Breaking Up With My Phone
This month I’ve been reading the book “How to Break Up with your Phone” by Catherine Price. It’s a very practical book with exercises to assess how we use our phones, identify if there’s something we want to change, and change it.
This weekend I did the 24 hours phone separation exercise. For about a month the author proposes some activities to help us prepare for this “trial separation”.
The preparation activities included:
- An assessment of my current relationship with my phone: what do I love about it? What I don’t love about it? What changes do I notice in myself when I pick it up and spend time with it? What would I like my new relationship with my phone to look like?
- Pay attention and notice the situations in which I use my phone. Does my body posture change? What is my emotional state before and after I use it? How do I feel when I realize I don’t have my phone? How do I feel while I’m using it?
- Track data: I used the iOS Screen Time feature to analyze how many times I picked up my phone and how I used it throughout 1 week.
- I picked up my phone 27 times per day
- I spent 2h 40 min on a daily average
- Delete all social media apps: I’ve done that a couple of years ago.
- Build a “speed bump” before I pick up my phone. Ask myself the WWW questions:
- What For: What am I picking my phone to do?
- Why Now: Why am I picking up my phone now instead of later?
- What Else: What else could I do right now besides checking my phone?
- Get in touch with offline activities I enjoy doing (and do them without my phone)
- Turn off notifications: I’ve done that a couple of years ago. I leave only notifications from “real people” (phone calls, text messages)
- Delete unused apps, leave only apps that are “tools”. Delete all other “junk food/slot machine” apps.
- Reorganize the phone Home Screen. Remove all temptations.
- Stop, breathe, meditate. Practice mindfulness.
The Trial Separation
I used the Freedom app on my phone to block apps and distracting web pages. I didn’t even look exactly what was being blocked, I just scheduled for it to start after I went to sleep on Friday night and end 24 hours later.
I woke up on Saturday and went to my yoga mat for my morning meditation/yoga. I use an app on my phone for that. And I noticed it wasn’t loading any classes. I wondered why and after restarting my phone, checking if the wi-fi was working and trying re-opening the app I realized: “OH! It’s today, I’ve turned it all off! ” I thought I had set it up in a way that I wouldn’t be out of my yoga/meditation apps but, yeah, I was wrong.
That was the first interesting discovery: my phone is useful for my mindfulness practice. It helps me, it’s a good tool for that. I probably took it for granted. And that’s okay because I remembered I could load my app from my desktop computer, so that’s what I did. Crisis averted.
I didn’t look at my phone during breakfast like I always do to check the news, the daily Dilbert comic strip, and the weather. I had a haircut appointment in the morning which is a 10-minute walk from home. I got ready to leave without checking the weather on my phone, I used my judgment by looking out the window. I can say I was slightly overdressed, it was warmer than I thought. And that’s okay, I just had to remove one layer and I was fine.
Later in the day I sat down to read and felt the urge to open up my phone and check something. I didn’t know exactly why or what. It just felt like my brain was craving for online information: the news, emails, messages, it doesn’t matter, something thrilling. Then I remembered I was cut off from 99% of my apps and I couldn’t check anything online. Webpages weren’t opening. I used the “WWW” questions mentioned before and went back to reading my book. That was an interesting realization: even when I decide that I will read a book, my brain wants to look at my phone. It’s like an unconscious twitch. Like I’ve been conditioned to pick up the phone every time I pause.
I had my meals without having my phone with me. I could still receive messages from real people, so it wasn't like I was totally offline. I could have chosen to just turn off my phone and put it in a drawer for 24 hours, but I chose not to. I don’t think I have a terrible relationship with my phone, I wanted to see how I could get even better.
This has been a good experiment. I can say that the apps that distract me the most on my phone are:
- Web browser
- Email app
I removed the email and Discord apps from my Home Screen. Now I have to use the app search or go to the App Library screen if I want to open them. That may seem like it would not have any impact, but it worked for me. Just because they are not right in front of my eyes when I take a look at my Home Screen, it created a “speed bump” and I don't open them without thinking.
I removed the web browsers from a prominent spot on my Home Screen. I hid them away in a folder. I still think browsers are useful as tools, so I will treat them as such.
I have only one screen on my phone which is the Home Screen. In it are the apps I want to have quick access to, all the rest is in the App Library.
This small change solved my unconscious urge to open up and check e-mail and Discord, for example.
Also, the exercises suggested in the book actually had an interesting effect on me: I now notice the moment I have the urge to check my phone, so I can pause, reflect and decide if that’s the right action at the moment. Maybe just the fact of having spent some time thinking about my phone usage imbued me with this mindful attitude towards it.
By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.