Let’s be honest: your smart phone usage is out of control, isn’t it? Whole friendship dynamics are built around group chats; plans are made on social media, hour by hour, with a dozen changes right up to the last minute; and even when you’re out and about you’re always online, because cafes and restaurants know that not offering WiFi is like not serving the right food or stocking the wrong drinks.
You’re probably reading this on your smart phone right now (which is good, intelligent smart phone usage by the way, and not to be changed) as part of the six or more combined hours a day you spend looking at your screen. But no matter how ingrained into your very way of life your smartphone is, there are always a few simple steps you can take to spend less time on it, and take something of a smartphone vacation.
For most of us, leaving our phone at home for a day, let alone turning it off for a whole weekend, sounds impossible. But just like going on a diet doesn’t mean you don’t eat anything, or being a bit more thrifty with your fiances doesn’t mean you throw your wallet and your bank card away, spending less time on your phone doesn’t mean you have to leave it behind completely. Make a few realistic resolutions, set a few targets, and stick with them.
Most of us get woken up by our smart phones, and we’ll be on them before we’ve brushed our teeth or boiled the kettle. This gives them a very obvious position of importance in our lives, and implies a strong reliance on them. Having an old fashioned Alarm Clock will allow you to leave your phone in a different room at night, and allow you to ease into the day without letting the outside world barge in on you through e-mails and social media.
Putting your phone away an hour before going to bed will also give yourself a chance for a better nights sleep.
The same goes for last thing at night. You might think you need to be available 24/7, but you’ll soon be asleep for seven or eight hours anyway – so what’s the harm in putting your phone away an hour earlier? If nothing else, it will give you a chance for a better nights sleep, because the LCD screen on your phone can upset your natural sleep cycle.
Want, don’t need:
We pick our phones up when they buzz, run to them when they ring, and give them the pride of place in whatever pocket of clothing is easiest to reach. But there’s a few steps you can take to make sure that you’re the one deciding when you use your phone, not vice-versa.
Turning off notifications is a good start; while if you want to go a step further, deleting certain apps altogether will make it easier to avoid temptation. Getting rid of apps like Facebook and twitter – which you can still check a few times a day on laptops or desktops – will mean you spend less time scrolling through your phone, without forcing you to give up Messenger or WhatsApp, which allow you to keep in contact with people. Once you’ve reduced the amount of things popping up on your phone, you can also try removing it from your presence. Leave it somewhere in the house, like the kitchen table or in your bedroom, and go to it whenever you need it rather than always having it within reach. If you want to go a step further you can even try leaving it in a drawer somewhere for hours at a time.
Question what you’re doing?
Why do you use your smartphone? To keep in contact with people, as a news resource, as a source of entertainment? These are all good reasons, and there’s nothing worse than someone dismissing smartphones as a waste of time, or as a generational issue, because they can provide terrific entertainment, and there’s no doubt that if iPhones had been about a hundred years ago, previous generations would have been using them too. But using your phone at any given moment only really makes sense if there’s a reason for it. So try asking yourself why it is you’re reaching for it. If you’ve a valid answer, then fine; but if you find that it’s just mindless scrolling, then try and resist the urge.
Conversations, reading, watching TV or even walking, can be more rewarding when you're concentrating on them rather than half focusing on your phone.
Has half an hour or scrolling on your phone ever made you feel as satisfied as reading a book, or watching a film you’ve always meant to watch? And if you’re out with friends or family and turning to your phone as soon as there’s a five second lull in conversation, ask yourself if you’re not better off trying to make a bit more of what’s going on around you.
Holiday at a Tech-Free Rental
If you want a proper, fully formed digital detox, there are more and more places that advertise themselves as tech-free. Going off the grid used to be for people who wanted time and space to finish big projects they’d been working on, or if work had taken over their lives; but as our phones become more and more central to our everyday lives, these locations are becoming more popular. These places usually come without WiFi, computers and TV’s, and even if there is phone signal, you’ll probably be encouraged not to use it. To counteract that they’re usually situated in beautiful nature, near mountain hikes, national parks or sea fronts, meaning there’s plenty to do to relax and recharge away from all the usual technology distractions.
Embrace not being tied to your phone:
There are lots of simple things – conversation, reading, watching TV, listening to music, even walking and spending time outdoors – than can be more rewarding when they’re not done with half an eye on your phone. On top of that, if you’re spending what adds up to hours a day on your phone – and most of us are – then there’s bound to be new hobbies or activities you can fit into that time. And of course once you’ve done these things, you’re phone can still be waiting a little more quietly in your pocket, or patiently on the kitchen table, waiting for you; and if you’re going to it because you want to, not just because it’s there, you might even have a new appreciation for what it is you love about it in the first place.