my experience, the worst case scenario is that friends just mock me for being a ‘bad text-er’ because I’m consistently slow to respond (because, life!). Sometimes I don’t even get around to responding until the next day or two (not ideal, sorry friends!). Clay is the same way, and frankly, we’re okay if we’re bad text-ers. Compliment received! 

Or don’t respond at all–  “I’ll text you later, I just spilled spaghetti all over the floor.”

5 minutes go by and you’ve now slipped in the spaghetti, and stained your new outfit. Then your phone goes off and you reach for it because ‘it could be urgent’ only to open your text and realize it’s your sister just responding with…”Ok.”

Not her fault that you’re covered in spaghetti but every text or email or direct message does not need a response. I can’t seem to come up with more examples for you, but you’ll know it when you see it. 

Don’t take your phone everywhere– It honestly never occurred to me that my phone doesn’t need to be tethered to me 24-7. Prime examples include: hiking, going for a walk, the library, the movies, getting my haircut, or grocery shopping (when I’m confident in my grocery list).

If I don’t feel comfortable leaving my phone at home completely then I tuck it in the car’s glove box and leave it there.

Put your phone away at home– Designate a space in your house for phones and try to leave them there whenever you’re not using them. (I currently only do this about 20% of the time so I’m not perfect.)

Stay focused, Say it out loud– I will verbally say “I’m going to see if my doctor responded to my email”. Repeating my intentions back to myself really reduces divergence. 

Restaurant/public etiquette– I once saw a group of people stack their phones in the middle of the table, Jenga-style, so that no one could use their phone during dinner. Aside from that playful little life hack, I try to keep phones off the table. 

Clay and I also have a rule that when we are in public places, only one of us is allowed to be on our phones at a time. We can’t both google something or take pictures of our sushi platter at the same time. Limiting ourselves in this way eliminates the urge to mimic bad habits. For instance,  ‘you were looking at your phone so I started looking at mine’.

Boredom– Pick 3 places/situations where you can intentionally leave your phone in your pocket to be more present. Mine are waiting rooms, elevators, and anytime I’m waiting in line. Occasionally this leads to some pretty memorable experiences/interactions. And sometimes I just look like a weirdo staring at the wall. :)


TAKE ACTION

I pack a lot of content in these posts, so I never expect you to implement every suggestion all at once. I will always encourage you to take your time and enjoy the process. However, applying mindful practices to our screen time feels a bit more urgent.

The other day Clay had a conversation with a woman who used to live in New Zealand. She remarked about how distraught she was that none of her friends asked how she was doing regarding to the recent terrorist attack. “Where did our humanity go? Why aren’t we trying to connect with people anymore?” she said. 

I understand that phones and screen time are an easy scapegoat, but there’s a reason stories like this are a dime a dozen. We can’t ignore the underbelly of our cell phones or deny that these devices are distracting us. Ever ride an elevator with someone else and look at your phone? I have. It also happens to me every day. We’re all victims and yet we’re all to blame.

I don’t expect each moment or human interaction to be lively and existential, but our cell phones do prevent us from connecting in real life with people 5 feet away from us on the elevator. And I haven’t even touched on screen time as a greater whole, or social media habits.

So can you leave your phone in your pocket just once and choose to smile and say hello to someone instead?

Or instead of spending 10 minutes on Instagram, see if you can figure out how to greyscale your phone. Implement just one or two of these suggestions, then let me know how it goes! 

Do you already have a phone structure? Do you have ideas and tricks of your own? Please share! I need all the help I can get!


STAY TUNED

On Monday I’m going to expand a little bit on my conviction that we should all commit to living without our phones 1 day each week. Including a few more phone habits I’m trying out.

So check back on Monday!

Also I have an announcement:

I’m going to take a little hiatus from the blog. The timing isn’t great because these posts seem to be growing in popularity (this means a lot by the way, thanks for being here!). And yet, against my better judgement I’m going to neglect this momentum and take some time off to recharge.

I’m not shutting the site down. I just need to focus my energies elsewhere for a bit.

SO! While I’m gone, use this time to brush up on past posts. Sort through your closets again!

And send me your thoughts. I’d love to know what you like and dislike about these posts. Is there anything (literally anything) specific you want me to cover? Are the examples and pictures helpful? Is the content relevant? Regarding your decluttering process is there anything you’d like one-on-one time on?


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Posted by:Katie Brinks

Seattle and the great outdoors. (Sometimes I write about my feelings.)

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