So how long have you been in a relationship with your phone?
Don’t laugh! It’s a serious question. And here’s another one: is your relationship a healthy one?
Don’t worry, I’m not recommending that the two of you you break up. However, like any healthy relationship, both parties need some alone time to tend to their own roots and blossom.
Before you start feeling icky or defensive, know that you are SO not alone. In fact, Apple estimates that we pick up our phone 150 times a day and, on average, spend 4 hours and 30 minutes a day on them.
That’s practically 2,000 minutes a week and 166 hours a month on our device.
Now, are you ready to have your mind blown? What if I told you that you could use that time to learn three or four new languages — EVERY YEAR?
According to the Foreign Service Institute, it takes an average of around 500 hours to learn a language. That means that in the time you spend checking and deleting emails, answering texts, ogling at something the google machine pixeled you with – you could gain basic fluency of one of the world’s 6,000 languages in about three months!
Okay. Enough numbers and guilt-tripping. The point is that we need to be mindful when we use our devices so that they’re working for us and not against us. But how?
To help, I’ve pulled together this list of 17 things I’m implementing with my iPhone — and you can do too! — to build a healthier, guilt-free relationship with the computer-in-my-pocket:
- Delete any apps you haven’t used in 90 days. If you haven’t used it in that long (longer than it takes to build a habit), you probably don’t need it.
- Use an app to see how many times you pick up, or check your phone. Rescue time, Moment, and Checky are ones that I’m experimenting with now, although you can get this data on the newest devices.
- Take this free smartphone abuse test from The Center For Internet and Technology Abuse.
- Set a realistic and allotted amount of time to use your device each day. You can use an app like Moment to hold yourself accountable! But the key word here is realistic. If you are using your device for 3 hours a day right now, trying to cut it down to 15 minutes a day is NOT going to go well.
- Make a To-Do list of vital things you must complete during the day. Don’t touch email or social media until that list is complete.
- Turn off ALL notifications. Settings>Notifications>Phone>Allow Notifications
- Place a rubber band around the middle of your screen to slow the scroll. Each time your finger brushes past the band, it’s a gentle reminder to be mindful.
- Make folders with similar apps to declutter (fitness, productivity, travel, social media).
- Add a “downtime” period to your phone. Choose the hours you want your phone to be available to you, and then configure your phone to go silent during your off-hours. Customize by going to settings>screentime>downtime. You can select certain apps you know are tempting like email, messages, or social media, and allow for phone calls, you know, in case your mom calls.
- Delete old texts or screen shots that you won’t care about in the future. Less stuff, less distractions.
- Use a background screen that helps hold you accountable! Here are a few I created for the MAPS Institute you can download and try!
- Leave your devices out of the bedroom. Allow your bedroom to be a sacred place for sleep and….other stuff. Plus, it creates a space where you’re less likely to grab your phone first thing in the morning!
- Get rid of infinity apps (aka Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). It might be hard, but restricting those types of apps to your laptop will prevent time wasted on your phone. Besides, when you’re eating dinner, watching a movie, taking a walk, or having a conversation with your partner, there’s a GOOD chance your laptop is closed, which will mean you’re less likely to have distractions during these important times!
- Set your phone to grayscale. This was a game-changer for me! When our screen is gray it is not only kinder on your eyes, but it makes it much less appetizing to endlessly peruse your email or instagram feed!
- Empty your home screen. I put the notes app on my home screen, but otherwise moved all my other apps and folders to the second or third screen. It creates a bit of space after you unlock your phone to consider if what you’re about to do is entirely necessary, and to act intentionally.
- Make your phone YOUR phone. Review the apps you have and use and ask yourself if they are supporting the lifestyle you want to live! If you want to be more conscious about your cellphone use, eating, fitness, or mindfulness, you may want to have particular apps that help with those objectives. But what about the rest?
- Set app limits. Hold yourself accountable, but if you find that tough (no judgement!), you can have your phone help with it! Settings>Screentime>App Limits
Amidst the tumultuousness of our world’s political, economic, and social entities, you have the power to control your internal environment. Let’s start by dismantling the one temptation that only exacerbates our stress and anxiety levels.