Our phones have become our go-to thing for pretty much everything. They are a camera, a GPS, an alarm clock, a dictionary, a watch — you name it, our phones do it. And that's obviously wonderful. But I'm here to say we need to spend less time on our phones, no matter how magical and useful they are.
In all honesty, I'm mostly saying this to myself, as my phone is hardly ever out of reach. But I also think it's important for everyone else to hear, too. We are all well aware that we stare stare at our phones from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to bed. And while we do this, the world keeps turning.
We're really missing so much by constantly burying our faces in a screen. Think of that time you went to a concert and watched the whole thing through your camera. Or that time you went out to lunch with friends, and none of you got off your phones. For everything good our phones bring us, they also bring us a sense of disconnect that never really existed before.
They also can cause all sorts of health problems, from sleep difficulties, to carpal tunnel syndrome, and even anxiety. According to Alexandra Sifferlin on Time.com, "While previous research found that cell phones can improve social interactions and reduce feelings of isolation, the latest findings ... suggest that constant access to information and people may be a double edged-sword. The researchers speculate, for example, that students may feel anxious if they feel obligated to be in constant touch with their friends. Some may have difficulty disconnecting, which only feeds into the stress linked to their phones."
This is pretty much the case for everyone, student or not. It's a stressful way to be, and it's not going away. So all we can do is cut down on our phone use, and take a little time away from the screen. Here are few ways to do just that.
1. Track The Time You Spend On Your Phone
If you want to be totally shocked, then go ahead and download an app that tracks all the time you spend on your phone. Because if you're like me, then you do a lot of little mini Facebook and Instagram checks throughout the day. They may not feel like much, but they add up quick.
According to Amy-Mae Elliott on Mashable.com, "There are various apps, such as QualityTime for Android and Moment for iOS, that ... inform you just how many hours a day you're spending looking at a screen." I just downloaded Moment myself, and I'm already amazed at how quickly all the time adds up.
2. Set Up Phone Restrictions
OK, you downloaded the app and had a moment of crazy, eye-opening perspective. Turns out you do, in fact, spend pretty much the entire day on your phone. So now's the time to make a change.
You can start by setting up time limits for yourself by making a little schedule of phone usage that you've deemed acceptable. As Carolyn Kylstra recommended on Buzzfeed.com, "Set realistic limits for yourself: Vow not to use it for more than 90 minutes a day, for example, or for longer than 15 minutes at a time." If you're finding it difficult, you can set the tracker apps to remind you when 15 minutes has passed. When time's up, put your phone down for a while.
3. Get A Real Alarm Clock
I know, your phone works great as alarm clock, especially when it's full of nifty apps that wake you up gently. But the problem with using your phone as an alarm is it means leaving it next to your bed all night. And that means checking it until you fall asleep, waking up to texts at 2AM, and browsing again the moment the alarm goes off. (Sound familiar?)
Not only is this totally not conducive to a good night's sleep, it's also that many more hours spent on your phone. So get a real alarm clock and leave your phone in another room while you sleep.
4. Start A "No Phones At The Table" Rule
Don't you hate it when you sit down to lunch with a friend, only to stare at her for ten minutes while she checks her phone? Not only is this super rude, but it's not exactly the most social way to spend your life.
To prevent this, start a rule that no one can check their phone during the meal. In fact, up the stakes and set a rule that whoever checks their phone first has to pay for the food. I doubt any of your friends will ever touch their phones again.
5. Turn Off Your Notifications
OK, so maybe you can't turn off all your alerts because you need them for work. Fine. But if you can, turn off all those extra notifications that keep you on the phone all day long. As Elliott noted, "If you disable all unnecessary notifications, [checking] is less likely to happen. Even muting your device to stop audio alerts can end that impulse we all have to check our phones whenever they chirp." Which, as we know, is all the time.
6. Set Up Phone-Free Times
Get in the habit of having phone-free times. I recommend putting your phone on the backseat of your car (for safety reasons, too) and having a quality, technology-free moment whilst you drive. You can also start leaving your phone at home (I know, the horror) if you feel safe going out without it every now and again. Really, do anything that will allow you a few moments of peace throughout the day.
You can also deliberately set aside chunks of time to do an activity that purposefully doesn't involve your phone. As suggested in an article on the blog BreakingCoffee.com, "Whether it’s going for a walk outside, reading a book or focusing exclusively on work, setting up phone-free periods allows you to eliminate your phone as a distraction. And don’t forget, you can easily respond to any notifications when you return."
7. Delete Your Most Time-Consuming Apps
Raise your hand if you have a game that consumes your life. Put your other hand up if you go on Instagram and can't look away. Do you have both hands up? Then consider deleting some apps, especially if they suck up most of your day.
But if that's too extempore, then consider signing out of each app after you’ve used it. "This will require you to sign back in every time you try to use them again, meaning that you can’t just mindlessly open them up and scroll through whenever you have a free second. Everything you do on your phone should be intentional," Kylstra noted.
I know, all of my "quit touching your phone" business can seem a tad tyrannical and scary. But I promise, it's really nice to live life a little less connected. Just give a try.