When I was in Minnesota visiting family on my Christmas vacation, I walked into the hot tub with my cell phone in my pocket. I know, not the brightest move. I put the phone in a bag of rice for a couple of days, but I didn’t have any luck. My phone was dead.
Immediately following the cell phone debacle, I traveled out of the country, so I spent a week without my phone. At first, it was really difficult. Like many of us, I use my phone for just about everything—my watch, alarm clock, calls, texting, email, internet, camera, map. I felt lost without my phone.
At the end of the week, I was happy to get a new phone. However, I did learn a few lessons during the week without my cell phone that I wanted to share with you:
I’m uncomfortable with empty space. The first few days without my phone, I recognized that I had a “phone checking compulsion.” Maybe you can relate. Whenever there was a break in my day when nothing was happening, my hand would automatically go to my pocket to reach for my phone. I began to realize that whenever there was empty space, I would try to fill it by checking something on my phone. There was something about the empty space that made me uncomfortable. I wondered if it might be helpful for me to get in touch with what that discomfort was about.
I waste a lot of time on my phone. Another thing I learned during the week my phone was that my phone is a timewaster. I spend a lot of hours staring at the screen. When I didn’t have my phone, I realized I had more free time than I thought I did. I had more time to think, read, relax, and connect with the people in my life. I thought back to my normal life and how sometimes I feel as if I don’t have enough time in my day. Maybe if I put away my phone, I wouldn’t have this problem.
Cell phones are annoying. Maybe I was being more observant because I didn’t have my phone, but I started to notice how addicted people are to their phones. And I started to get annoyed. I would go through my day, and get frustrated with my friends and family who were on their phone when I was trying to connect with them. I went out to eat and saw people paying to enjoy a nice meal with each other, but they were each buried in their individual phones. I started to notice the downside of our technology, and how it hinders our connections with each other.
I’m missing out on life. I was riding as a passenger in the car one day, and I remember looking out the window at the countryside as we passed by. I was feeling relaxed, noticing how beautiful everything was. Then I realized that I hadn’t really noticed the beauty of the countryside before, even though I had driven that route several times before. Then I thought about my phone. I realized that if I had my phone with me, I probably would be checking Facebook or typing an email instead of taking in the nature around me. I wondered what else in life I was missing out on because I’m so often buried in my phone.
I hate to admit it, but when I got my new cell phone, I quickly got back into my habit of checking my phone a lot. It’s a hard habit to break. How can we break the power our phones have over us? Here are 5 tips that have helped me:
Turn off notifications. Some people I know get a buzz every time anyone does anything on social media. If you have notifications turned on, you are giving your phone permission to interrupt you whenever it wants. This is too much power. Turn off all your notifications. Only check your phone when you decide to do so.
Turn your phone on silent. I think a similar argument can be made about phone calls and text messages. If your ringer is on, anyone can interrupt you at any time, even sales people! Instead, turn your phone on silent. Make people leave a message. Call them back when it is convenient for you.
Limit your social media use. When you have empty space, don’t check things like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Instead, be still for a minute and focus on your breath. See what thoughts and feelings come up for you. What is going on inside you right now? Tune in to yourself and your surroundings. Make a rule for yourself to only check social media for a prescribed amount of time each day.
Limit your email use. Similarly, when you have empty space, don’t check your email. Instead, view your email like a task to complete. Set aside an hour or two each day to work through your email. At other times, don’t check your email.
Honestly assess your cell phone use. Take time to assess your phone use. How many hours per day are you using your phone? What tasks are you using your phone for? In what ways is your phone helping you work toward your most important goals? In what ways is your phone hurting your ability to work toward your most important goals? How would you like to change or shift your phone habits moving forward?