As sad as it may sound, we have a relationship with our phone (perhaps a phone addiction). It’s not all that surprising considering it lives life with us. From where we go and what we’re reading to what we buy and what we’re curious about, our phone is always right there. We get frustrated when it doesn’t do what we want and we love the way it makes us feel when it lights up with something to tell us.
While this relationship can be exciting, informative, and keeps us coming back for more, I think we can agree it isn’t always the healthiest of relationships.
Do you remember life before this pocket-sized significant other?
We had to try to think and remember more without it instantly giving us the answer. We made more eye contact with each other without it trying to lure our focus away. We listened better without it pulling our attention elsewhere. And we slept better without it keeping us up at night.
As with any relationship that gets out of control, it’s time to set some boundaries with our phones. Here are five to consider:
1. Stop Sleeping With It.
Unless you have some kind of profession where you’re on call, there is no legitimate reason to have your phone by your side while sleeping. You shouldn’t be reading emails or scrolling through social media right before bed anyway. That’s sleep hygiene 101. Simply charge it in another room at night.
I understand many people use their phone to wake them up in the morning, but you can easily get a cheap alarm clock for under $10. Maybe even put it across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off, therefore decreasing your chances of snoozing. There – you just added nine extra minutes to your day!
2. Stop Taking it Everywhere.
Somewhere along the way our phones have become like a new appendage. Think of all the places we have them in hand when we don’t really need them. Popping into a store to quickly pick something up? Leave it in the car. Your world won’t fall apart if you return a call or text fifteen minutes later than if you did mid dry-clean pick-up. Going out to dinner? Leave it in the car and actually be present with your dinner guest. And let’s talk about the grocery store – there was a time when we used a scrap piece of paper for our list and that worked just fine. Plus, it will save you from being the annoying person screwing up the flow of aisle traffic because you’re on the phone.
In the scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago that cell phones didn’t exist. In those not-so-ancient days, we left the house and were without a phone until we returned home. No calls. No texts. No email. No social media. No news. And guess what? We were all just fine.
3. Remove the Third Wheel.
How many times have you been riding in the car with someone – perhaps your significant other – and you’re on your phone checking email, texting, or scrolling through social media? What a waste. If you think about it, car time is precious time. You have a captive audience with whoever you are riding with, making it the perfect opportunity to catch up. Your phone is nothing more than a third wheel preventing you from enjoying some undistracted QT with someone in your life. Put your phone away and be in the moment with that someone.
4. Beware the Tease.
Those little red bubbles indicating an unread text, email, or notification of any kind are what keep us coming back for more. From ding or swoosh noises to push notifications, your phone is constantly taunting you to pick it up. Give it some attention. Lose an hour of time in it. It’s designed that way. Your phone and every single app you have installed have one common goal: to take your time.
But here’s the good news. You don’t have to fall for it. You can take the control back. Start by reevaluating all of your notification settings. Do you really need to know when everyone in your network goes live on Instagram or when that someone you went to high school with posted for the first time in a while? No. The default notification settings for all your apps are set to tease you in every which way they can, begging you to open the app. Change your settings so that the only notifications you are getting are the ones you actually need.
5. Cut Some Communication.
This is a big one that you are likely going to fight – consider removing email from your phone. I know, I know – you probably immediately started thinking about every reason you can’t do that. But take some time to question those reasons. Are you actually responding to emails on your phone or just constantly checking them? If you’re mostly just checking them, what difference does it make if you read the email before you go to sleep vs. the following day when you’re at your computer prepared to actually respond? The answer might be no different except for the hours of stress that could have been avoided.
We’ve gotten into this mindset where we feel like we always have to immediately respond to everything. But the reality is that we don’t. Maybe your job prevents you from removing email from your phone entirely, but are there other ways you could reduce your email use? Could you set an out of office explaining that you don’t check email after a certain time so you can rest easy that people aren’t expecting a response? Do you have to have your personal email on your phone? At the very least, are there emails you never read that you could unsubscribe from? Find some way to make your phone less like a mini computer, and more like a phone.