Take charge of your device and get back some calm and control
Our phones add so much convenience to our lives. We can get lots of tasks done remotely, answer almost any question, and be in constant touch with friends and loved ones. But it’s a slippery slope to becoming so dependent on your device that it takes over how you spend your time and interact with others (or don’t). There is no crime in being “bored”—actually some people believe that mental space is the source of serenity and creativity in life.
Not to worry—we have some suggestions for ways you can begin to wean yourself off your phone. And it won’t be entirely painful!
Give yourself the chance to achieve some calm and clear-headedness that you may not even realize you’d given up. Your phone could be getting in your way of performing better in your classes or at your job, or of having better relationships with partners, friends, and family members. And taking a break from your cell phone when you’re driving could save a life—and it might not even be yours.
Here are some strategies for making changes to this aspect of your life. Even if you think you have it under control, some of these ideas might be useful. An open mind is the best place to start!
Come clean with yourself
Here are some ways to tell if you have an addiction:
- Do you permit yourself to check your phone under circumstances that put you and others in danger, such as when you’re behind the wheel of a car?
- Is your posture suffering because you constantly crane your neck to look at your phone? (Hint: hold the phone up in front of your face, and sit up straight!)
- Do you find you never let your mind wander because every available second is spend reading, responding, texting, and posting?
- Do you have to start the day by checking your phone before you get out of bed?
- Do you get anxious if your phone is not within reach at all times?
- Do you find yourself getting agitated when you are waiting for someone to text you a reply?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, congratulations! You are a phone addict!
Evaluate the severity of the problem
Are you aware how many times a day you check your phone? With an app like Checky (which is free), you can see how many times you’ve looked at your phone today. (Or just go to the website and enter your phone number.) The app will also show you a map of where you were when you checked your phone. Before you find out, venture a guess of how many times you’ve checked it today. 20? 40? 60? What would you consider a lot? Once you know—no matter how high that number is—you can set a goal for decreasing it.
Use the “off” button
Step one in your recovery could be to take a break from your phone for an hour here and there. When you go into a movie theater or a meeting, you may be accustomed to silencing your phone. Try turning it off altogether, so that checking it does not give you any instant gratification. Instead, pay attention to what’s around you. Let thoughts drift in and out of your mind for that period. Don’t feel you have to share everything or research every idea. It’s an experiment in a new way of relating to the world—one that people enjoyed up until couple of decades ago.
Leave your phone behind
If you are going out with friends, they will have their phones with them. So try an outing where you leave yours at home. (You won’t “miss” anything, because your friends will keep you up to date.) Notice how you interact with people differently. Observe how much time your friends spend on their phones. Then, when you come home to your phone, take a look at the texts, emails, and calls you missed, and see how many were truly urgent. Probably not that many! Now you can decide which you’d like to take time to respond to, rather than having responded to each one as you receive it. (If there’s anyone who’d worry about you if you were suddenly “offline” for a chunk of time, just give them a head’s up of when you’ll be back on your phone.)
Turn off notifications
Shut down all the alerts that each of your apps gives you when a new message comes in. You don’t need all your social media accounts telling you that someone has liked or commented on something you posted—the second that they do it. You can go into the app and “catch up” when you decide you want to spend time that way.
Let the battery run down
This is a little like playing Russian Roulette—you can use your phone, but only in limited doses and you have to be intentional about how much time you’re using, and for what. The idea is to coax yourself into only using the phone when you really need it, rather than wandering around online as a default activity.
Be strict about bedtime
It’s been shown that the blue light your phone emits can interfere with your sleep. So spend at least 30 minutes before bed phone- and device-free. Come up with some other soothing, pre-sleep activities. Take a shower. Lie on the floor and pet your dog or cat. Read a book. Find other ways to make the transition into sleep. You might even enjoy them, and you’ll probably sleep better.
Make mealtime phone-free
One good place to keep the phone use to a minimum is when you’re eating. This can be especially challenging if you’re eating alone. (Hint: Keep a book handy. Or if you’re in public, people-watch.) But if you’re dining with other people, think about making eye contact with whomever is talking for the same amount or—gasp!—longer than you’d permit yourself to look at your phone. It’s lovely to connect with others over a meal. Notice how addicted your dining companions might be to their phones. And even if you are eating alone, let it be a peaceful time of quiet enjoyment. You can forego the multitasking for at least a couple of meals a week!
You’ll see—there is more to life than being connected via your phone! You are reading this online, probably on your phone, so take a break and put it down. You might just find your studying is more efficient, your work more productive, and your relationships more connected. Give yourself a chance to come to enjoy the change. Don’t worry—the phone is always there for you to go back to!
This article is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School. We care about helping all our students to do their best in their careers as well as in life. Learn more about the professional training programs we offer at our Malden campus in Massachusetts, including Professional Medical Assistant, Health Claims Specialist, and Massage Therapy. Reach out to us today at (781)-324-5454 for more information or to schedule a campus tour.