I don't tend to pull my phone out while I'm in line for coffee (usually). And I don't check my work email from bed in the morning. (Anymore. Ten years ago that practice was my downfall.) Since I know of other people doing these things, I haven't considered myself to be particularly addicted to my phone. But I'm realizing that's not actually a useful measurement for me.
There are plenty of times when I'm checking and rechecking my email/group chat/Instagram that feels a little like getting my tires stuck in the mud. I think of things I want to look up online or add to my paperless app or etc. countless times a day and my hand is quick to fling around for my phone. It definitely distracts me from whatever I'm doing, and it takes me away from time I could be spending on things I really care about. I want to do better.
Again with the role model thing
I have no idea what phones or technology will look like when my kids are old enough to use them regularly, but I want to have ground to stand on when I ask them to put their phones down and pay attention to their lives.
Zones worth protecting
For me the two most important types of time I don't want to interrupt are time with people I care about and time when I'm trying to immerse myself in some creative activity.
A few weeks ago I listened to this short podcast episode of Hurry Slowly where Jocelyn K. Glei referenced this study about smart phones and brain drain. The researchers essentially found that just having your cell phone present in the room means that your brain is less available to do anything else, in part because some of your attention is directed toward trying not to look at your phone.
You could probably have already guessed this impact, but there's something about seeing research-backed evidence that is very compelling to me when I'm trying to change a habit.
I might not be checking Instagram while I'm eating dinner with my husband, but research also shows that we both enjoy dinner less if one of our phones are on the table.
So! For the month of May I made a resolution to leave my phone in the other room more. I haven't set any other measurable parameters around it. But just setting the loose intention means I do think twice before grabbing it when I'm going into the nursery to play with the baby, and I leave it in the other room while I'm trying to write.
So far so good
When I'm laying on the floor with the baby watching her reach for a toy or drool all over a book, I really do feel happier without my phone around. Much more engaged and much less guilty. It seems like it would be more fun if I could also do something more adult at the same time, like text with a friend or even add items to my grocery list. But surrendering all of my attention to whatever is happening within the four corners of the blanket she's lying on (or more like always rolling off of) is actually more enjoyable.
And time spent writing (or taking photos or sewing or) without my phone means I actually spend the time writing. Duh. But amazingly effective.
It's not like I never check my email while nursing, and honestly I'm still doing all of the things I mentioned above more often than I'd like. But the most encouraging part of this resolution is how much more I enjoy my time without my phone around. So instead of having to white knuckle the habit, it's intrinsically motivating.
I'm not at all unique in trying to find ways to make technology work for me instead of the other way around. There are digital detoxes, phone free weekends, software that blocks your internet access, dumbed down phones. Please tell me what is working well for you!