How I got "phone healthy" in two weeks
Let’s get real for a second: we spend a lot of time on our phones. Hear me out: we spend TOO MUCH time on our phones.
When I first graduated college and started working in media, I was spending upwards of 8 hours/day sitting in front of a screen. My head would be killing me near the end of the day, a type of headache I had never faced before. I soon realized I’d need to use special glasses to help reduce the screen glare and blue light glow from laptops/cell phones if I wanted to live a normal life (aka still spend that much time in front of screens, just with way fewer headaches). 🙄
Great — so I eliminated the headaches, but did I reduce any of the stress associated with being on your phone/laptop that long?
Once cell phones became ubiquitous, professionals were expected to be “on-call” 24/7 — even though my jobs were never life-or-death serious, because I worked adjacent to the news industry, I was expected to be reachable at nearly all hours of the day/night. I became attached to my phone, checking notifications every few minutes, and becoming more and more stressed because of it.
After leaving my full-time media job, I found myself still checking my phone very frequently, even though I had no reason to. Sure, spending time on social media can be fun, and it’s nice to check in on what our friends are up to every now and then, but I was spending about 4 hours on my phone every day. Four full hours! On average, most Americans spend about 3 hours on their phone every day; this means that phones may well surpass TVs in terms of where we spend most of our media-consuming minutes soon.
Do you find yourself just aimlessly scrolling on your phone multiple times a day? Does catching yourself doing that make you stressed? Anxious? Upset? Bored? Tired? Mad? We’re not meant to be spending that much time on our phones — but between podcasts and Instagram and Twitter and Facebook (you get the point), companies have found ways to make our phones addictive and keep us glued to them.
So, how did I break my phone habit and become more productive/less anxious?
I, for one, don’t love feel stressed just by looking at my phone. So while I was on vacation recently, I did what most plugged-in people do: I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone. Shocking, I know! I had every intention of re-downloading them once I got back home, but it’s been about two months and I still don’t have them on there.
If I absolutely need to sign into those social media sites, I can. I’m not missing anything, and I’m not getting needlessly upset every time I look at my timeline.
Turns out, current affairs aren’t all that positive or happy!
Like most intelligent people, I will do almost anything Jenna Kutcher tells me to do. So when she talked about screen addiction in Episode 205 of her Goal Digger podcast, I really listened. She gives five great tips in that episode, so be sure to check it out.
In that episode, and others relating to productivity, Jenna frequently returns to the notion of: you don’t have to be reachable 24/7. So I took notifications off my email app; I now check my email when I want to, not every time I get a marketing email from West Elm. Instead of getting a dozen notifications about emails I don’t care about, I make designated time to check my email — while she recommends not even having an email app on your phone, I know I’m trying to also reduce the time I spend at my laptop, so I check it when it’s convenient to me.
Something Jenna also suggested was using the Moment app to track how many times I pick up my phone and how many minutes I spend on my phone each day. Guys, it’s nuts when you can see just how much time we waste on our phones explained right to us. (iPhones now also have a Screen Time feature that gives you a weekly average.)
I used Moment’s boot camp challenge for 14 days to really try and kick the habit of phone addiction. Each day had a different activity designed to reduce your overall phone usage. For example, the app knew when I usually first picked my phone up, so one day the challenge was to pick it up for the first time one hour later than usual; one day, the challenge was to leave the room every time I picked up my phone, so I could visually understand what happens to the people around us when we have a phone in our hands.
It was a tough two weeks, especially when so much of our communication and business requirements take place on our phones, but I feel so much better after doing it.
We really, truly, honestly don’t need to be spending nearly as much time on our phones as we do on average — and while I’m not hitting my goals every day (I aim for <40 pick ups and <2 hours, 45 minutes), I’m much more mindful of how I spend my time on my phone.
There is so much already going on around us, why bother blocking it out by staring at a rectangle of stress for a percentage of our lives? There are books to read, books to be written, loved ones to hug, and dogs to pet.
Comment below with any tips you’ve learned about spending less time on your phone.