I updated my iPhone several weeks ago and received an alert. Without much thought I clicked on the link and received a shocking dose of reality: I had used four glorious, precious hours of my life on my cell phone alone last week. What?! Four hours?! I couldn’t believe it. Four hours is half a work day. It’s an 8-mile hike. It’s the four hours I’ve been needing to finish one of my work projects.
This reality brought a hefty-dose of awareness to how often I was using my phone and the purpose I was using it.
Cellphones control our priorities.
There was the time I was sitting on Metro on my way to meet some friends. I checked my cell and noticed several work emails. “Better respond quickly,” I thought. So instead of using the ride to decompress, I elected to respond to emails.
Instead of meeting my friends excited and ready to engage, I was completely preoccupied with logistics and work. By choosing to be on the phone, I was unknowingly letting technology dictate my priorities (work over relaxation) and ultimately put myself in a stressful mindset.
The habit of checking cellphones creates more work.
I’m so thankful to my wonderful clients who respect my time and have reasonable expectations. However, I recognize that not everyone is so fortunate. I’ve seen too many people who feel pressured to respond immediately to a work email, ultimately sending the message that they are now available 24/7. An email leads to a phone call, which spirals into a sleepless night attempting to resolve a work issue. The reality is that oftentimes putting up boundaries and deciding not to respond in the first place might have led to resolving the issue the following day.
The constant connection reinforces limiting beliefs.
We all have some type of limiting belief about ourselves. “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t have enough,” “Others are better than me,” etc. etc. Our constant connection to our emails and social media reinforces these limiting beliefs.
How many times have you felt frustrated after checking your email after you’ve left work for the day? Perhaps it reinforced that the feeling you don’t work hard enough or that you did something wrong. Think about all the times you’ve compared yourself to someone else on Instagram, reinforcing the feeling that you’re not happy as someone else or lacking what they have.
And what’s the fallout from telling yourself negative messages all day? Do you overeat that evening? Binge watch television to escape from reality? Get frustrated when someone is trying to talk to you? The domino effect is not worth it.
At the end of the day, we need a break from our overactive minds.
Constantly checking our cell phones is pushing our minds into overdrive. Between the brainpower needed to solve a problem, or the thoughts that come from the comparison and judgement over social media, we need to give our minds a break.
We must allow ourselves permission to spend time alone or with loved ones.
Imagine your partner, friends, and children associating memories of you spending time with them, not your cellphone.
Imagine enjoying a vacation- fully unplugging and engaging in each beautiful moment of the holiday you worked so hard for.
Imagine a life where you are okay with turning off, being unproductive, and choosing to be fully present.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
What you can do about it.
- Turn off Notifications- I turned off all notifications from my emails, text messages and apps. The exception is inbound calls and calendar alerts. I find when I choose to check my apps, it’s about making a conscious choice instead of feeling to the need to react.
- Setting Sacred Time- I no longer check my phone before meeting with loved ones and during my time with them. It allows me to stay present and not get distracted with work. It also allows for me to take a break and truly connect. I’ve also set sacred time during walks, meditation, and even movie watching.
- Permission to Take Vacations- During my last vacation, I disabled my work email and put limits on my phone use. Because I’m self-employed and rely on new clients, I gave myself permission to work for two hours in the morning. After those two hours, I gave myself permission to turn everything off.
- Finding Other Things to Fill the Time- Since I’ve put my cell phone down , I’ve been able to enjoy listening to music as I drive, breathing in air as I walk, and watching people as I ride the train. I’ve also been writing, drawing, and painting.
By no means have I mastered my compulsion to check my phone. That said, I can report a newfound sense of freedom. My mind feels less stressed and more open. I’m feeling more balanced than ever before.