Counter-intuitive I know, as you’re probably reading this on your phone, but put it down. As a blogger, the mobile phone is one of my best way of connecting with my audience. Sat on the train? In a waiting room? The mobile phone is a magical piece of technology. Sat having dinner, maybe not so much.
For any of my finance community followers, this article isn’t going to be filled with investments tips. Nor will it be filled with actionable advice on being frugal. It’s one of a number of posts I’ve wanted to share for a while now. Hoping to cover some personal, slightly against the norm changes I’ve made to improve my lifestyle.
Simon Sinek telling it how it is
I’d like to start by asking you to take the time and watch this whole video. Honestly, just take 7 minutes of your day to watch.
Almost every word in this video rings so true! As a society, we are addicted to our smartphones, period.
My personal journey
I’m a techie, I love technology. So my relationship with my phone used to be pretty bad. The constant pings. The checking for new content every few minutes. The sitting at my desk with my phone next to me, interrupting my flow as I tried to get things done.
I do have a slight saving grace, I believe I grew up in the last generation of children that didn’t have smartphones. I had game consoles, yes! But the main bulk of my summers as a child were spent outside, making dens, getting dirty and just generally being a nuisance. I don’t mean to sound like an old man, but kids these days… What childhood is there spent in Fortnite?
Looking back now, it’s hard to find a time of life that was less enjoyable. Less carefree. Time wasn’t spent worrying about what the world thinks, or what other people think of us. Normal school popularity contests aside, life was easy!
A combination of the iPhone and social media completely changes this. Nowadays, as a child, if you’re not doing something epic on Instagram. Posting interesting things on twitter or your life on Facebook than are you really doing anything? And then if you aren’t stressing about what your next post is going to be, you’re spending time scrolling through Facebook and discovering what epic times everybody else is having. Healthy? Not in the slightest.
Changing the status quo
So what are the options? I can honestly say the answer is not to get rid of smartphones. They are extremely useful pieces of technology that have changed how we are all connected. They make staying in touch, getting things done and being productive easier than ever. In the same way that not all types of plastic are ruining the oceans, not all types of smartphone use are bad.
The phone itself is not the problem, the phone itself is useful. It’s what you do with the phone and how you interact with the phone that causes the problems. As Simon Sinek says in the video, each interaction on social media gives a dopamine hit. That dopamine becomes addictive, your body craves it. So then you find yourself hunting out the next dopamine hit. Before you know it your checking your phone every 30 seconds hoping something happens.
Just the other day, a friend of ours (let’s say they are called Jeff) posted something on Facebook whilst sat in our lounge. Now I wasn’t watching over Jeff’s shoulder, but I could see his laptop screen. He would check the post, then go back to Facebook news feed and scroll for a minute or two. The go back to the post and check it again, then back to the news feed. Seeing everybody else’s ‘best bits’ on the feed and then that nobody was liking the post, can that really be good mentally?
The alternate path
So how do we handle this epidemic? My starting point… I went through and disabled every notification on my phone and removed all social media apps. The one exception being Facebook Messenger as this is the main way I keep in touch with my father. Now, my phone never bings. It never interrupts me when I’m working. I’m more connected to my work and more connected to the world around me.
Actionable step 1 – Disable all notifications
I’m in control of my interruptions, I check my social media when I’m ready. Social media doesn’t tell me when I am ready to check it.
Now to be clear, I think there are benefits to social media and I do use my social media to keep in touch with people. I use it to find out what my closest friends are doing with their lives. It’s an incredible tool for keeping us all more connected and in touch with each other. Used in the wrong way, it can be disastrous.
The changes you’ll see
Once you start on this path, you’ll notice the changes in your perception. I find myself noticing more and more about how much people overuse their phones. I’m not sitting on my high horse and preaching here, it’s a fact. Sit in any coffee shop or restaurant and just spend a few minutes looking around. Look around at how little people interact, at how little people talk.
Try it, for a day or a week. Completely disconnect from social media, not necessarily your phone as a whole. Just remove the temptation by removing the possibility of the temptation being acted upon. If you don’t have a facebook app, scrolling through Facebook becomes more a chore and less of a habit.
The science says that it takes around 66 days to completely break a habit (taken from sciencealert.co.uk). If you can keep this disconnect up for that long you will no longer feel the requirement to check it and that is where I now sit. In the headspace that has given me back control over my phone and my attention.
As always, there are flip sides. No lifestyle switch can be undertaken without there being a trade-off. The biggest one I’ve found is actually slightly illogical for why I did this in the first place. What is it you ask? Being less responsive to my friends and family. The trade-off of having no notifications on my phone is that if somebody gets in touch I may take X number of minutes/hours to respond. If I’m in the middle of something then the person who needs me will have to wait.
My counter-argument to this is actionable tip number 2.
Actionable tip 2 – Have a mantra, if the phone rings ALWAYS answer it
I like to think my friends/family/colleagues know that if the phone rings, then I answer it. If I’m needed in an emergency or anything important then a phone call indicates that. Conversely, I’m needed to be told that my parent’s dog has a new toy, not so important. (Sorry Mum, if you’re reading this).
Take action today! It may be difficult at first and you’ll find yourself reaching for your phone. But at the very least try to be more attentive to it. Be attentive to your phone, attentive to your habits. Hey, changing these habits may even help you become more productive when you realize how much better your time could be spent.
Interested in productivity, or hearing more of my senseless rambling then check out part 1 of my productivity series here.