A couple weeks ago, I recognized I had fallen into a dangerous loop and that my phone use —especially the time spent checking email and social media feeds — was out of hand.
So I did something about it.
I didn’t take a “digital detox” and completely abandon social media for a brief period of time because that feels more like a temporary treatment than an actual solution.
I might have felt better for a couple days, but once I returned from my detox I assume everything else would have gone back to “normal” — and normal wasn’t working for me.
Instead, I set out to change my phone habits and create a simple set of rules to limit the negative (and amplify the positive) impacts of when and how I use my phone.
What I came up with was a set of guidelines to ensure I used my phone with more intention.
These 10 rules turned out to be relatively easy to follow and made a huge difference in how often I check my phone, what I get out of it, and how I feel about it.
1. I stopped checking my phone in my car.
I never really checked my phone while driving because that’s super dangerous (and you should definitely stop that whether you try out these rules or not), but with this rule I also outlawed checking it at stoplights, in heavy traffic, or any time I was in my car.
By implementing this rule I discovered how often I actually was checking my phone in the car previously, how unnecessary it was, and how it actually made things like sitting in traffic more frustrating than they otherwise might be.
2. I stopped checking my phone during TV commercials.
I hate commercials as much as the next guy and sometimes social media seems like it was solely invented to fill up those two minute interruptions — no wonder I checked my phone at every TV timeout.
It may seem harmless to check our phone during a commercial, but I realized that’s not the case.
Because when I picked up my phone during a commercial, I rarely put it back down when the show came back on —it captured my attention and drew it away from what I actually wanted to watch.
To help me stick with this rule, I implemented another one…
3. I kept my phone across the room when I wasn’t using it.
A funny thing happened when I sat down to watch TV (or do anything) and knew I wasn’t going to use my phone during that time —I realized I didn’t even need to have my phone near me.
When I watch TV now, I keep my phone on a table across the room so I’m never tempted to pick it up. Turns out the only thing stronger than the allure of social networks is the allure of not getting up off the couch.
The further my phone is from me, the less likely I am to randomly check it. This rule helps make following the other rules easier.
Another rule that helps with that is…
4. I turned off all notifications.
This one was easy for me because it’s a rule I adopted a long time ago and love.
I turn off all notifications on my phone — there are no dings when somebody likes my Facebook post or sends me an email.
Notifications are unnecessary and they’re poison. If we enable them, we are asking our phones to interrupt us. Don’t do it.